Don't get me wrong - I love a good home cooked meal. Fresh ingredients and loosely followed recipes mean that no two meals are ever identical. Flavors, textures and intensities always vary. Fast food is exactly the opposite - order a Big Mac anywhere in the world and you know exactly what to expect. Hilton (Conrad, not his great-granddaughter Paris) applied the same principal to his chain of hotels, with notable success.
What's this got to do with business processes you ask? Simple: your processes should be more like fast food than home cooking. You're not trying to satisfy your in-laws, you're striving for consistency, quality and repeatability - uncontrolled variation between steps is undesirable as it inevitably exposes risk. These ideas are articulated in George Ritzer's book, "The McDonaldization of Society." Ritzer's premise is that society is becoming more and more rationalized. The four essential components of McDonaldization apply equally to what we strive to achieve with our contracts:
So while in some areas of life - such as the dinner table - variation and uniqueness are important, business process is not one of them.
So how do your business processes compare to fast food? What about your contract processes? Are they consistent and up to date or are they more like a home made souffle - they sometimes flop?
I'd love to hear from you at @liptonj.