All shape and manner of things are called processes these days and there’s a real need to revisit the definition of process. A common definition of process goes something like this: “A chain of activities that converts various inputs into valued outputs”. We’re now thinking that that definition is more a description of the characteristics of a process. We also would argue that “process” is a construct or artifice for articulating and organizing work in a way that meets three critical criteria:
- First, so that the work can be effectively and efficiently performed. Most everyone will have to agree with that.
- Second, so it can be effectively managed. This is new. In the past, the major emphasis on organizing work has been effective and efficient performance of the work – effective management of the work has been overlooked. Frequently overlooked is the need to organize work so that management has the ability to plan and track performance and fix accountability.
- Third, wherever practical, work should be organized within a business so as to provide that business with a competitive advantage. From Michael Porter, “A company outperforms rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. Ultimately, all differences between companies derive from the hundreds of activities required to create, produce, sell and deliver their products and services.”
So this is our definition: PROCESS is a construct or artifice for organizing work so it:
- Can be Performed effectively and efficiently
- Can be Managed effectively
- Offers the potential for a competitive advantage
We will be discussing the implications of this re-definition of process in future Bulletins and papers.