Law of Underlying Process
Understanding customer needs doesn’t mean asking customers what those needs are. They’ll say only what they think they want.
- Hammer and Champy
The Law of Underlying Process states that
Satisfaction of any particular need always follows the same generalized process of accomplishing a specific set of generalized outcomes; this process, aka Underlying Process, is immutable, while its implementations are perishable due to continuous improvements in degree of satisfaction of the need; improvements in accomplishment of outcomes comprising the Underlying Process occur unevenly, and are to some extent independent of one another.
The idea of Underlying Process suggested by Anthony Ulwick [Tony Ulwick, CEO and John Eisenhauer, Director of Technology, Customers Do Not Know What They Want. Or Do They? Strategyn] is a logical conclusion from Theory of Satisfaction of Needs.
Live organisms, including people, don’t “learn” the needs and necessity to satisfy them; those are somehow “engraved” in genetically transferred “non-conscious memory.” Hence, the live organisms should somehow know HOW to satisfy each need; otherwise, “remembering” the needs from generation to generation doesn’t make any sense.
Since satisfaction of every need isn’t a single act, but rather a process, it should be “memorized” as a process, too. As we found out, the process of satisfaction of any need is not always the same, even for the same individual. Thus, the “genetically transferred record” should comprise elements of the process, i.e. outcomes to be accomplished, in the very generalized format. This “record” of generalized outcomes that should be accomplished by individual in order to satisfy a need is called Underlying Process. Every individual follows the recommendations of this Underlying Process while seeking for and using the means to satisfy a need.
As one could see from this explanation, the Underlying Processes are as stable as our genetic code. For purposes of forecasting the emerging trends and future innovation that extend for years and decades, such stability is equal to immutability. On the other hand, permanent changed in physicality of satisfaction of various needs render the implementations of Underlying Process more and more perishable: show me a cell phone user who would today prefer the phone produced in 1990 to the last version of iPhone.
As any process, the process of satisfaction of a need consists of sequential accomplishments of several outcomes. As any real process, it cannot be improved simultaneously in all its aspects, in accomplishment of all its outcomes. It means that at any given moment of time, improvements of some outcomes are more prominent than improvements of others. Hence, improvement of process of satisfaction of a need goes unevenly.
On the other hand, improvements of each outcome are made, to some extent, independently on improvements of other outcomes. Of course, if one outcome is modified, the others should be modified accordingly, although it does not mean they are necessarily improved. We all noted that mass-products, although improve accomplishment of some outcomes, are in other aspects worse than their individually crafted predecessors.