the processes which effect performance are responsibly developed
and designed , using methods which aid collective involvement
and disciplined thinking.
Companies that have established
effective and efficient process to drive their organisation forward
tend to establish a strong focus in a number of the following
Understand the Business
They recognise the business
as a tapestry of processes and responsibly develop it through
these using appropriate tools and techniques
Instrument the Business
They ensure all the key
business processes are mapped, and that the process performance
is monitored and controlled
Develop through Process
They actively develop
the performance of all processes through a planned strategy of
Provide Clear Roles
They focus on systematically
understanding and serving internal customers
They build a real responsibility
for considering all opportunities to improve process performance
Ensure Long-Term Health
They build new processes
which focus on developing the health and future performance of
To understand these in more detail
please click on the relevant image above, or scan through the
the business as a tapestry of processes and responsibly develop
it through these using appropriate tools and techniques
What are the essential features
of how your business adds value?
How well is the business designed in terms of those processes
which add value? Do you really understand how your business works?
All businesses can be seen as
a tapestry of interwoven processes, each doing their part to
ensure customers are served, now and in the future. Your business
competes on the basis of the efficiency and effectiveness of
Some organisations have become very good at realising this, at
understanding the processes and continually improving their performance
through them. To continue to compete with them their competitors
will have to start doing the same.
The main benefit of clearly understanding
the business, in terms of the processes which make it up, is
to enable the business to clearly focus on those areas that are
most critical to its future success.
Through understanding the processes it can do this in a way that
is more systematic, and explicable to its staff and junior managers,
and it can enlist more of its resources in making improvements.
And when the processes are designed properly, management will
lose a lot less of its time in fighting fires.
There is no one correct
way to divide your company up in terms of processes. Understanding
the business is a matter of developing a logical model of how
the business works - grouping patterns of activities together
in order to make sense of them. The basis on which you group
your patterns may change from year to year, and this can provide
new insights into the business when the opportunities to improve
through your old patterns begins to dry up.
Probably the key tool for this work is the process map. This
is the manager's equivalent of the surgeons skeleton and
the engineers schematic, and just as crucial to the quality
of his work.
the key business processes are mapped, and that the process performance
is monitored and controlled
How efficiently and effectively
does your business do its work?
How does the performance of your key processes compare with the
competition, and how is it changing over time?
In a design sense we can do much
to automate process routine. This helps the organisation assimilate
learning and efficiency, and gives our people the breathing space
to focus their intelligence and creative energy at the points
where it matters most. Our peoples intelligence is important
to the business and we need processes which conserve it and focus
it where it is of most benefit - not least in fine tuning and
improving the processes themselves.
To harness this intelligent effort efficiently in process improvement
and fine tuning we need to ensure that it is fed with relevant
and timely information on process performance. In short we need
to instrument our processes to enable them to be driven and maintained
What gets measured gets done.
It is quite amazing to see how measuring and graphing the performance
of a business activity naturally results in its improvement -
even without any formal intervention.
However further improvement does need intervention, and instrumenting
processes enables your people to see when such intervention becomes
necessary, and to manage it through to a successful conclusion.
The instrumentation has a positive impact on your people also.
The direct feedback on the quality of their efforts helps them
to find ways to improve their own personal performance.
Process measurement is now a
very common activity and a number of tools have been developed
to support its application:
- Identifying critical success factors (eg through an Ishikawa
diagram) can help the team to focus their instrumentation in
areas where it will be of most value in ensuring performance
- Statistical Process Control (SPC) is a well established trending
technique that ensures intervention at the points when it is
- Process computers, especially management information systems,
can provide performance data almost automatically.
develop the performance of all processes through a planned strategy
How long do new ideas and improvements
remain in place in your processes?
How much of the learning that your company has won moves on with
The process is the
only practical stable repository of organisational learning.
Storing it in other inanimate entities means it either doesnt
get used or becomes bureaucratic. Storing it in people means
it moves on when the people do.
Developing through processes requires that all work is effected
through the process, and all activities that deviate from the
process should be discouraged even if they are successful. The
process is paramount. This may on the surface seem draconian
and counter productive, but in practice it is the only way to
ensure the process is actively developed to accommodate the ideas
Force people to follow a path
and the path will improve. Allow them to detour and the path
Developing the business through process ensures that the learning
is done once for all, and that is then available to others. It
also drives the improvement to be more systematic and thought
through regarding its implications - and as such it avoids improvements
in one area that are problems for the next. Finally it provides
a tangible record of improvement that can be learned from and
built upon. The alternative in practice is to try and build upon
The approach to developing through
process is essentially five fold:
- Firstly there needs to be established a clear record of what
the current process is, and it needs to be in a form that is
easy to understand and use.
- Secondly there needs to be a clear analysis of how clearly
defined the process should be - what would benefit from a tight
definition and what benefits from a looser (goal focused) definition.
- Thirdly there needs to be a mechanism for ensuring that people
understand and follow the process to whatever degree of detail
- Fourthly there needs to be a simple system for amending the
process as issues arise, and for doing so quickly. This may require
two levels - one for a quick fix and the second for following
up with a more thought out solution.
- And fifthly there should be a clear strategy and cycle of ongoing
systematically understanding and serving internal customers
How well do your people understand
what is expected of them?
To what extent are the definitions of your peoples roles
clearly focussed on the objective, yet leaving them with the
scope to adapt as the situation develops?
People do need to clearly understand
what is expected of them , and this is especially true with regard
to management roles.
Role definition is a complex activity. If they are defined too
tightly they are cause for task focus and a belief that when
the task has been completed the job is done, irrespective of
what the customer thinks. On the other hand if you define the
role too loosely you run the risk of anarchy and confusion.
Role definition also needs to accommodate individual growth and
development, and to harness the benefits from that.
Clearly defined roles are a basis
for ensuring that the organisation functions efficiently and
effectively. The role definition also provides the opportunity
for explicitly reflecting all aspects of the companys contract
with the individual, as such it is an excellent device for the
The clarity that the role definition provides should also do
much to ensure that responsibility is clearly taken at the right
level of the business.
It is key to all of the above
that role definition is a living and not a static thing. Role
definition should be a constantly developing contract that embraces
the opportunities of customer growth, training, and planned improvement.
Amongst other things, the role definition should clearly state:
- who the incumbent is to serve and the nature of that service
- the standards by which quality will be judged
- the individuals responsibility for developing and improving
- the conditions under which the incumbent has authority to act,
and those under which he needs to seek guidance
- the incumbents responsibility for managing the quality of the
service and applying the techniques of systematic management
Build a real
responsibility for considering all opportunities to improve process
What do your people feel they
have responsibility for?
How do you develop the boundaries of their responsibility to
encompass everything that they can effect or influence from their
Responsibility has been defined
as the ability to respond.
What is the extent of this ability? It is often far wider than
people will allow for. Many of us have blind spots - we almost
prefer to see our situation and our reactions as the result of
events outside of our control, and that absolves us of the feeling
that we are in some way responsible for doing something about
Building responsibility is about shining lights on these blind
spots and encouraging people to face up to the reality that while
they do not have total control, they do have the ability (and
thereby the responsibility) to influence.
The key benefit that we are seeking
through building responsibility is the driving of
improvement effort. For people to take responsibility for planning
their actions/influence, for undertaking the work as planned,
for checking the results against initial expectations, and finally
for acting to improve the planning for the next cycle (Plan,
Do, Check, Act - The Deming Wheel). From this we can expect a
continuous flow of small improvements resulting in a steady upward
trend in performance.
This responsibility is a key feature in the effective
operation of other principles on the above principles, especially
Develop through Process
A key tool to building responsibility
is the top-box model. This simple model should be used to explore
the scope of responsibility with people, and to extend their
horizons on this.
Other approaches include using why-how charting, or to list the
factors that influence the quality of service and to explore
the influence the incumbent can have on each.
processes which focus on developing the health and future performance
of the business
What do you currently do to contribute
to the future growth in performance of your business?
How well do you manage the factors that will determine your future
rates of performance improvement?
Performance is a function of
your rate of performance improvement. This rate of performance
improvement; the speed at which the business can flex and respond
to changes and challenges can be likened to its fitness.
But the level of fitness can also be developed through
other health factors, such as improvements to the
processes that bring about improvement. Examples of this would
be improvements to the design, planning and management processes,
all of which could make the rate of performance improvement faster.
Ensuring long term health is about working on these processes
to ensure that the rate of future performance improvement will
always be on the increase.
The benefits are about being
able to compete with world class companies.
To be able to improve your performance to a point where you represent
a real competitive threat, and then to be able to adjust to meet
all of the market challenges they throw at you, and ultimately
to be able to out improve them and to win.
The approach is about identifying
those processes that influence future performance improvement.
And then refining those processes through a disciplined approach
until they are routinely capable of flexing the organisation,
on a short timescale, to meet and beat new challenges. The processes
you might focus on are:
- strategic planning and target setting
- product, service and process design
- people and team development
- process improvement and problem solving
But consider that the objectives of each of these processes may
need to be widened if they are to be practically effective in
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Management Systems Ltd 2003