Bowling and BPM - All style, no skill

I went to the local bowling alley this weekend to celebrate a birthday with a couple of friends (not my birthday, don't worry you haven't missed anything). This alley is quite small (20 lanes) and only half the lanes were being used.

Those lanes that were being used were populated by a rather motley group of folks from an uncertain demographic - although our group was by far the oldest.

What I found interesting to watch was the different styles and approaches to bowling.

I think it's safe to say that most people were trying their best to throw the ball down the lane and hit the pins at the end. But within that criteria there were a number of diverse methods of doing this.

1) All style no substance.
The young guys in the lane adjacent to me were trying to impress their girlfriends. They had chosen to use a ball that was far lighter than one they should be using in order to be able to throw it a great deal faster than was necessary. However they were obviously working under the impression that throwing the ball hard and fast was enough to guarantee a strike. As it happened throwing the ball hard and fast was enough - in their case - to guarantee the ball ended up in the gutter quicker and with a loud bang. They had no talent for the game whatsoever. But their throwing action looked good to the girls.

2) Trying hard but ill equipped.
In the lane on the other side were a group of girls who were amongst the demographic which would best be described as 'overweight or obese' They were obviously out to have fun but were constricted by the fact that they were unable to move fast, nor were they able to bend down to release the ball along the lane. As a consequence they would shuffle to the foul line, swing the arm back and - as the ball reached their thigh on the follow through - release it towards the pins. It would arc through the air for a metre or two before contacting the ground with a crack. Invariably it would bounce off line and roll rather forlornly down towards the target. Occasionally this would result in two or three pins being knocked over, but generally it would fall into the gutter.

3) Just starting out. Using all the aids.
In my own group we had Doris. Doris (not her real name) is a women of a certain age who likes to attend our evenings out and remind herself what she's missing. Doris has leg and back pains and knows she can't bowl well. But she insists on stacking the cards in her favour when she plays. She always has the lane bumpers raised and she usually uses the learners frame to release the ball initially. As a result she can score quite well. She never has a gutter ball and the ball never bounces off line the way it would do if she were to drop it onto the lane like our friends in the adjacent lane.

4) Theoretically good. Needs practice.
I fall into this group. I know the theory of ten-pin bowling. I know the best angle of approach to use to get a strike. I know how to use the markings at the end of the lane to help with the aim. Indeed on several occasions I can score strikes and spares  almost with impunity. But in amongst that I know that in order to be any good at this game I need to play more often than once every eight or nine months.

5) All the gear. No idea.
In this group we have one of my co-players from last night. He has his own bowling ball - which he brings out whenever we invite him to play. He has a rehearsed routine for each throw. He can score quite well when his luck is in. But at the end of the day he has no finesse, no style and looks just plain silly when he bowls. This usually reflects in his score. For a guy with his own bowling ball he should be scoring strike after strike and leaving the rest of the amateurs behind. Unfortunately he never does.

So what has this got to do with BPM?

As I was watching the various people attempting to put up a good score with their different styles it occurred to me that there are great parallels with the folks who are attempting to implement BPM in their organisations:

1) All style no substance.
This would be the organisation who have seized upon BPM and process management as something they can do to try and impress senior management. They've obviously spoken to folks who have done this successfully and know what a good implementation looks like. Unfortunately knowing what one looks like and producing a good one themselves are two completely different things. They try different things, look professional and cool while doing it but end up throwing gutter balls all the time.

2) Trying hard but ill equipped
This group encompasses the organisations who have had BPM thrust upon them when they were not wanting it or not ready for it. They are trying hard to do things 'the old way' and cannot get their minds around the fact that things will need to change before they are able to make the most of this opportunity

3) Just starting out. Using all the aids.
Personally I like this group. They know that they don't know a lot about this. But they're willing to learn. They take advantage of any support they can get from the toolset, vendors or outside agencies. They attend the full training classes and learn whatever they can about BPM. Then they take small steps.

4) Theoretically good. Needs practice
The theoretically good group include those companies who have probably progressed from the previous level ('Just starting out. Using all the aids'), but have - for some reason - not continued on. They know that they can do this. They have the knowledge and experience to produce good quality BPM work. But they are rusty or lacking in practice.

5) All the gear. No idea
Finally we have what - to me - is the bulk of BPM customers. Usually they are large entities who have 'seen the light' and managed to wangle a significant budget from senior management to implement BPM. They've studied what needs to be studied, bought what needs to be bought, have attempted to implement the right things but are working from a position, basically, of ignorance. They don't really understand what they are doing with BPM. They don't understand why they are really doing this but they know that with the money and expertise they are throwing at it they should be able to produce something world class. Unfortunately that never seems to be the case.

Obviously some of the above statements are generalisations. But it did strike me as significant that something like ten pin bowling would have a number of parallels in the BPM world. Can any of my readers say with any authority that they don't agree with at least some of the classes I have mentioned above?

More to the point can they recognise themselves (or their clients) in any of the classes I have listed?

Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project Second Edition' is now available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you. Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.

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