The scariest thing workers face in a business process re-engineering project is the prospect that their jobs will be eliminated. The current economic climate makes this particularly scary because the prospects for them to find another job are not good.  However, the BPR analyst needs to have complete understanding of the current process and the expert sources of the required information may think they are the least incentivized people to provide it.  They do not want to help you eliminate or change their jobs when they know their next stop could be unemployment.

The incumbents in any job are the recognized experts in the current process.  They know why things are done and they often know ways to eliminate work.  They don’t speak up for two reasons: no one asked them and they are uncertain of the repercussions.

So ask them!  Find out what they do and why.  Once you ask them, they’ll probably tell you everything you want to know.  The important thing is to focus solely on the work they do and not on redesigning the process in front of them.  It is fair to ask them how they would improve things.  Make sure the current process and any suggestions for improvement are well documented.  Make sure you know who contributed what information.

Let’s fast forward to the end of the project when a new process that eliminates unnecessary steps is implemented.  If there are job eliminations, it is imperative that you not lose the people who were instrumental in helping you design and implement the new process.  I have two reasons for this position:

  1. Eliminating people who helped the enterprise improve itself sends a bad message to the remaining employees both inside and outside the affected area that helping is a bad idea.
  2. The enterprise loses a valuable resource who is willing to place the future of the enterprise above their own needs.  Enterprises need more loyalty these days, not less.

A better approach would be to find another job for the most helpful workers and to include a bonus or a raise in the transition.  You should also tell them that should they figure out how to better do their new job, that you’d do the same thing all over again.  In other words, show them they will be rewarded every time they help the enterprise improve.

So, we’re keeping the people whose jobs we eliminated because they helped us.  But in order to realize the savings of the process improvement, we need to eliminate some people.  I would start that process by looking up the chain of command for the manager who knew or should have known how to do it and never did.  This is a person who is costing the enterprise more than the value provided.

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