Corporate Process Change - A Vicious Cycle

Within corporations there are attempts at innovation that move processes within the plane below. The hope is that every change will increase speed to market without affecting risk. However, in reality, for a process of adequate maturity, almost all changes will move along the line pictured below.

Graph of speed to market vs risk. Upward sloping line starting with C at 1,1 with low risk and slow speed to market, B at 2,2 with medium of each, and C at 3,3 with high risk and fast speed to market

Typically a negative symptom of this is a loop of process changes that repeats infinitely and goes something like this:

  1. Firm is at point A - medium risk and medium speed to market
  2. Firm finds a reason to consider this speed to market to be too slow (perhaps smaller more risk tolerant competitors are observed)
  3. Firm moves to point B via an “innovative new process”.
  4. This works for a while. Deliveries happen sooner and everyone is happy.
  5. At some point a failure occurs and risk is realized as loss.
  6. Firm moves to correct the risk issue.


Instead of moving back to point A, which should be the correct and measured responses, most firms move to point C. This results in NEGATIVE PROGRESS.

Over time the firm will move back to A via a series of “innovations”. As turnover occurs and time passes eventually another “innovation” will attempt to move the firm back to B and the cycle continues.

Ways to Avoid the Cycle


Please understand that I am not claiming that all process changes fall into this trap. This is a behavior that I mostly see in very large older corporations with very mature processes. These processes are more or less optimized for the firm’s situation. There are definitely paths forward to true gains even in mature processes, but most proposed changes will result in the problem I have described.