Process in simple words means “series of steps to perform actions to achieve the desired results”. It gives motion to any stationary object.
Can we ever live without processes?
Sleep, tooth brushing, exercise, bathing, ……. the list goes on. All the times, we are engaged in one process or another. Be it thinking process or action process; life without a process is stagnant and static. Any living thing which does not move leaves foul smell requiring immediate disposal.
The best example is human body. Till the time, life is present which means that all organs are in process or working condition, there is no issue; but, the moment life goes or there’s no process …. nothing is left.
Similarly, running water is a life or freshness while a stationary pond is a ground of foul and mosquitoes.
In the organisational context, processes give life to basic elements (entrepreneur, manpower, land, capital & machines) alongwith various departments / functions (like marketing, production, accounts, purchase, quality, etc.). Invisible functions like leadership, motivation, risk analysis, branding, etc. also involve series of processes.
Can u find out the difference in a winning team and the other team when both the teams had equal number of manpower, machines, etc.? It’s the thinking process, which differentiates in the way the winning team faces various challenges. Motivation, leadership are also processes of certain best practices.
Processes are the ways of working, which define responsibilities of each person with detailed steps to be performed, its timeline, etc.
ZZZ Inc. is a leading exporter with turnover exceeding $ 100 million. The company exported goods valuing $ 30 million to USA. The consignment got rejected and customer filed suit valuing more than $ 60 million. ZZZ Inc. went into financial crisis leading to bankruptcy.
What happened in ZZZ Inc.? A complete process failure !!! CEO was not involved in day-to-day workings and relied on reports from the Managers at the year-end. Production department ignored the quality of raw material since the Production Manager and Quality Manager were old-time buddies.
Let’s analyse the example:
- The order value was significant and stakes were very high. Even penalty clause was severe. Looking at risk profile of the order, processes need to be designed for this special situation.
- Entrepreneur / CEO should have been involved after procurement of primary raw materials and before dispatch of order in inspecting quality of raw material and finished goods.
- Strong whistle blowing process giving security to whistle blowers should have been provided. It would be difficult to imagine that entire production-team and quality team were unaware of poor quality while the goods were getting manufactured.
- The present would not have been the first case of rejection due to collusion between production manager and quality manager. Earlier cases of debits from customers should have been thoroughly investigated.
- Checklists were not in place wherein the person is made accountable on certain specifications. If there is a complaint from customer, these lists require investigation to analyse what went wrong.
- There was lack of motivation and accountability among manpower for even ignoring errors of large magnitude.
- Manpower missed ownership of organisation completely.
Deliverables (i.e. expectations from a good Process)
- Clarity of steps to be performed by process owner and entire team members before the task is considered complete (Work-flow)
- Clarity of responsibilities of each department (Job description)
- Clarity of time to be spent on each task (Standardisation)
- Ease in replacement by a new Person in case of unavailability of the process owner (Standard Operating Procedure) (SOPs)
- Building cross-functional teams → facilitates rotation of duties → teams enjoying the job
- Better customer / vendor / investor service (everybody receiving goods / services / information after due verification → building more reliability)
- Better statutory compliance → better organisation reputation
- Building organisational brand
Important developments in the Process build-up and monitoring
- ERP (enterprise resource planning) software ensuring cross-functional movement of goods / services and ensuring mis-matches
- Softwares ensuring process steps being followed, process-timings, ownerships, etc.
- Organisation sizes becoming larger with multi-location and large manpower requiring strong process orientation of entire team
Traditional / Normal ways of Process build-up and monitoring
- Manual Checklists of process steps to be followed and fixing the accountability of process owners
- Regular review of feedbacks / suggestions / complaints by process user (i.e. manpower, vendor, customer, stakeholder, etc.) to identify process weakness → process strengthening
Conflicts (Inter-departmental) / Challenges Process build-up and monitoring
- Process implementation exposes process weakness → chances of manipulating the results
- Process reviewer needs to have good moral values of high integrity, focus towards organisation’s mission, etc .→ requires protection by Top Management from interested users
- Practising Excellence is a difficult task → unless resolved by majority manpower → chances of non-practice is very high
Tasks to be performed by an Entrepreneur
- Monitor since delegation does not absolve responsibilities
- Communicating / reiterating organisation’s mission statement
- Ensuring maximum customer’s value
- Identifying process blocks / silos in the organisation and removing them.
- Analysing exceptions in all functions / departments of what’s not working in the organisation
- Gemba-walks (i.e. visiting the workplace where value is created with a purpose to locate what’s not working, what requires improvement, etc.)
- Processes with surprise elements in all the functions to bring accountability
Implementation / building a process (Structure of a process)
- Purpose / deliverables (i.e. expectations from a process)
- Define the purpose for which the process is being built up
- Define what needs to be present when series of steps are performed?
- Whether existing process is to be re-written considering market developments / competitors’ actions?
- Building the process
- What steps are to be performed?
- Who is to perform?
- How much time is to be spent on individual step and overall steps?
- When the steps are to be performed – whether immediately or after completion of another process or on occurrence of an event? (e.g. disaster action plans are performed at the time of occurrence of a disaster event)
- Where the steps are to be performed – whether at work-place, customer’s place or vendor’s place?
- Who is to approach when process does not function? How much time would be taken by that person for resolution of issue before escalating the issue to next higher person?
- Creating templates / checklists
- Ensuring compliance of process / process review
- Defining process meaningless unless compliance of process ensured
- Cross-checking maintenance of checklists → reporting of exceptions of observations for necessary resolution
- Process review
- Whether process requires any changes → follow the review process
- Installing a process → no guarantee of resilient to all situations
- Remember: anything stationary = dead → therefore, regular review
- Internet made world flat; organisations flat; information available to everybody → monopolies are broken → therefore, regular review
- Process bench-marking
- Leaders built their processes over the years, which are time tested and reviewed regularly.
- Best processes ensure
- Promised value to customers
- Consistently with least variance
- E.g. Dominos talks about 30 minutes pizza delivery
- Promises to customer possible with strict quality control
- Spirit of Excellence brings playing against the Best and beating the Best or setting its own Standard
- (e.g. who tells Sachin Tendulkar to set more records and beat his own in Cricket)
- Sample process list of Purchase Department