Run Your BPM Project Like the Emergency Room

Emergency room entrance with red block letters on the metal awning of a hospital building, blue tone filter.
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My best friend was hit by a car a couple of weeks ago. Apart from the shock and panic of knowing someone you’ve spent your whole life growing up with could be hurt, hindsight has made me realize how much we can learn from hospitals.

The Accident and Emergency Department (or Emergency Room if you’re from the other side of the Pond) is a fascinating place where all differences are put aside for a clear, concise and common goal: keeping people alive.

Everyone knows their role. Everyone knows why they are there. Everyone is willing to compromise because it’s perfectly clear what needs to be achieved. No one is lost in political games and no one is apathetic to the cause. It works because everyone is on the same page and wants to achieve the same thing.

It got me thinking about how we run projects in the business world and, especially, how BPM workshops are run. It’s very often the case that a lot of people in the room don’t really understand why they are there or what the ultimate end goal is.

Communication with stakeholders and audience is the key to a successful BPM project. The workforce needs to be engaged and motivated to give their all to the project to ensure they will actually be able to make a difference. This means everyone understanding why they’re involved in workshops and briefings. It means understanding why managers’ direct reports are being dragged away from their day to day jobs to add value. It means everyone involved knowing that the whole exercise will be worthwhile, and the business will be better off as a result of the initiative being run.

To quote a famous example from history, let’s remember the story of President Kennedy talking to a janitor during a visit to the NASA Space Center in 1962:

“Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” “Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Again, this is a clear example of everyone understanding the ultimate end goal. However big or small your role is, knowing what you’re working towards will always help you focus and buy in to the work that you’re doing.

If you’re running a BPM workshop for a series of stakeholders or subject matter experts, remember that their time is precious. You need to maximize the time you have with them to make it as effective as possible. Spend time at the beginning of the session to reiterate what you’re trying to achieve and what the purpose of the session is. Write it on a whiteboard or equivalent and keep it visible for the entire session. Any time you’re struggling to make a decision on how best to present information, refer back to it. Always think about how everything you’re doing will help you achieve that ultimate end goal.

My friend was fine by the way. A lot of stitches and some pain killers meant he was extremely lucky. He didn’t break any bones and most of the bruising was on his ego. It was due to a phenomenal team of people working together with a clear goal in mind. We could all learn something from the way in which they operate.

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