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The largest democracy in the world, India, completed the most important aspect of a democracy – voting – to elect the policy makers. By the media reports, the “participation” from the nation was moderate on the overall considering all the phases of polling across the country. The election of the policy makers is “controlled” by the participation of electrate.

I would like to link it up to the notion of “direct democratic processes” in the enterprise. The strength and failure of such an initiative depends heavily on the participation of the people invloved. Kathy Harris from Gartner has a post on couple of failure points on people-centric initiatives here. I tend to agree with the points she raises.

Tools and culture are two important foundations for enabling participation. In the next post, we will look into the tooling needed to make the participation simpler and easy.

The challenge in any organization is to document the processes in the enterprise as the knowledge of the processes is sometimes tacit – in the heads of the people performing the tasks in the processes. Once the processes are documented, there is a constant need for improving the process continuously. How do the improvement cycles be made effective and continuous?

Here we can take some analogy from manufacturing and industrial revolution. The industrial revolution brought with it the concept of assembly line. But how effective was it in continuously improving the quality of the goods and making the process more efficient? The book by Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way, details how Japanese car makers were able to continuously improve their assembly lines.

The approach that Japanese car manufacturers took for continuous improvement consists of participation and trust of the people on the assembly line. Coming back to the business processes, for continuous improvement of processes, the participation of the participants is a must have. If Business Process Management were to rely on success of Japanese cars in the market, this participation is a must.

To represent such a practice, I termed (Direct) Democratic Processes. Wikipedia defines Direct Democracy as

Direct democracy, classically termed pure democracy, comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein sovereignty is lodged in the assembly of all citizens who choose to participate. Depending on the particular system, this assembly might pass executive motions, make laws, elect and dismiss officials and conduct trials.

The key word being participation. Direct Democratic processes are about allowing the people actually performing the tasks to find ways of doing their work better. It is about trusting them with the challenge of improving the processes.

Social tools and other 2.0 technologies play a very important role in enabling “The Toyota Way” in BPM. What do you think?

In the next posts, I would like to dwell into pragmatic approach for enabling direct democratic processes in an organization