12 Days of PEXmas, Day 8 – Your industry may determine your terminology

We talked yesterday about the range of names given to process excellence, the terminology surrounding the topic is infuriatingly fluid. For example, your industry could well determine the phraseology you use.

Adobe’s Devin Rickard says that people rename process excellence when previous efforts have not been successful. The underlying tools and methodologies will be the same, but practitioners try to wallpaper over the cracks by calling it something different.

"The majority of executives here in the Silicon Valley have developed antibodies to a lot of the terminology of a business process professional – Six Sigma, Lean, Lean Six Sigma," he explains. "The executive community here is fairly tightly knit so if there’s one company that has tried a large, executive level driven business process improvement effort and was not successful with it, the word is going to spread. You have to brand yourself in a way that doesn’t trigger any antibodies."

Does lack of coherent terminology across companies matter? The answer is that infuriating consultant’s response: it depends.

Within companies that have long practiced and supported process excellence, for instance, it is likely that the wider organization will have a reasonable understanding of what process excellence is and means. As David Behling, Director of Process Improvement at Goodwill Industries says, it doesn’t really matter what you call process excellence as long as the name holds meaning for people within your organization: "it matters what everyone understands it to mean."

However, the larger question is whether the lack of a coherent "brand" across companies for process excellence means it will always be a struggle to get process improvement capabilities understood and accepted by business executives as a strategic function. For non-process experts, the vast array of terminology can be baffling and can lead to the lack of understanding that the various terms are all describing the same general set of capabilities and approaches.

Some examples of different terminology used across different industries can be seen in the charts below. However if gaining a clear understanding of your intent in your business is a challenge you face, a good starting point might be PEX Week 2015, taking place in Orlando this January. Download the agenda below for more information.

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