Regardless of its mission or structure, an organization achieves its end through the performance of some finite number of processes. The introduction to the ISO-9001 Quality Management System standard states, “an activity or set of activities using resources, and managed in order to enable the transformation of inputs into outputs, can be considered as a process.” Consequently, ISO (and its cousin, AS-9100) promote the adoption of a “process approach” in implementing quality.
When considering “training,” all of training is process training. When considering “continuous improvement,” we necessarily mean the improvement of processes. Any activity that results in the delivery of value to the customer (and is exchanged for money) is such a process. Enterprise excellence necessarily means process excellence.
All processes have the following three characteristics:
1. There is a defined beginning and end to the process.
In other words, we can identify a moment in time that the process begins and a moment when it is completed, and the output of the process is complete.
2. There is one, current-state best way to perform the process.
The enterprise, or persons within the enterprise, has at its disposal a single way that best (most efficiently, most safely and most frequently achieving appropriate quality). The fact that there is a best way does not mean everyone in the enterprise is performing the best way. In fact, it may be possible that no one is performing it the best way. But the collective knowledge and experience of the enterprise yields one way to perform the process that is “the best we know how at present.”
3. Every process is defined by one or more desired outcomes.
At the end of the process, there must be some defined desired end result. If there weren’t, we would not know if our effort in performing the process achieved the right result or not.
Not only every process, but every step within the process, is defined by the three characteristics above (beginning and end, best way to do it, desired outcome). While this may not be ground-breaking information, it is essential that anyone involved in process optimization (which should be every person in the enterprise) must understand this reality and the ramifications of this reality.
In the posts to come, we will examine each of the characteristics and describe how each must be approached to maximize both the process and the communication of the process.
Until next time, Mr. Procedure