The Value of Improving and Managing Processes

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What is a process?

A process is a combination of steps and activities that creates some output or result. It represents the flow of work and information through an organization. It is the mechanism for creating and delivering value to a customer.

Process and Department

What is a process?

A process is a combination of steps and activities that creates some output or result. It represents the flow of work and information through an organization. It is the mechanism for creating and delivering value to a customer.

Process and DepartmentManaging a process is not the same as managing a function or department. Both are necessary to provide value to the end customer. However, in many organizations, we do not understand, improve or manage how we provide value to that end customer. The “How” is through Process.

What are some of the symptoms of a broken process?

Here are some symptoms of broken processes:

  • Unhappy customers
  • Some things just take too long
  • Work was not done right the first time, hence there is rework, mistakes, scrap, waste
  • Processes are not measured nor controlled
  • Too many reviews and signoffs
  • Exceptions, complexity, and special cases cause havoc
  • Established procedures are circumvented to expedite work
  • Management throws money at the problem, but it doesn’t improve
  • Management throws people at the problem, but it doesn’t improve
  • Finger-pointing and blaming between departments, mistrust between departments
  • Conflicts arise between departments due to competing goals
  • Constant fire fighting with some fires reoccurring
  • Employee frustrations

What causes broken processes?

Structural causes

The functional nature of organizations breaks large processes into pieces and assigns them to departments. Often each department tries to optimize their piece of the process without knowing the consequences of this action on other departments. For instance, how many different software systems exist in your organization? Do they seamlessly share information? Probably not. Here we are sub-optimizing the whole (end-to-end process) by optimizing the pieces (departments.)

Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities

No one is responsible for the coordination and performance of large cross-departmental processes. Hence, these larger processes can degrade due to lack of oversight.

Incomplete Measurement and Metrics

Often there are no adequate measurements to monitor the performance of large cross-departmental processes. We have lagging measures of what has happened, but not concurrent indicators of what is happening.

Lack of Knowledge

If there is not knowledge to document, analyze, improve, redesign, control, and monitor processes, then there will be quality, timeliness, customer satisfaction, and worker satisfaction issues. This knowledge can be gained in learning and applying any of the process improvement methods (such as TQM, Lean, and/or Six Sigma).

What are some of the characteristics of a managed process?

Here are some characteristics of a managed process:

  • There is unmistakable clarity on how the process should perform and how it is measured
  • Clear communication focused on the process across the process performers (and departments)
  • Metrics monitor how the process is performing
  • Action is quickly taken to address changes in process performance
  • The process is continuously being improved based on customer and employee feedback
  • Changes in customer requirements can be quickly evaluated and implemented
  • Employees in the process understand how what they do provides value to the customer, which results in employee satisfaction
  • The process is the problem, not the people

Benefits of Managing Processes

Managing processes provides a structured approach for an organization to change the way they manage and how they provide value to customers, stakeholders and employees. As organizations improve and manage the processes in the organization, they can expect to see benefits in the following areas:

Customers

  • Improvements in customer service from aligning process capabilities to customer needs and expectations.
  • Organizations that focus on processes provide the customer an easy way to do business with them
  • Repeat business driven by aligning process capabilities with customer needs
  • Improved perception of the organization by the customer based on managing the customer touch points

Operations

  • Process visibility, understanding and measures reveal improvement opportunities that result in increased productivity and reduced time to market
  • Detailed understanding of how work is done captures organizational knowledge

Organizational Capability

  • Cross departmental communications are improved with a focus on end-to-end processes
  • Exchange of customer and process information promotes process innovations
  • Clear accountability for process performance and measurement

Individuals

  • Employees understand their role in the overall process and are able to provide valuable feedback and improvement opportunities.
  • A process focused employee base promotes a sense of empowerment and ownership to transform behavior from “who caused the error” to “how can the process be changed to prevent the error”

Results

  • Managing and improving processes enables organizations to better manage overall costs and minimize non value activities.
  • A focus on end-to-end processes reduces handoffs and improves overall process cycle time
  • The management of a process based on customer needs and expectations allows the organization to match the process capability and output to what the customer is willing to pay

Where Do You Start?

You focus on some area that is broken and that is causing management frustration. This is a sure sign of a process problem. Use a basic and proven process methodology to understand, analyze and improve the process. Show results from improving processes, and others will become interested in the approach that is being used. The value of managing processes will become clear as more processes are understood, analyzed and improved.

Pat Dowdle

is a Process Strategist with the Process Strategy Group, and is responsible for leading the Roadmap practice. Pat has over 30 years experience in Process Management, Activity Based Management, Balanced Scorecard, Financial Reporting and Financial Systems.

Jerry Stevens is a Process Strategist for Process Strategy Group and is responsible for leading the assessment practice. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the fields of Process Management & Improvement, Information Technology, Training and Consulting.

Daniel J. Madison is a principal in Value Creation Partners, an organizational consulting and training firm. He focuses on helping clients increase value through operational improvement, process mapping and improvement, organizational redesign, lean six sigma techniques, and strategic planning. He has been a consultant for 21 years and university instructor for 22 years.

Dan regularly teaches courses on Analyzing and Improving Operations, Streamlining Office and Service Operations with Lean, and Process Mapping and Process Improvement through the University of Chicago, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Calgary. His book titled Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management through Paton Press became available in August of 2005. It remains number one on Amazon in the areas of process mapping, process improvement, and process management.

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