Process defines the approach to work execution in a business. A streamlined process provides speed, quality, and solid results. A convoluted process chews up resources and produces poor performance. In order to expedite results, processes need to be well defined. There are six components to a process. They are what, why, how, where, who, and sequence.
- What—this is the definition of the tasks. These tasks include mandatory work required to meet regulatory, health and safety, or legal requirements, and work that must be done to achieve the desired results.
- Why—this is the identification of purpose. The value of a task is questionable if you are not clear on why it is needed. A task that deserves attention and effort is one with a clear purpose.
- How—this is the approach to do the work. A task can be done manually, or completed with an assisted tool, or fully automated. The approach is a key determiner of how quickly a task can be completed.
- Where—this is the location for doing the work. In the past, the location of work used to be fixed. The internet has provided much flexibility with work location, which affords more choices in who could do the work.
- Who—this is the person who is in the best position to do the work. This person has the necessary skills and knowledge to complete the tasks. He could be an employee, a contractor, or a third-party. This person could do the work on-site and possibly, off-site.
- Sequence—this is the order of the tasks for the process. Certain tasks need to be done in consecutive order while others can be done in parallel. The sequence affects the elapse time for completing all the tasks involved in the end-to-end process.
These six components form the building blocks of a process. Though simple as they look, each component requires careful consideration. Sound processes have six qualities. They are:
- Customer-focused—putting customers first is always a good practice. Internal processes such as accounting serve mostly internal customers. But they have an impact on the external customers. For instance, inaccurate billing due to a problematic tracking of labour hours affects external customers.
- Simplicity—keeping processes simple means there are fewer tasks. Simplicity also minimizes costs associated with training, delays, duplication, and errors. Complexity is inevitable for large corporations. But maintaining a simplicity motto helps to avoid cluttering a process with frivolous tasks that add no value.
- Few business rules—Safety, legal, health and environmental regulations are unavoidable. There are copious rules in all aspects of a business. Some rules aim to maintain quality and consistency. Others add bureaucracy and address personal interests. Each rule introduces more work, contributing to higher cost and cycle time. For instance, is there any need to have multiple signoffs on office expenditures?
- Clear roles and responsibilities—Role clarity fosters ownership of work. Without clarity, people are quick to remove themselves from work that they don’t understand. They create workarounds that make sense to them. As a business evolves, job roles change. The change could be significant especially for major transformation initiatives. It is important to revisit each person’s role and responsibilities periodically.
- Intelligent Sequence—a streamlined flow of tasks brings efficiency to execution. A thorough understanding of what needs to be done helps to sequence the tasks appropriately to optimize the flow and minimize wait time. For instance, building a home requires a roofer, an electrician, a framer, a carpenter, a painter, etc. In order to complete the construction as expeditiously as possible, the work of each trade needs to be planned in a proper sequence so that repeat visits are not necessary and each trade shows up at the appropriate time to do its share of work.
- Tight Integration—when a process involves people from different departments or locations, poor transitions create bottlenecks. For example, student registration for a course is not complete until the student is placed in a class and payment is processed. When a class is full, accepting payments would result in complaints. This creates work for the accounting department. It has to monitor student assignments and would need to reverse payments if there is no space. Accounting and registration need to figure out how best to coordinate their activities in order to minimize backlogs and unnecessary work.
These six qualities of a sound process constitute the recipe for effective processes. The interdependency of tasks and potential overlaps of work across an organization introduce complexity to processes. However, conscious efforts to maintain clarity on the building blocks of a process and follow the guidelines on a sound process would create a mindset for operational efficiency.