Process in the minds of many is what happens to make things on the factory floor.  However, process is the sum total of all of the business systems used to design, make, sell, take orders, deliver and service.

Business processes are the backbone of the company and guides each employee on what they are to do in every business operation.  In many companies the “process” is undocumented and too often owned and controlled by an individual and not the business.  Consequently the business practice is the result of an individual preference that may or may not be clear to others and worse, may not be in the complete best interests of the business.

Examining a business process is a tedious assignment and where there are inputs and outputs from other departments requires the cooperation of those departments which can result in resistance and obstacles.  Any examination of the process creates the threat of change and many employees do not like change in their daily business life.  However, effective leaders need to intervene and dispel concern and focus the effort on what is right for the business and effective process, serving the customer in a cost effective and quality manner.

My engineer mentality is process based and when a business has a level of dysfunction I look to the foundation – the business process – to see if it is sound.  Good people normally want to do the right thing and when undesirable outcomes are occurring you can bet the process has some critical weaknesses.  Even though the leadership thinks all is well and the process is sound I usually find surprises that lead to the problem.

We know when it is time to paint the building, repair the roof, seal the parking lot, overhaul a piece of machinery but we do not routinely schedule a review of how the business operates.  Each position should be covered by operating procedures – even if they explain what all believe to be obvious common sense behavior.  All operations within a department should be critiqued regular to look for flaws, training opportunities and for all employees to understand how they operate as a group.  Operations across department boundaries should be flow charted and critiqued on a regular basis to make sure they make sense.  The business process is as important as the roof that keeps water out during a hundred year storm.

As with leadership, the blog will provide examples of how addressing the business process provided significant return on investment, solved critical discoveries in poor product quality by those you least want to find it – the customer, resulted in reorganizing executive focus to work on the company and not in the company leading to significant business development, and how the process, properly managed and documented, leads to good employee morale.

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