Sustaining the corporation: 4 Cs for motivation and transformation in the business process management paradigm

Business Process Management Journal

ISSN: 1463-7154

Article publication date: 1 March 2000


Ahmed, P.K. (2000), "Sustaining the corporation: 4 Cs for motivation and transformation in the business process management paradigm", Business Process Management Journal, Vol. 6 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Sustaining the corporation: 4 Cs for motivation and transformation in the business process management paradigm

Evolve or die

Change is constant. In the field of organisational development to stand still is to die. Heraclitus, the Greek sage, is attributed to have made the statement: "All is flux, nothing stays still. Nothing endures but change". This sentiment is eminently true for organisational life. New forces of change impel companies to move forward, and process management as a movement has to develop in line with the new imperatives of business.

In their attempts to cope with the forces of change, companies need to realise that process management must permeate the organisation totally, and not be confined to a department, a discipline or viewed as a narrow organisational paradigm. Process management is an encompassing philosophy. It is one that ultimately must be appreciated by all stakeholders, the customer, the employees, shareholders and society at large. Without a broad systems perspective, companies will continue to produce products/services that fail to satisfy and delight the customers. Ultimately, narrow perspectives will lead to corporate downfalls. To be successful in the new era there is a necessity for transformation in perspective and values.

Despite all the change that has occurred over the past years within the process management paradigm, organisationally there is a blind narrow focus on cost reduction and productivity. Events of recent times such as the drastic downsizing implemented by companies attest to this. By focusing their energies so, these companies have neglected or inhibited the other side of the business equation; that of innovation, creativity and growth. To sustain themselves in the long run, companies must manage the future proactively. The future is uncertain, that much is accepted but we choose and create major aspects of the future by what we do or fail to do. In other words, while the future is uncertain, and indeed even beyond our immediate control there still are large aspects of the future that we need, and indeed can, manage and control. Organisations of the future will need to configure their products and processes in a manner designed to integrate expertise from a full range of sources rather than functional sources or even just internal resources. Companies of the future will need to become customer-sensitive, knowledge-creating and agile enterprises. To do so they must continuously exchange information and ideas with their customers and suppliers to continuously deliver customised products and services. They will have to deliver value over a lifetime, rather than confine benefit delivery to a one-off specific transaction.

Indeed, in the new marketplace the ability to lead, the ability to innovate in all aspects of work, product, process and socially will make the difference between success and failure, between excellence and mediocrity. Companies not able to innovate will simply not be able to compete and maintain a foothold in the new market reality.

Moving to the transformation frame: 4 Cs for action and innovation

The question then is how to achieve organisational transformation for long term success? In other words, what are the type of actions and activities that organisations need to pursue to sustain a motivated workforce and continuously drive the organisation forwards. The answer to such a question would necessitate long academic debate since the actions are varied and complex and their success would depend on specific contexts. However, it is possible to broadly group the actions and activities under a 4 Cs framework which defines and helps focus energy for transformation actions. These four creative C's are briefly elaborated next.

Creating creative effectiveness. Effectiveness is the capacity to generate major results in a defined area. Effectiveness can be created by three elements:

  1. 1.

    Focussed improvement by setting stretch targets. tretch targets help to focus the organisational mind and if implemented correctly create the will to meet the challenge of continuous improvement. Corporations can avail themselves of a variety of techniques such as break-even trend analysis along defined performance indicators, and benchmarking to define which priorities are to be to set and the extent of the challenge to be posed.

  2. 2.

    . It is rarely possible to meet all challenges in a single attempt. What is often required is a focused approach, in which a few focused priorities are set, and then extreme endeavour made to achieve them. This is seen to be reflected in principles such as Hoshin Kanri (literally, management by priority) in which a few objectives with stretch objectives are targeted. This is in sharp contrast to precursor methodologies such as management by objectives (MBO) which spawn a whole variety of objectives, few of which are ever achieved because of diffusion and dissipation of effort and energy among the many.

  3. 3.

    Action through on-line management rather than reactive management. On-line management manages operating variables that produce outcomes in real time i.e. (as the action actually occurs rather than after the event). This contrasts strongly with management by control which appraises results through a process of comparisons with expected projections, after the results have actually occurred. In other words, on-line management is based on taking real-time decisions and managing by supervision of activities as they occur rather than taking after-the-event corrective measures.

Creating the creative climate. Corporate transformation is not something that can be forced but it is something that can be engendered. This requires creating the right environment and the right culture to foster creative behaviour. Creative actions are fostered by putting in place appropriate norms. Generally speaking, creative environments are those in which people are trusted and respected, where they are given freedom to do their jobs, failure tolerated, people trained in creative tools and techniques and rewarded for creative actions and risk taking. In these environments overall aims are very clearly communicated (the what that needs to be done) yet freedom is provided as to how the goals are to be achieved. In other words, there is little in the way of procedure to accomplish a task, only guidelines and useful tips. By creating an environment with freedom, employees are motivated towards greater commitment and responsibility.

Creating the creative customer focus. To be enduringly successful companies have to creatively fulfil the needs of customers. In attempting to produce products companies have to listen actively and pro-actively to their customers. Companies can listen to customers at different levels. If companies hear their customers superficially then it is unlikely that they will be able to meet the customers' needs over the long run, if at all, because they will be only able to superficially innovate towards the customers' needs. However, if companies listen carefully then they will be most likely able to produce products that are able to fulfil needs over the short term at least. However, if a company listens imaginatively, then it opens the possibility of going beyond customer suggestion. This is the route to customer delight.

Listening carefully and imaginatively allows companies to interpret information in a creative way so as to allow the possibility of innovation, both incremental as well as radical. The trick is really to listen to customers (actively and pro-actively), and then turn what they say into something actionable. If a company can get imaginative understanding then it will almost always figure out a way to meet the need.

Creating creative employees. Human resources are without doubt one of the most important asset for any organisation. World-class companies have the best and most creative approaches to managing their employees. They are able to energise their employees with creativity in decision making and problem solving. To make employees work at their highest level, pride must be deeply anchored within each and every employee. A quote from VIA Rail Canada president, Terry Ivany, captures this well:

Extraordinary quality - quality that goes beyond standardised measures and process management - cannot be achieved by imposing a set of rules or measuring adherence to standards. It must come from the hearts and minds of the people on the job (cited in Struebing, 1997).

While there now is an accepted belief about delighting the customer, there is need to appreciate that perhaps this delight needs to begin with the company employees. Companies must therefore provide an environment where people enjoy working, one in which there is a balance between the employee's needs, product and service delivery and customer satisfaction. The guiding principle underlying this is one of trust; trust that employees when given appropriate freedom will get the job done and keep the company moving forwards towards excellence. In return for trust the company receives flexibility. Companies attempting to get the best out of their employees create atmospheres of trust and openness. These atmospheres and cultures need to be complemented with appropriate training and reward systems.


In this discussion I have attempted to highlight that BPM as a discipline, as a philosophy, needs itself to be in a constant state of improvement, and constant state of evolution. The philosophy, if it is to survive and sustain itself into the next millennia, needs to embrace innovation and creativity as integral components of its armoury. These will motivate the energy to continuously transform and rejuvenate the corporation. This is the challenge for the future.

Pervaiz K. Ahmed


Struebing, L. (1997), "Quality 1 on 1: A new game plan", Quality Progress, January, pp. 43-5.