Defining Processes

Processes can be defined as a structured set of coordinated activities designed to produce an outcome and provide value to customers or stakeholders. A process takes one or more inputs, and through the activities performed, turns them into defined outputs.

Some principles:

  • All processes should be measurable and performance-driven (not just in regards to time taken, but measuring overall efficiency including cost, effort and other resources used)
  • All processes produce specific results that create value
  • Processes are strategic assets when they create competitive advantage and market differentiation
  • Processes may define roles, responsibilities, tools, management controls, policies, standards, guidelines, activities and work instructions if they are needed.

A process owner is the person responsible for ensuring that the process is fit for the desired purpose and is accountable for the outputs of that process.

A process manager is the person responsible for the operational management of a process. There may be several managers for the one process or the same person may be both the process owner and process manager (typically in smaller organizations).

The previous figure describes the physical components of processes, which are tangible and therefore typically get the most attention. In addition to the physical components, there are behavioral components which are for the most part intangible, and are part of an underlying pattern so deeply embedded and recurrent that it is displayed by most members of the organization and includes decision making, communication and learning processes. Behavioral components have no independent existence apart from the work processes in which they appear, but at the same time they greatly affect and impact the form, substance and character of activities and subsequent outputs by shaping how they are carried out.

So when defining and designing processes, it is important to consider both the physical and behavioral aspects that exist. This may be addressed by ensuring the all required stakeholders (e.g. staff members, customers and users etc.) are appropriately involved in the design of processes so that:

  • They can communicate their own ideas, concerns and opinions that might influence the way in which processes are designed, implemented and improved. Of particular importance may be current behaviors that have not been previously identified which may affect the process design and implementation.
  • Stakeholder groups are provided adequate training and education regarding how to perform their role within the process and what value the process provides for.
  • Stakeholders generally feel to be empowered in the change being developed, and therefore are more likely to respond positively rather than actively or passively resisting the organizational changes occurring.