Finally, we discuss the third characteristic of a process:
3. Every process is defined by one or more desired outcomes.
Any activity is (or should be) undertaken with a specific objective in mind. In an organization, a process is performed to attain a specific outcome (or output), that in turn will become an input into the next process within the organization or for a customer. In other words, there is an intended result, by which we assess the success of the process.
Here, it becomes especially important to remember that the characteristics common to all processes are common to every step within a process. In process analysis, we can define a problem as “any situation, occurrence or condition that results in a failure to achieve the desired outcome of the process.”
If I have a multi-step process (procedure), with a completely assembled bicycle as the process outcome, I must understand first, what characteristics define a successfully assembled bicycle, and what action (step) is built into the process specifically to achieve each characteristic? If I know this, then I can focus on that step when the intended characteristic is unmet, rather than having to analyze the entire process because of a generic failure to properly assemble the bicycle.
The key to process excellence is aligning actions with intended outcomes, ensuring that the outcomes add value (i.e., they matter to whoever will receive the process output). In terms of continuous improvement (or Lean application), understanding actions and outcomes allows me to assess the effectiveness of each action. Either the action is adding value as defined above, or it is contributing nothing to the process outcome. Such actions constitute waste and should be eliminated, not only to save labor and energy, but to prevent mistakes.
As we move onto discussions related to procedure development and training, it is essential that this understanding of processes is carried into them. Until my next post, keep seeking process excellence!