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Basic Business Cents: A process is a process is a process

We have previously discussed that all work is a series of processes. I suppose we can say all activity is composed of a series of processes. It is how we do things. No process is perfect; all processes can be improved. The worker strives to perform the best they can within the processes they are given and the manager’s job is to improve the processes. When viewed in this manner, it does not matter if the processes are in a manufacturing company, service, or government. It does not matter if the processes are in a large conglomerate or a small mom-and-pop business. A process is a process is a process is a process.

The first task in performance improvement is to understand the work processes. Start with the material coming in the back door and draw a sketch of all of the processes leading up to the product going out the front door with the customer. The more processes you can identify, the better.

Then take a look at your flow diagram and identify any waste, rework, and redundancy. Does the flow make sense or should processes be rearranged. In other words, simplify where you can. When you are satisfied with the diagram, show it to others, especially those involved in each process. They may be doing something different than what you think is happening. Make corrections with their input always seeking to streamline and simplify the system of processes.

When a problem is identified or a process is selected to improve, a simple system to follow is P-D-C-A, plan, do, check, and act. First, plan a solution or change, then do it on a trial basis if possible to check if the process is improved. Does the data confirm your theory of a better way. If the results are positive, then document the change so it becomes the standard way of acting or doing the process across the organization. If the results do not show improvement, then plan another change. You can continue rolling through P-D-C-A, continuing to improve. Remember no process is perfect and all can be improved.

When checking for improvement, be sure to check on the impact of the change on other processes and especially the total system. Remember, for every action there is a reaction from other processes and you want to be sure you achieve the result you desire on the total system.

Process thinking may be the most important breakthrough in your management style. No matter what size or type of organization you are in, a process is a process is a process and it can be improved.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works with area business owners as a SCORE counselor. Email him with questions or comments at lou.processmanagement@gmail.com.

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