Naturally, I would say that Emitra Nelson from Cameron stole the show on Day 1 of the Summit for Finance Leaders in Dallas today (you can hear her story on a SharedServicesLink webinar on 18 October - more details here).
But if I couldn't vote for Emitra, on the grounds that hers is a Nimbus success story, my choice for the most thought-provoking presentation would be Andrew Simpson, Head of Business Services in America for BP, whose case I summarised in a doodle in my notes as this:
Andrew defined Continuous Improvement (let's call it CI) as 'operational excellence through process improvements' , or, more informally, as 'stopping business insanity'. He listed the 20 most common excuses he's heard about why CI can't be done, the funniest being the manager who claimed that it would be 'against corporate policy'.
He then proceeded to show exactly how he has implemented CI, and went on to make a totally convincing case that, in the long run, 'background' CI can be even more valuable than high-profile transformation programs. And a CI culture, he argued, will also make any major transformation program more likely to succeed: people are engaged and energised by change, not simply resistant. In shared services terms, CI is 'the critical success factor for any SSO that wants to stay relevant'.
What's really interesting is how few of the organizations represented in the audience have a serious CI program. There's lip service but little commitment. How can that possibly be? At the end of the day, CI is pretty straightforward.
Maybe the clue lies in a video Andrew used in his presentation to illustrate resistance to change (can't find it on YouTube, but it was like this). The hamster keeps getting on the wheel, spinning faster and faster until it's out of control and finally gets flung out into the cage - then does it again, and again and again...
Maybe the hamster enjoys the adrenalin rush - just like the business enjoys the thrill of firefighting. And when, after a while, the hamster is punchdrunk with concussion and unable to think clearly, well that's like the business getting so used to living in firefighting mode that it too can no longer see clearly - and so resists the CI initiative that is ultimately its way forward.
Finally, a great endorsement for CI: people from BP's Business Services unit are sought out by the rest of the business. It's career-enhancing because it has a carefully thought-through and well-executed CI program that encourages people to bring their brains to work. It breaks out, he noted, of the analysis paralysis of left brain thinking, the belief that life is a machine and we just need to understand how the cogs fit together to get it to work perfectly. It recognizes the special and unique value that diverse perspectives, working intelligently together, can create.
There was a ton of other good stuff too of course. More on that later in the week, I hope.
07 Oct 2011 Accenture: What's Holding Back Shared Services
20 Sep 2011 BPM: The Foundation For Operational Excellence