What you really need to know about selecting a methodology

Julie Rey

Methodologies are a critical aspect of guiding process design. As a result, there are often loyalties to specific methodologies. Well-earned ones. Strong-Bridge Envision gets it; our consultants are certified in one methodology or another, sometimes many. Myself included. But that loyalty can sometimes become a trap— a hindrance in making sound business decisions.

As I was discussing this topic, an analogy popped into my head. Imagine you and a friend are deciding on dinner together. You agree on where, but you differ over what car to take— how to get there. You vacuumed your car; she has a full tank of fuel…on and on. After a careful conversation, you decide on her car because it’s more compact and right for tight in-city parking.

See, maybe everyone can agree on where, but (particularly in process design) it can be tenfold harder to figure out how. To gain clarity and consensus, you have to walk through decision criteria. If, in the end, a beloved methodology isn’t the right fit, you have something to demonstrate why you’re not taking their car.

Decision Criteria

Ultimately, there are two paths for selecting a methodology, and it begins with what you’re trying to accomplish. Often the desired result falls into two distinct buckets. Either you are trying to innovate or improve upon on an existing business process, or you are starting from scratch and building something new.



With a core business improvement, you’re looking at an existing process that is not going to change— something that may always be a part of your business. Think, “order to cash” or supply chain processes. In the case of these processes, you are relatively stable, but may not be performing as expected or desired. Methodologies for core business improvements are aimed at tightening the screws on an existing process to get a whole lot better at what you’re already doing pretty well. In this case, examining current state is an important step in process development, allowing you to pile onto the criteria for selecting the most meaningful methodology.


In the case of a breakthrough business development, companies are looking at innovating a product or creating something entirely new, which cannot operate on old supply chain or order task processes. For instance, a company that has typical credit card payment systems may decide to add mobile ordering. Both methods arrive at purchasing the same product, but require vastly different business processes. In this case, an entirely different set of methodologies may be considered than with a core business improvement. And, unlike a core business improvement, it is completely acceptable in many cases *not* to map the current state. In fact, this may run in contrast to what other consulting firms will suggest. But if you’re building something new, mapping current state doesn’t always matter. It will matter later as you begin to plot out and comprehend things such as capabilities, people, and skills. If you’re building something new, think about what new thing will be required at a detailed level and build from there.

Now, remember that car analogy— how we are going to get there versus where we are going? People engagement is a vital part of the journey. If you involve people — even those who are resistant — you’re helping them understand the choice. So instead of telling them “GET IN MY CAR,” you’re explaining to them all the reasons they should and inviting their feedback along the way. Just exposing the selection process can be exceptionally helpful to gaining buy-in. People engagement means individuals that are expected to execute on processes are not an afterthought. And that means something.