Process Management

Process Management

 Process management is a concept which is based on the observation that each product that an organization provides to the market is the outcome of a number of activities performed. Processes are the key instrument for the  organization of these activities and for improving the understanding of their interrelationships.

The organization can reach its goals and objectives in an efficient and effective manner only if people and other organizational resources play together well. Processes are an important concept for facilitating this effective collaboration.

Process can be defined as a set of horizontal sequence of interrelated or interacting activities, which transforms inputs (needs) into outputs (results) for meeting the needs of customers or stakeholders. Inputs and intended outputs of a process can be tangible (such as equipment, materials or components) or intangible (such as energy or information). Outputs can also be unintended, such as waste or pollution.  Each process has customers and other interested parties (who may be either internal or external to the organization), with needs and expectations about the process, who define the required outputs of the process.

Process activities require allocation of resources such as people and materials. Processes are strategic, operational and supportive. Process components are sub process, activity and task. Processes  have owner and team members.

Processes are considered to be a generic factor in the organization. They are the way things get done. they are also viewed as strategic assets, which require the organization to take a process orientation.

A major advantage of the process approach, when compared to other approaches, is in the management and control of the interactions between these processes and the interfaces between the functional hierarchies of the organization. Common examples of processes include new product development, order fulfillment, and customer service; less obvious but equally legitimate candidates are resource allocation and decision making.

At the organizational level, processes are essential for understanding how the organization operate. Processes also play an important role in the design and realization of flexible systems. These systems provide the technical basis for the rapid creation of new functionality that realizes new products and for adapting existing functionality to cater to new market requirements.

All processes are to be aligned with the objectives, scope and complexity of the organization, and are to be designed to add value to the organization.  Process effectiveness and efficiency can be accessed through internal or external review processes.

Process is not simply the management fad of re-engineering, but a more pervasive issue, requiring serious attention. Process thinking has become mainstream in pursuit for success. Process management considers process as both a business imperative and a means of understanding and explaining organizational activities that is the way customer requirements get transformed into actual goods and services.

Processes are assets of the organization, much like people, facilities, and information. Well managed, they pay off in terms of performance to the organization. Moreover processes are somewhat special in that they are the vehicles that synchronize the other assets and aspects of change. They are the organizing framework for all the other components. Processes helps in the achievement of the results which the organization is capable of. The process links the changes the organization make to the external business reasons for its existence because only processes can be measured in terms of business performance. Processes exist for no other purpose. Everything else is in place to make it possible to attain the processes’ aim of achieving stakeholder results.

Process management is influenced by concepts and technologies from different areas of organizational administration. Process management has its roots in the process orientation trend of the 1990s, where a new way of organizing organizations on the basis of process approach was proposed.

Process management is a structured approach to analyze and continually improve the process. It is a holistic manner to manage all aspects of the organization and a valuable perspective in determining organizational effectiveness. The following are the principles of process management.

  • Organizational change are to be performance driven.
  • Organizational change are to be stakeholder based.
  • Organizational change decisions are to be traceable to the stakeholder criteria.
  • The organization is to be segmented along business process lines to synchronize change.
  • Organizational processes are to be managed holistically.
  • Process renewal initiatives are to inspire shared insight.
  • Process renewal initiatives are to be conducted from the outside in.
  • Process renewal initiatives are to be conducted in an iterative, time boxed approach.
  • Organizational change is all about people.
  • Organizational change is a journey, not a destination.

The purpose of the process management is (i) to remove barriers, (ii) control and improve the processes, (iii) improve quality of product and services, (iv) identify opportunity for use of technology, (v) improve collective learning, (vi) align with strategic objectives, (vii) improve organizational effectiveness, (viii) improve organizational performance.

Process management is the ensemble of activities of planning and monitoring the performance of the processes. The term usually refers to the management of both the administrative processes  as well as the manufacturing processes. It is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, techniques, and systems to define, visualize, measure, control, report and improve processes with the goal to meet the customer and other organizational requirements profitably.  Process management delivers  to the organization efficiency, agility, and customer intimacy.

Approaches to process management (Fig 1) include (i) process selection, (ii) process description and mapping, (iii) organizing for quality, (iv) process measurement, and (v) process improvements. Process management needs process architecture, process visibility, monitoring mechanisms, and improvement mechanisms. Process management tools are process mapping, process measurement, process re-engineering or re-design, models for continuous improvement, and instruments for benchmarking.

Approach to process management

Fig 1 Approach to process management

 Process management is a process that ensures continued improvement in the organizational performance. Process management requires leadership and guidance. At times, this means taking a radical change perspective, meaning that the fundamental tenets of the process are under re-examination and perhaps renewal. At other times, the process might undergo a cycle of continuous review and enhancement with minor adjustments being considered. At all times, the fit of the process  with other processes is to be understood, examined, and challenged.

Process management is a system normally used to gather data to provide information about process performance, which is then usually  analyzed to determine if there is any need for corrective action or improvement. It ensures that all the factors are in synchronization to deliver performance. The work flow from input through transformation to output aligns with the desired results. The technology, people, and facilities enable the process to deliver repeatedly. The guidance of rules, roles, and organizational structure provides the controls to execute the process well. Knowledge and intellectual capital are embedded in the organizational physical and technological assets and embodied in its human abilities. Process management is the never ending journey that maintains the balance and keeps an organization pointed in the right direction.

Process management effectively integrate people, process and information. It gives the organization ability to define, execute, manage and refine processes which involve human interaction, work with multiple applications, and handle dynamic process rules and changes, not just simple, static flows, but with multiple choices and contingencies. Important components of process management  include, process planning, collection and analysis of data, monitoring of activities and generation of reports to know exactly how the processes are working.

Optimizing processes that involve people and dynamic change has been difficult historically. One barrier to optimization has been the lack of visibility and ownership for processes that span functional departments. In addition, the business often changes faster than it can update applications that the business relies on to do its work, thus stifling innovation, growth, performance.

An organization has a number and type of processes which are needed to fulfill its business objectives. These processes may be functioning in sequence or interacting with other processes. For the processes to function efficiently, the organization is to determine criteria and methods needed to ensure that both the operation and control of these processes are effective. Further it has to ensure the availability of resources and information necessary to support the operation and monitoring of these processes. It is to monitor, measure (where applicable), and analyze the processes, and implement actions necessary to achieve planned results and continual improvement of these processes. These processes are to be managed by the organization to achieve the intended results and to fulfill the organizational objectives. .

There are usually three categories of processes  (Fig 2). They are (i) work processes, (ii) behavioral processes, and (iii) change processes.

Categories of processes

Fig 2 Categories of processes

 Work process focus on accomplishing tasks. It starts with a simple but powerful idea that the organization gets the work accomplished through linked chains of activities cutting across departments and functional groups. These chains are called processes and can be conveniently grouped into two categories namely (i) processes that create, produce, and deliver products and services that customers want, and (ii) processes that do not produce outputs that customers want, but that are still necessary for running the organization. The first group is known as operational processes while the second group is called administrative processes. New product development, manufacturing, and logistics distribution are examples of operational processes, while strategic planning, budgeting, and performance measurement are examples of administrative processes.

Operational and administrative processes share several characteristics. Both involve sequences of linked, interdependent activities that together transform inputs into outputs. Both have beginnings and ends, with boundaries that can be defined with reasonable precision and minimal overlap. And both have customers, who may be internal or external to the organization. The primary differences between the two lie in the nature of their outputs. Typically, operational processes produce goods and services that external customers consume, while administrative processes generate information and plans that internal groups use. For this reason, the two are frequently considered independent, unrelated activities, even though they must usually be aligned and mutually supportive if the organization is to function effectively.

The management of the work processes is more familiar to the management. It draws heavily on the principles of the quality movement and reengineering which focus on the need to redesign processes to improve quality, cut costs, reduce cycle times, or otherwise enhance operating performance. Despite these shared goals, the two movements are strikingly similar in some points, but diverge on others.

The behavioral processes have roots in group dynamics an focus on ingrained behavior patterns. These patterns reflect on the organizational characteristic ways of acting and interacting such decision making and communication processes. The underlying behavior patterns are normally so deeply embedded and recurrent that they are displayed by most organizational members. They also have enormous staying power. Behavioral processes are able to withstand the turnover of personnel as well as some variations in the actual behaviours people contribute.

All behavioral processes share several characteristics. They are generalizations, distilled from observations of everyday work and have no independent existence apart from the work processes in which they appear. This makes them difficult to identify but explains their importance. Behavioral processes profoundly affect the form, substance, and character of work processes by shaping how they are carried out. They are different, however, from organizational culture because they reflect more than values and beliefs. Behavioral processes are the sequences of steps used for accomplishing the cognitive and interpersonal aspects of work. As an example, new product development processes can have roughly similar work flows yet still involve radically different patterns of decision making and communication. Often, it is these underlying patterns that determine the ultimate success or failure of the operation process.

There are three categories of behavioral processes namely (i) decision making, (ii) communication, and (iii) organizational learning processes. All involve the collection, movement, and interpretation of information, as well as forms of interpersonal interaction. In most cases, the associated behaviors are learned informally, through socialization and on the job experience, rather than through formal education and training programs.

The change processes have roots in strategic management and focuses on sequences of events over time. These processes describe how individuals, groups, and the organization adapt, develop, and grow. Change processes are explicitly dynamic and intertemporal. Unlike the relatively static portraits of work and behavioral processes, they attempt to catch reality in flight.

All change processes share several characteristics. They are longitudinal and dynamic, designed to capture action as it unfolds, with three components always present namely a set of starting conditions, a functional end point, and an emergent process of change.

Whatever  their focus, change processes fall into two broad categories namely (i) autonomous and (ii) induced. Autonomous processes have a life of their own; they proceed because of an internal dynamic. The entity or organism evolves naturally and of its own course. In some cases, the direction of change is preordained and inevitable. In others, transitional periods create flux, and the entity may evolve in multiple, unexpected ways. Processes in the former category include the organization’s evolution from informal, entrepreneurial start-up to a more structured, professionally managed organization. Processes in the second category include organizational and industry shifts that result from revolutionary changes in technology.

Unlike autonomous processes, induced processes do not occur naturally but must be created. All planned change efforts therefore fall into this category. While they are triggered in different ways, such efforts, once underway, unfold in a predictable sequence.

Process management has five main themes namely (i) process strategy, (ii) process  architecture, (iii) process ownership, (iv) process measurement, and (v)  process  improvement.

Process strategy addresses the linkages between the articulation of strategic intent and the intended actions in the deployment and on-going management of a process infrastructure. The linkage between strategic intent and deployment within the process management is normally through an integrator which links strategic level planning with task level deployment.

Process architecture is constructed normally from a business process perspective. A business process as a unit of analysis and improvement is the central theme. Processes are the conceptual notation of what organizations do. They are described as transformations which are cross functional in nature and are customer facing. One important property associated with the process is its end-to-end nature. The purpose of the architecture is to provide a top level hierarchical model which integrates the flows within the organization. This provides a coordinating mechanism for improvement and change.

The identification of process owners and their allocation to core the process management. Process owners are seen as champions of the process who have responsibility for process performance. This is also of particular importance in meeting the responsibility and accountability requirements. Process mature organization exhibits a higher proportion of senior managers as process owners. The key role for process owners is to work at the interfaces with other key processes. This mitigates against the creation of horizontal silos, and reinforces the underlying principle of systemicity.

An additional element of process owner theme is the switch in emphasis to process based teams. These teams are considered as networks of process operatives who work together to deliver process performance. Organizations usually broaden the scope and span of all employees’ mindsets and their cycle of objectives, performance and responsibility. Functional barriers and parochial mindsets (the ‘silo’ mentality) are largely overcome and replaced by a unity of purpose and spirit of co-operation. This requirement for a switch to team based structure necessitates the implementation of alternative reward and recognition structures. Teams are deployed within a process to identify and rectify the causes of poor process performance. Processes are a framework for a problem-solving regimen. Process teams challenge the nature of a process and seek to reconfigure processes to minimize the amount of non-value adding activities. The process owner obtains the resource that is required and manages the performance of the process, often irrespective of formal organizational structure.

Process measurement is an integral part of process management which seeks to optimize process performance against both customer requirements and economic targets. Single measures of performance can be dangerous. Performance measurement is very much influenced by financial reporting which does not reflect the need for customer-focused, process-oriented objectives. The process measures  exhibit a number of key characteristics which are balanced; drive organizational improvement; and link strategy to operations. Process measurement links strategic and operational targets.

Improvement activity is central to realizing the benefits of process management. The ability to overcome problems remains the core source of value for improvement activity. This is based on having a structured, consistent approach to process improvement that delivers on continuous and radical improvements. There is usually a three level approach for process improvement. This approach consist of (i) stabilization, (ii) continuous improvement, and (iii) radical change. Organizations normally face the problem of selecting from a large stock of improvement methodologies and tools  which range from the pure qualitative such as removal of duplicate activities or re-sequencing of activity to systematic approaches for process optimization using factorial design.