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Feb 11 2009   4:28PM GMT

Overheard – CIO as Chief Process Officer and Cheaper by the Dozen

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

A good rule of thumb—it’s not always doable—is try to implement new processes without technology, and afterward bring in technology to boost them rather than make them dependent on technology out of the box.

Mike Hammer, as quoted in CIO as Chief Process Officer, Not Strategic Leader

I was sad to see that Mike Hammer passed away. I’d just been reading through Peter Hinssen‘s new book IT/Fusion and had looked up Mike again to see how he pictured the role of the CIO changing. Not surprisingly, he and Peter seem to be in agreement.  Because the CIO runs IT and IT crosses all the business silos, the CIO is in the perfect position to see the big picture and improve business processes.

Now mind you, my whole perspective for thinking about business processes comes from listening to my grandmother read me “Cheaper by the Dozen” when I was a little kid.  (I’m talking about the original book, which believe me, has nothing to do with the Steve Martin movie.)  In the book, the father was a time management expert.  He practiced his profession at home too. For instance, while his children brushed their teeth, they listened to how-to-speak-a-foreign-language records so they were learning something useful while they brushed.  (I loved that part.)

It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned the father (and author of the book) was Frank B. Gilbreth! Gilbreth was an expert in what became known as Time Motion Study and he practiced exactly what Mike Hammer preached.  He looked at a business process that needed improvement, proposed how it could be improved and THEN looked at technology could help.  The technology that Gilbreth chose back in the early 1900’s was the brand new motion picture camera.

I think I’m going to back and read more about Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.  I bet there will be some interesting analogies for how to improve business processes in this century by looking at how Gilbreth approached improving manual work processes back in the early 1900’s.

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