Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. He was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. With this impressive list of credentials behind him, it would be interested to understand how he would have approached the business of process.
Leonardo's approach to science was an observational one: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail, and did not emphasize experiments or theoretical explanation. This puts him squarely in the field of a process thinker.
Whilst he never learned more than a rudimentary amount of Latin he possessed, to a prodigious degree ,other skills of much greater significance; notably the ability to perceive, to record, to examine, to think and to speculate.
Which leads me nicely to the first point:
He was a big picture thinker - that's good. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics. A lot of vital process information is missed because people don't think about the big picture relating to process: They think "If I remove this quality check in my part of the process it will speed up my throughput". But what they don't understand is that it will also create issues further on in the value cycle when that quality check results in rework during manufacturing
He was an illustrator - That's good too. People react differently to pictures. The saying 'A picture paints a thousands words' is never more true than when looking at processes. The ability to take a complex set of words and distill them down into an image or set of images that can explain the process to the masses is a skill that many process modeling companies have siezed on as key to their approach
He was a theorist - That's good as well. Process improvement is about the ability to be able to theorise what a change will mean to an existing process. Consider this. In any process the key questions to ask are 'What are the inputs and outputs', 'Where do the inputs come from?', 'Where do the outputs go to?' 'Who uses the deliverables?'. With an existing process it isn't too difficult to answer those questions - it's a matter of observation or following a trail. With new processes this is far more complicated. Having the ability to theorise what will happen when a process is implemented is key to understanding how that process will work
He was both an artist and a scientist. This, I think, speaks more closely to Leonardo's ability. Sure he was an inventor with a scientific twist (he conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics), but this is also the man who painted the 'Mona Lisa' and 'The Last Supper'. What he was able to do was to take both sides of his personality (the artistic and the scientific) and meld them together to create the perfect role. This resulted in items such as 'The Vitruvian Man' - an artist representation of scientific measurements whereby the proportions of The Vitruvian Man correspond to known scientific measures. Often creating or defining a process is part science and part art. You have to know when to make the scientific decisions in the process ("The quality approval step goes here") and when to let some art play into it ("Gain understanding of the customer problem and document it") It is, fundamentally, the difference between a prescriptive process step and a less prescriptive one. Both work in the right place an at the right time.
So would Leonardo have made a good process analyst? Probably one of the best. However his range of vision and ability to inwardly digest large amounts of information and turn them externally to himself in order to apply them may have caused many people to doubt his ability. After all he did design a 'machine that would fly' back in the time when flight was considered impossible.
Maybe he would create a perfect process, but the world wouldn't be ready for it...
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