It's probably not surprising that business process management, workflow, and golf have so much in common. Most people are much more familiar with golf, so let's take a look at some of the similarities we can draw between the two to try and make BPM and workflow make a bit more sense.
1. A world full of self-taught experts
Golf without lessons is a great analogy for where many people are in business today, particularly in regard to their processes. The objectives are clear and concise, and you understand the rules, so what separates you from the professional players?
There are process experts for a reason, and they are set apart by the same thing that sets apart professional golfers of the world - training, experience, and proven success. Why gamble when the resource for a sure win is available?
2. Lessons from a professional will improve your whole concept of the game
Taking the "lessons" from a trainer in golf starts with fundamentals, whether or not you may feel that you are already beyond them. Much the same way in BPM and process improvement, a consultation or a professional process expert will want to start with the basics of process mapping and analysis.
Even though you may have already "completed" these steps, and you might feel like "it's not worth it to do this all over again", if your fundamentals aren't strong, you can't build anything of value on top of them.
3. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Professional golfers spend hours and hours every day practicing - training their muscles to understand a certain swing. Often they spend the majority of their time practicing the most difficult shots, or from a tee to work their drive. Then they'll spend time working shots from the sand, or sloped terrain, because even though they are exceptions and the goal is to avoid them they will inevitably come up.
This is how the process-minded professional should approach their role. Flex your process muscles by working scenarios and attacking issues as they present themselves. Focus on the most common and impacting processes, but still consider the exceptions and where the most difficult challenges could arise in the future.
4. Faster rounds and lower costs
A professional golfer can finish a round much faster than the 5-6 hour folly often seen at the local course. That experience and professional instruction now starts to reap benefits such as improved efficiency.
What would you like to do with this improved cycle time? Allow more golfers to play the course (more workers to cycle more customers through the process)?
A professional golfer also can play through a course while losing fewer balls, spending less time per hold, doing far less damage to the course and clubs alike, and maximize the value that his sponsors and donors are spending on him.
Just like the golfer, a well-built process that is automated efficiently and intelligently will lose fewer documents and pieces of information and cause fewer negative ripples and repercussions throughout the organization.
5. Play often and play differently to find your comfort zone
There are plenty of styles of clubs, bags, golf carts, golf balls, etc. They are available to anyone with the resources to acquire them, golfer or not.
In business process management and workflow automation, the options abound. Strategies and certifications like Six Sigma, Lean, CMMI and others are all available to anyone with the willingness to learn, but are they a good fit for your organization or for you as a leader?
Research the methods and try your swing with a few different clubs. Once you find the one that works, train and train and train. Then adapt. Then train more.
This also accounts for the feeling in process improvement efforts like business process management that it takes forever to get off the ground. Spending time on the front end of the effort to choose the correct methodology and plan can be invaluable to the overall long term success.
6. Drive for show, put for dough
The old golfing adage rings true today as it always has - while the crowd may "ooh" and "aaah" at your beautiful long-distance drives, if you can't put the ball in the hole all you will ever really be is "close enough".
The real money is finishing strong - business process management with no completion goal or target that is ever reached simply becomes process analysis, not process improvement.
Find solid goals for your organization and work towards them with your process project(s). Don't worry about the big impressive drive from the tee - send the ball in the right direction, and your organization will be much more thankful for a strong putt on the 18th hole.