The Dwight Schrute School of Business Process Improvement

You might not think you have much to learn from Dwight Shrute from The Office. Why, with the fact that he’s been given a dizzying array of job titles, never with the accompanying salary or responsibility, brings weapons to work, and time after time is duped by Jim’s pranks, we might think of him as the anti-example of a career-minded business analyst like you.

But if we look a little closer, we might just learn a thing or two from Dwight about business process improvement.

(Before I forget, be sure to download our free business process template which incorporates a host of best practices on process modeling.)

Be Ruthless With Your Co-Workers

See employees as friends? Not Dwight! To him they are mostly slackers who would better be fired. While strong stakeholder relationships are key to great business analysis, sometimes to simplify a business process, we have to temporarily put business objectives over those relationships while we analyze the process and determine possible ways to improve the process. The best solution might not be the most popular or people-friendly at first.

Test the Process

Who could forget the episode when Dwight simulates a fire, causing office-wide panic? He proves without question that people do not know the emergency process. We might disapprove of his tactics, but we love one sliver of his mindset. The only way to determine if people are truly prepared to use a new and improved process is to simulate it in action.

Get It In Writing

We might not appreciate the spirit of Dwight’s “mating” relationship with Angela, but the fact that the two of them fully think through the implications of their relationship, negotiate the terms in detail, and close the deal in writing resonates. When dealing with sticky issues, high profile projects, or risky relationships it can be best to dot your Is and cross your Ts.

Negative Reinforcement Doesn’t Work

Remember the time when Dwight set up a series of punishments for mistakes culminating in an automated email to the CEO with everything questionable anyone had ever written about him in a personal email? Dwight learns the hard way that threats of punishment do inspire others to do their best work. He learns his lesson so you don’t have to.

(While I’m thinking about it, you might be interested in my Business Process Analysis virtual course. It will help you learn the business process analysis basics, use process analysis techniques at work, and put some momentum behind your business analysis career change. In addition to individual feedback on your work, it includes live webinar sessions to discuss your real-world business process analysis experiences.)

Play It Safe

Dwight’s favorite seat in the car is the backseat right behind the driver. In the event of a crash, the driver is most likely to protect themselves and by default protect the person behind them. When there’s no reason to take a risk, why take it? This is a good reminder for improving our business processes. Whenever possible minimize taking on risks and establish checks and balances. For example, if you can validate input, eliminate redundant data entry, or incorporate a review process, you reduce the risk of bad data making it into your information system.

Knowledge is Power

When Michael takes to the wilderness, we learn that Dwight has extensive knowledge of how to survive. In other episodes, Dwight proves himself knowledgeable of various crafts, animals, and other esoteric knowledge areas. While often as a business analyst you are the self-proclaimed “least informed person in the room”, through the process of elicitation and analysis we quickly become the most informed and often the most knowledgeable. This temporary focus and knowledge, even of seemingly esoteric and seemingly irrelevant details, can help us fully understand the problem and surface solution ideas that no one else is seeing.

Know Your Usual Suspects

Dwight gets duped again and again by Jim’s crazy pranks, but you’ll notice that once he’s caught on he always suspects Jim. Similarly, business analysts rely on their cast of usual suspects when looking to improve a business process, such as inconsistent hand-offs between departments, exception loops that are never closed, and gathering the same information multiple times.

Don’t Forget the Beets

Although almost manical in his dedication to selling paper, Dwight also owns a beet farm. At the end of the day, we need something to go home to. It might be  family, friends, sports, games or leisure reading. Taking time to take care of yourself ensures you have the energy to give business process improvement your all. Don’t forget your beets.

>>Download Your Free Business Process Template

Get started analyzing a business process today, with our complimentary business process template.

  • Help business users from multiple departments clarify their actual step-by-step workflow;
  • Avoid wasting money on software solutions that don’t solve the right business problems;
  • And even helping new business analysts figure out what questions to ask when starting on a new project or domain.

Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project.

Click here to download your free business process template today

8 thoughts on “The Dwight Schrute School of Business Process Improvement”

  1. I have known several Dwight Shrute’s in my years as an IT professional. I too am thankful for the lessons I learned at their expense. :0)

  2. Jennifer Bedell

    I have to be honest. I usually just skim your email quickly and don’t click on the links. But, the title of this and the intro caught me. I had to keep reading. Great job!

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