According to consultant John M. Bernard, author of Business at the Speed of Now, business has moved from the era of mass production to the era of mass customization.While the
former relies on centralized control and knowledge specialization, Bernard writes, mass customization relies on decentralized, autonomous action. Standardized offerings
have been replaced by customized offerings.And the “organizational logic,” in his terms, has moved from functions to processes.
Bernard explains that three “game changers” have galvanized this shift to mass customization: social media, which enables instant real-time, two-way communication between companies and their customers at an unprecedented level; cloud computing, which, Bernard writes,
“enables more efficient, lower-risk automation of business processes and quicker responses to customers’ immediate needs”; and the mind-set of a millennial generation that expects instant gratification and rejects hierarchy.
Without the right strategies and tools, or without the right systems in place, Bernard writes, managers commit what he calls the “seven deadly sins of management”: lack of clear direction; no line of sight (between work and its ultimate destination); unclear accountability; inconsistent language; poor issue transparency (problems are buried); insufficient resources; and inadequate tools and skills. The impact of these management sins can be felt in
the amount of “nonvalue-added work” on which a company spends time and money.
Mapping the Core Processes
One of the many tools featured in the book is the NOW Fundamentals Map, which is built on the framework of a company’s management system, and specifically identifies, in detail, the core processes and subprocesses required for a company to achieve its goals.The first step,
according to Bernard, is to address the five foundational elements of a management system.
The five foundational elements are:
• Mission: What business are you in?
• Values: What beliefs will guide your actions?
• Vision: What do you want your business to be known for?
• Key goals: What accomplishments will define your success?
• Outcome measures: What will gauge progress toward your goals?
These foundational elements pinpoint where the company wants to go.The next question, writes Bernard, is, how does it get there? The answer lies in the company’s core processes.
Most work is cross-functional, he writes, occurring through a set of interdependent processes. Companies can identify these core processes by asking:What routine work must they do well to attain the outcome measures that prove they are achieving their goals? They can then
define the company’s subprocesses — the routine activities that must collectively work well in order for the core processes to deliver on expectations.The next step is creating process measures that gauge the effectiveness of each process.
Finally, Bernard writes,“every core process needs to be clearly owned by one individual who serves as the primary advocate for this process, monitors its performance, and drives any needed correction action.”
A Manager’s Toolbox
Explicitly diagramming a company’s management system in such detail helps managers avoid some of the deadly sins previously described.
Business at the Speed of Now is essentially a manager’s toolbox packed with applicable tools, such as the NOW Fundamentals Map, that aim to help companies overcome the hurdles to mass-customization success. Using examples of numerous real-life (although disguised) companies,Bernard covers issues such as how to embrace change and how to develop the leaders that can engage that work force.The result, he writes, is people who have the
“knowledge, skills and authority to act swiftly and skillfully without waiting for permission”
— and a company that has successfully navigated the shift to the era of mass-customization