We are all familiar with processes at an operational level. For some of us, we are literally quite sick of processes at an operational level. All the documentation, all the filing - all for nothing?
It is not all for nothing if the processes are in fact being used as business tools to drive effectiveness, efficiency, quality and competitive advantage. Sadly this is often not the case. Ideally an operational process should be well defined, it should be well executed and there should be a process in place to tweak the operational process so that it produces the desired outcome.
The emphasis on outcome is deliberate because we often see the emphasis of a process being on its output. Whilst the outputs are extremely vital, it is the outcome of the whole process that contributes to the organisational direction and goals.
Processes also help organisations retain their organisational knowledge at various levels within the organisation. Before we talk about the retention of knowledge we must address processes at the management and leadership levels of the organisation. We have made the assumption that any organisation that wants to be able to repeat its success, adjust for its mistakes and adapt to its environment must have a method of organising activities so that they are consistent, identified or identifiable and subject to monitoring and are modifiable. The only method that does this very well is process management.
So operational processes are often used to help understand operations. There are various models that help us understand how mature our processes are and how well we respond to changes with these processes. What is not very well addressed are the systems of management for these operational processes. There are management systems out there, very good ones at that, but they only address specific areas like quality (ISO 9001), environment (ISO 14001) and health and safety. Often these systems are seen as additional administration for an accreditation in a particular field.
Our approach to integrate all management systems into one management system helps to bring focus to the activities that are essential to achieving business objectives as opposed to additional administrative burden. Once operational processes are in place a set of management processes need to be put in place to manage the operational processes. This is more than merely ensuring that documentation is done, it is more about tweaking the operational processes to be more effective, efficient and producing decent quality repeatable outcomes. This management of processes needs to be formal and also needs to be a process (or two) so that the management processes can be measured, tweaked and changed for all the same reasons. Lastly, the leadership of the organisation should have a set of processes that they themselves follow, manage and modify to obtain the results that is required of them to run the organisation so that it achieves all its objectives.
The combination of all these processes results in excellent governance, excellent knowledge creation and retention and it gives an organisation the ability to respond to environmental (market and competitor) changes much quicker than an organisation that relies on the heroic efforts of a small number of individuals to succeed.