Those familiar with emergence theory as it exists in science may find it troubling that business processes are being compared with physics, but the similarities are somewhat obvious to the astute observer.  Lets consider four foundational concepts of emergence as applied to science:

  1. Ontological physicalism:   All that exists in the space-time world are the basic particles recognized by physics and their aggregates.
  2. Property emergence:  When aggregates of material particale attain an appropriate level of organizational complexity, genuinely novel properties emerge in these complex systems.
  3. The irreducibility of the emergence: Emergent properties are irreducible to, and unpredictable from, the lower-level phenomena from which they emerge.
  4. Downward causation: Higher-level entities causally affect their lower-level constituents. (el-Hani and Pereira, 2000, p.133)

Now lets take some liberties and rewrite this as if it applied to tasks, projects and business processes:

  1. Task Centric:   All that exists in human to human business processes are workers and the tasks recognized as valuable by others and their aggregates (or workflows).
  2. Project and process emergence:  When aggregates of tasks attain an appropriate level of organizational complexity, genuinely novel projects and repeatable processes emerge from within these complex systems, and if measured and managed, they may become efficient.
  3. The irreducibility of the emergence: Emergent business processes are irreducible to, and unpredictable from, the lower-level tasks or workers from which they originally emerged.  (This will surely spawn some debate, but don’t respond too quickly!)
  4. Downward causation: Higher-level entities (business goals and objectives, higher level management, etc.) causally affect their lower-level constituent (the tasks and workers that get them there).

So, do you see how this relates to Business Process Management?  The scientific journey of emergence theory is one that starts with bits of iron and nickel, then sees steel, then patterns, then a wheel, and then a car, and so on.  One of the challenges of reverse engineering a product is that looking at a finished good will rarely lead one to a proper appreciation of the trial and error that went into certain subtle design choices that influenced the final product.  And, without that information you end up with a similar looking item with similar measurements – a product that appears “finished” but is in fact only just beginning its development process, though disadvantaged by appearing complete.

Entrepreneurs often start out harnessing creative energy in order to assemble a team of raw material, coalescing those elements into a common vision of a finished good and exciting the teams until they form complex systems that produce a finished good.  That finished good is often far more refined and complex than the original vision called for, and also quite often very different as well.  Let’s say that entrepreneur wants to build value into their company by transferring an organizations structural strengths from those dependent on human competence to those dependent on systems and processes.  And let’s say that this person has hired you to help them do that, but let us (fairly) assume that they are also now fully entangled in managing operations and want you to figure out how to bring these organically developed processes into a visible, manageable, and repeatable system of automation. Would it make more sense to reverse engineer the finished good, or to start with the particles?

This is where Agile Task Management Software like JobTraQ® comes in.  By enabling you to quickly define, delegate, and distribute tasks in every area where you have completed your discovery work, you find that work becoming more visible, searchable, accountable and measurable.  This is like putting sensors directly on the bits that move, and this is the scientific way is it not?  Observe the facts, as they are, recognize the systems that are in place, and examine interactions until higher level system can be defined as they are, as opposed to how we thought they were from various limited vantage points.

While well understood and well defined business processes will always benefit from proper pre-automation planning, emergence is incredibly beneficial in the mapping of organically developed or still evolving processes – especially when emergence is facilitated by an agile system like JobTraQ that can actually keep up with the pace of discovery.  JobTraQ enables subject matter experts and business analysts alike to quickly build custom forms, rules, and metrics around ad hoc tasks, processes, or project patterns. These agile prototyping and deployment capabilities enable an organization to quickly take ground as they work through a maze of complex systems leaving behind real-time data about what is actually happening in the business ecosystem they are mapping.  This veritable gold mine of emerging data supports the application of optimizing changes and controls in supportable micro increments with short feedback loops.  This is like hooking gauges to every critical component in an engine allowing you to immediately measure not only the impact that any change delivers, but also the resultant changes in pressure on any other area of the business, in real time.

JobTraQ – Task Centric BPM – Task Management Software for the Evolving Enterprise

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