October 26, 2022

Handle cross-departmental processes more efficiently? Think agile

Anno 2022, many organizations are still organized in a way based on ideas from the early twentieth century. Each discipline, such as marketing, IT, operations and sales, has its own department with its own specialization. Each department consists of several layers of management, who are responsible for the teams within them. The teams consist of different specialists, who perform their tasks as efficiently as possible. In this blog, Dennis van der Salm, senior Pega-architect at BPM Company, wonders to what extent this way of structuring still works within the IT industry.

Simplifying jobs increases productivity

This way of structuring is based on The Principles of Scientific Management, a theory developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor early last century. Taylor, American manufacturing manager and management consultant, reasoned that optimizing and simplifying jobs would increase productivity. He believed that workers were motivated by money. It was up to managers to set up reward systems for workers and to measure and refine worker efficiency. That way, workers could focus on their jobs and management would help them do their jobs to the best of their ability. The result? Specialized roles and departments, each responsible for a sub-process and transferring the result to the next employee or department.

De vier principes van wetenschappelijk management van Taylor in het kort

  1. Gebruik de meest efficiënte manier om specifieke taken uit te voeren.
  2. Match medewerkers op basis van capaciteiten en motivaties aan hun job en train ze om zo efficiënt mogelijk te werken.
  3. Laat het management de werkprestaties monitoren en verbeteren.
  4. Laat het management plannen en trainen, zodat werknemers hun taken zo efficiënt mogelijk kunnen uitvoeren.

Do these principles still apply to the information industry?

These views make sense when it comes to a factory where employees build the same car over and over again. The desired outcome is clear and the actions required are clear. For such a scenario, it makes sense to standardize the process and improve the efficiency of each individual step in the process. But are these principles also applicable in the world of IT? Within IT, we now know that it is difficult to determine in advance exactly what needs to be built. That’s why we work in shorter cycles, so we can get feedback faster and adjust course more easily. If we don’t know what we will eventually build, long-term planning is a lot harder and Taylor’s principles are difficult to apply.

Reflex to fall back on old methods

That means we are seeing a shift in the way we work in our industry. Yet we still have the reflex to follow the best practices that originated over a century ago in a completely different industry. For example, we are now massively convinced of the power of agile development and yet management still wants to see long-term planning. This leads to friction and certainly not to more efficiency.

Want to know more?

In future blogs, I will delve deeper into this topic. I look at efficient versus effective working, role-based versus skill-based working, and different programming styles. Do you also feel that cross-departmental processes could be more efficient and better and want a quick initial insight into the possibilities? Contact us with no obligation. We’d love to get to know you!

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