6 Principles of Good Process Management

Long-term business success and profitability is directly related to the strength and quality of your business processes.  Well designed business processes are as important as expensive machines, location and design of your facilities, and price/performance of your IT infrastructure.

Business processes are, for the most part, transparent even though they direct the activities – in a good or bad way – of your organization every day. You can elect to invest in good business processes or not.  The leadership of a well run business has elected to invest in good processes along with the necessary training and support to implement them effectively.

The 6 Principles of Good Process Management below have served me well improving productivity, efficiency and profitability of various organizations where I was a senior manager or owner.

1. Business processes should be documented.
“We know what we are doing!” This was the answer from a department when I asked about their process documentation?  However, when I discussed in detail what each did and what they believed the other person was doing or should be doing there were major discrepancies.  To complicate this situation further there was little to no documentation of the processes for this department.  Consequently the erratic performance of the group was explained.
In this example the group relied upon employee preference to define the business rules, which varied from day-to-day and situation-to-situation.  The paper work from with this operation did not consistently contain the information needed by the business.  It is easy to say that all activities should be documented but at a minimum all operations that affect business transactions or paper/electronic records should be documented.  Process documentation also provides a basis for cross training and relieves the trainer from knowing all of the procedures and serves as a resource for the new employee when more experienced people are not available.
2. Actual performance should agree with process documentation.
In a number of other cases documentation did exist but was not complied with.  This was a supervision problem where process compliance was not a priority.  This is just as bad as no documentation as it tells everyone that doing the job, as the company has defined it, is not important which leads to other issues such as relaxed attitudes toward productivity and quality.
3. Processes should support the goals of the company.
Once developed documentation can last for a long time but the goals of the company may change more regularly.  Goals to turn around orders faster, increasing throughput and production velocity, instituting higher quality standards may conflict with current (and aging) documentation.  Unless the process is updated the organization will continue to operate under the old instructions and the goals will not be met resulting in management and employee frustration.  When goals change the process documentation must be reviewed to reflect the new process designed to meet or exceed the goal.
4. Every process should have an owner.
A process without an owner is lost.  No one is responsible to make sure it is accurate or that it is complied with.  This does not need to be a manager but someone with the responsibility and authority to make changes to it as conditions change  – new goals, improved operations, incorporating employee suggestions for more efficient practices.  Without ownership there is not attention or regard for the process.
5. Process effectiveness and value should be reviewed at regular intervals.
A process should be regarded like any piece of capital equipment or building where they are inspected at regular intervals to make sure they are operating at the highest level possible and are not at risk to the interests of the company.  The review should involve those operating under it as well as those that feed it or receive output from it.  Attention should be applied to compliance, effectiveness, and ideas to incorporate employee suggested improvements.  Unless the integration of your business process is reviewed regularly you run the risk of unexpected surprises (crisis) that can affect cost, quality and more significantly the experience of your customer.
6. Measure key processes.
Key or critical path processes should be measured to make sure they are operating under control.  This can be done at the work cell level using visible charts maintained by those working in the work cell.  A quantitative value assigned to a process can provide a quick measure on how that process is performing day-to-day in supporting the goals of the group, department and company.

Summary
Your business process is one of your most important business assets.  Manage them wisely and invest in their regular maintenance and care.  Recognize employees and departments that demonstrate process compliance and improvement. A business that operates consistently, with processes under control, is much more likely to operate profitably and survive unexpected challenges to the business.

Comments

  1. LIKE IT…

  2. Thanks!

  3. This is very well-written and I am sharing with my entire department as part of a meeting on why we are so focused on managing processes effectively. Thanks and well done.

  4. Thank you for your comment. You are taking an important step involving your staff to emphasize the need to commit to the processes of your business. You will be rewarded with what they will discover and learn about the business to make it more productive. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. Mike

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