Business Process: Deming’s Red Bead, Public Transport and Tangled Earpieces

(Previously published in Linkedin 

As part of a business process investigation, I recently needed to visit the outsourced invoice processing function of an organisation. This meant travelling to a congested part of North London with a predicted driving time that suggested a frustrating, stop start journey which would finish with me looking for a parking space:

I decided that public transport may be the better option and checked the travel times on Google Maps. The predicted 1 hr 26 minutes would allow me to have a coffee and go through my meeting preparation so that seemed a good choice. But this is how the timings worked out (note that this is one of many ways to describe a process ):

The end to end journey took about 1 hr 30 min longer than forecast. It wasn’t the fault of the train drivers, or the bus driver, but of the environment that they were operating in.

Like the operators in Deming’s Red Bead Experiment, they and I were in the process (i.e. the transport environment and had no control over it. Like Southern Rail Commuters I was a passive victim of an inadequate public transport system.

As I commented in my article Tangled earphone cables and business processes. (based on Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string), the more points of contact that there are in a process, the greater the possibility that the process will tangle. And the more that process is agitated by outside events, the more chance that it will go wrong.

I’d rather work locally and earn less than go through that again!