Archive for the ‘Work is process’ Category

The process approach

March 31, 2014

All work is process. While organizations continue to employ humans supported by machines, instead of the other way around, here is a working description of the process approach.

As workers, we enjoy our work because it makes the best use of our strengths, gifts or talents. Collectively or individually, we work to fulfill the purpose of our organization. Apart from caring about our employer’s purpose or mission, we also care about the requirements for our work so we can add value for others. Our employer invests in processes, facilities, equipment and controls so our work adds value faster and its results (services with or without goods) meet customer requirements with no need for verification.

Complex products need process teams comprising members of different areas of expertise who help each other to fulfill requirements.

As process designers, we plan, design and specify plans and procedures for the successful completion of our processes. We may document our plans and procedures as necessary to avoid making bad product.

We monitor our processes for conformity and effectiveness, correcting them as necessary. We may also collect data on the characteristics or behavior of our processes to avoid adding variation. These data also become information for our investment decisions to improve, or not, the process directly or indirectly via the system of which it is part.

As auditors, we’re authorized to sample parts of the process and its system to verify the fulfillment of process objectives and the adequacy of interactions (communications), resources and controls.

The process approach ensures employees have all they need to avoid wasting their time at work while creating customers who create customers.

When the process is repeatable and reproducible, for a given product, investors may automate it so machines replace the humans. We then are glad that we learned other ways for our work to add value for others.

Effectiveness, value then efficiency

December 10, 2013

All of us have a responsibility for achieving more with less. To be more efficient, we experiment to see what works for customers, what nearly works and what does not work.

Organizations should start by studying themselves as systems. Once their leaders understand how their system helps employees to fulfill their mission or not, they think and work differently. They start their efficiency improvement cycles by developing their management system to drive their processes through the walls of silos to focus on customers. Then they can focus on improving the system to deliver what customers value.

Given an environment that supports such thinking, together with our colleagues, we start the experiment by studying customer demand, what customers’ value and waste. We may then set ourselves a hypothesis to test the best way to satisfy value demand and reduce failure demand. We carefully work to our new or updated procedure to see if it is effective. We try again until successful. We institutionalize the successful new process so others in the system can depend on it. This also enables us to improve efficiency further with another cycle of improvement.

Improvement often starts by eliminating the local causes of problems from a process. Perhaps by mistake-proofing the riskiest processes too. But, after several improvement cycles, we find the wider system has the greatest impact, both adverse and beneficial, on our process. System-wide impacts come from other processes in the system. These impacts include the shared organizational beliefs (or culture) that leaders reinforce or weaken with their processes.

When the continual improvement cycle is effective it continues to make the system and its processes more efficient. The speed of this investment should be a result of the calculation of risk and reward on behalf of investors who share the mission for customer value. The management system should deliver the information needed for these risk-reward decisions from the data collected on what customers’ value.

Conformity is necessary for effectiveness and predictable effectiveness is necessary for delivering value and improving efficiency. Predictable outcomes are a mark of effective processes and systems. “Luck” best describes an organization happening to fulfill a requirement with an unknown process or system.

Start by understanding your organization as a system. How does it help your organization to fulfill your mission? What are the leadership processes? Be prepared to think and work differently. Start your efficiency improvement cycles by developing your management system so it is process-based leaving no silos. Then focus on improving your system and its processes to deliver what your current and future customers value.

How do I measure the effectiveness of training?

February 19, 2013

Why do we feel a need to measure the benefits of doing the right thing? We find this in quality costing too. Most quality costing is about the cost benefits of keeping promises instead of the cost benefits of making the promises valued by customers. Likewise, we need to do enough of the right thing the right way with our organization as a system to fulfill our collective objectives of creating (and keeping) more successful customers.

People, of diverse innate abilities, benefit in different ways from education and training. Some employees benefit immediately from the formal education and training. Others benefit more from workplace experiences following the education or training. Moreover, we all benefit from a process-based management system that helps us to determine requirements and coordinate our work to fulfill requirements.

Taking the individual out of the system, one could measure the abilities, skills and knowledge of each individual before and after the training session. However, we cannot change the innate abilities of anyone and the slower learners from workplace experiences may be marked down. This is not to mention the contributions or impediments of the leaders and the rest of the system.

Diverse process and project teams comprising individuals of different strengths and weaknesses help each other to fulfill objectives. Managers wisely play to the strengths of their people and avoid exposing their weaknesses. We cannot make everyone the same like robots.

What counts is competence of the individual, the process, leadership and the system of which all three are part. Therefore, we have to optimize the system (parts that work together) so it adds value faster and prevents loss sooner. $ per millisecond may be the ultimate metric appearing on the dashboard for all to see as a smoothed moving average.

The primacy of process

November 3, 2012

Many people confuse processes with procedures. Processes are the work of cross-functional teams. Procedures are the specified way of doing the work. Procedures can be mind-numbing for competent workers especially when they specify unnecessary detail or are used instead of training.

A process may or may not add value. A procedure may or may not be effective and may or may not be documented.

Processes are the counterculture where the culture is for functions to congregate in departments to politick for promotion. Such departmental thinking has to change for the functions to coordinate their work to form a joined-up process to create more successful customers.

Indeed, processes refocus workers from keeping old-style departmental bosses happy to collaborate in satisfying customers. Processes that add value to inputs are the lifeblood of organizations that want to create more successful customers. This makes the new-style process bosses very happy.

Processes usually bring resources and controls so the work of humans can add value to a wide variety of inputs. Resources include skills, knowledge, facilities and equipment. Controls include care, coordination, methods and decisions. Get the inputs, resources and controls right and the output will be free from defects and other failures to fulfill requirements

Middle managers add value by coordinating, monitoring and improving the performance of cross-functional process teams to make sure everyone has what they need to keep their work in balance with customer demand. When customer demand reduces, middle managers or coaches help process teams improve their skills, facilities, equipment, methods or remove kinks from their processes. Or, as a last resort, they may be redeployed to under-resourced processes.

Leaders add value by establishing and living the values that impart care for customers and the requirements of other stakeholders. They ensure their organizations work effectively as systems to direct, nurture, support, redesign and remove processes as necessary to fulfill the organization’s mission. Small companies grow and become successful by providing value and continually improving their management systems, processes and products.

Process Management within well-designed systems are necessary for our work to pay our way in this world as we create more successful customers.

Productive work creating prosperity for all

September 11, 2012

Can we live within our means without robbing future generations of their livelihoods? Yes, by productive work within process-based organizational management systems that eliminate causes of waste, assure quality and assure social responsibility for sustainability.

Process-based organizational management systems, driven by lean sensibilities, enable the people who work within them to add value faster and prevent loss sooner. Productive work adds value to metals, plastics, soils, food, people, data, information etc… That is to say confident customers will happily pay a lot more for the output than the cost of all the inputs. Supported by a management system, work may increase the value of inputs tenfold or more. Some of the increase in value pays for sustainable design, production and delivery. The increase in value also pays for the facilities, investors, money lenders (or partners) and taxes. That leaves the employees who use their share to look after their families, their communities and themselves.

However, countries and their citizens cannot prosper by enabling their people to polish each other’s shoes. Nor can they rely on their citizens continuously shopping for stuff. Nor should they print money willy-nilly. Countries must compete or cooperate on opportunity and quality to export more and earn new money to invest so their citizens can feel secure and confident enough to invest, work, study, play and enjoy family life. Therefore some nations’ taxpayers invest in healthcare, infrastructure and education (especially in the sciences and engineering) to enable thriving enterprises to protect the environment while adding a lot more value for global markets. This way inventors and entrepreneurs are encouraged to solve problems that create wealth and well-being through more value adding work.

Trade imbalances vary according to the relative productivity of each trading nation and that influences the value of each country’s currency. Sharing low value adding work with other countries may result in less inequality globally between countries. Enabling customer countries to make what they would otherwise import could more responsibly improve sales (such as making Range Rovers in Saudi Arabia). Devaluing currency is widely seen as a sign of economic failure but may be temporary to boost exports.

In the eurozone we see the results of nation states affected by these economic facts of life while, unfortunately, sharing the same currency. Germany invested long term and sold its products all over the world. People living in the ‘club-med’ region bought these imported products with cheap borrowed money, instead of earned money, or in place of privatizing and paying taxes to invest in creating more value themselves. Consequently, regions that largely comprise government workers, food growers and hosts of tourists are not adding enough value to compete with “Vorsprung Durch Technik”. Years of nonproductive work, easy money and underemployment are now having their tragic consequences on the lives and fortunes of ordinary people.

Process-based organizational management systems are used to make work more productive in farming, education, training, purchasing, design, production, delivery, operations, maintenance, government, and recycling. Just about every enterprise can benefit or suffer consequences of not providing the means for teams to determine and fulfill requirements. Without process-based management systems we see silos of like-minded individuals trying to keep their bosses happy instead of earning the confidence of customers and other stakeholders. Occupying jobs instead of working productively for customers is a road to ruin. The future may see food producing countries, coupled with government reforms and the removal of subsidies, earning enough for a positive balance of payments with their trading partners. Apart from the adverse and beneficial effects of global warming it all depends on the quality delivered and value added by work of farmers aided by animals and then machines. More productive farmers tend to result in farmhands becoming factory workers adding value to other materials thereby earning more dependable incomes.

And today marks another painful anniversary of four evil acts never to be forgotten. Nations enjoying a temporarily bonanza in non-renewable resources may invest in healthcare, infrastructure and education but some do not oblige their young men and women to work for a living. Wherever the idle live, if they don’t feel loved or are taught they are superior, they may harbor hate for strangers or colleagues. They may even choose work that adds no value and destroys life and lives. Hopefully the reawakening of the people will restore wise leadership, respect for others, productive work and leading-edge science and other important human endeavors.

Sustainability, from being socially responsible in all that we do, can prevail if all nations prepare. Visionary leaders prepare people for the era beyond the loss of abundant natural resources. They enable work to increase value while conserving resources. They cooperate internationally for justice so more people have a chance to work for a secure living. They encourage cooperation and responsible competition. Their example makes us want to volunteer, to contribute to the arts, and to invest so we prosper more equally and sustainably with time for play and well-being from our productive work.

Accordingly, all organizations in government, not for profit and commercial sectors are well advised to develop and optimize their process-based management systems so workers help each other to fulfill stakeholder requirements while removing all work and waste that does not add value for all.

Who is responsible for quality?

June 17, 2012

The top manager is responsible for quality. He or she cannot effectively delegate this responsibility. Quality (good and bad) is the result of the organization working as a system.

The organizational management system exists to help the organization’s employees (and suppliers) to determine and fulfill requirements in creating more successful customers.

Some of the leader’s authority can be delegated to a competent manager who reports direct to them. This person can then:

– Ensure the processes necessary to fulfill requirements are in place

– Respond to suggested improvements to the system

– Ensure the system makes the team aware of customer requirements

– Facilitate actions to improve the system

– Run the internal audit programme to fulfill top management’s objectives

– Recommend system improvements to the leaders

– Report on the performance of the organizational management system

Making this person report to someone other than the top manager may remove the strategic focus on emerging and future customer needs.

Process improvement remains the primary responsibility of each process owner (or their boss). These process level improvements would be coordinated via this person who, instead of being called VP Quality, is the VP Management System.

Without this person the top manager has to do all this herself or himself.

This approach enables all of us to remain responsible for the quality of our work.

Why always seek to reduce variation?

December 13, 2011

Thanks for asking why we should always seek to reduce variation (after taking the actions mentioned earlier).

Agreed, innovation in revealing and fulfilling yet more customer needs (including the psychological need for expectations to be satisfied) is indeed the key to success in a consumer-driven economy.

So is the design and operation of reliable production processes through mistake-proofing.

Unreliable processes may cause the people involved to increase the amount of work in progress “just in case” something goes wrong with an earlier process (or be idle).

Customers are expected to pay directly for this wasted inventory (and time) up and down the supply chains. The rest of us pay the avoidable environmental costs of waste.

Competitors with reliable processes waste less so they can afford to reduce their prices while making more profit to share with employees, shareholders and as taxpayers.

Competitors with reliable processes may yield more as taxpayers, attract more investment and attract more creative employees for innovation.

Our economy (some of the taxes could be invested in educating and training people for more creative and fulfilling lives) and our environment thereby benefit from reliable processes. .

Hence, we can see a virtuous cycle arising from the widespread design and operation of reliable production processes to result in products that fulfill the needs of paying customers.

Processes with more dependability should be a result of developing and running process-based management systems.

Within these systems people may cost effectively eliminate the “vital few” special and common causes of variation after designing to eliminate causes of nonconformity.

Such is the importance of organizations running reliable processes to result in needed goods and services.

Reasons ISO 9001 projects fail or succeed

September 26, 2011

Big Q thinking says everything the organization does is for quality. Organizational thinking in this way can result in highly successful holistic system development projects. Some organizations, though, are stuck in little-q thinking, perhaps kept in that state of mind by their dying QC department.

Since 1986 here are four reasons we have observed for organizations failing to obtain the full benefits of ISO 9001:

1. The leaders are not willing volunteers in developing their system.
2. The leaders ignore the system that actually is their organization.
3. The leaders delegate implementation of procedures written around ISO 9001 instead.
4. The quality professionals do not include the financial processes in the management system.

The key to developing a process-based management system is to go with the flow of work in the organization.

Embark on a voyage of discovery rather than implementing a standard:

A. Discover what the organization already does to determine customer requirements (and get paid for meeting them).
B. Discover what the organization already does to fulfill these and other requirements.
C. Discover the processes in the management system (and determine any new ones needed by the management system).
D. Discover what is done in each process to prevent nonconformity instead of how nonconformity is detected.

Telling an individual to implement ISO 9001 is not a good idea. The system development project needs a cross-functional team that is able to analyze its system, determine its key processes and analyze each of those key processes and their interactions.

Just a few of the management system’s processes need to be newly designed and implemented after training of the process team.

Respect the system that is the organization otherwise the system development project will fail. One way to do this is to use the “as-is rule”. Document the process lightly as it is not as you would like it to be. Then, by using and improving the management system it will cause any needed improvements and grow the detail where needed.

What if the process is so bad it does not conform to the standard? Well then, use the two-week rule: record the nonconformity and say “you have a fortnight to correct the process then we will re-document the improved process as it is”. If too difficult to correct in two weeks then feed the nonconformity into an early corrective action using the newly developed management system.

A summary of common mistakes:

i) Leaders not showing their commitment to requirements.
ii) Putting the documented procedure ahead of the process.
iii) Ignoring the system that is the organization.
iv) Implementing ISO 9001 instead of developing the organization’s existing management system.

The system should help people to determine and meet requirements including the requirement for continual improvement. The procedures should be owned by the people not the “we know best department”. That way QA is delivered as a result of everyone using their management system to fulfill requirements.

Learn how to do this for yourselves here.

Processes Trump Departments

October 19, 2010

In many organizations, departments are havens for career development, wasteful politicking and rivalry with other departments. Like-minded humans try to keep the head of their silo happy at what cost? Such departments and wasteful departmental thinking is the enemy of process and customer service.

Processes are about the resources of several departments interacting to add value for customers (directly or indirectly).

Procedures are process specifications. Consequently departmental procedures are an oxymoron. Departmental instructions may be legitimate for controlling that function’s activities in the processes that cut across departments.

Increasingly departments or functions understand their role is to serve the processes that run through their domains. Thankfully the siloed havens of self-interest are dissolving before our eyes.

Are process owners becoming more important to organizations than department managers? More and more process managers are receiving the resources for their processes according to their processes’ ability to add or enable value.

But, with the demise of departments, do our process-based management systems need a process for developing careers?

Process…

December 4, 2009

…is your work that should add value to data, information or materials and is supported by resources (facilities, equipment, talent, skills and knowledge) and controls (methods, procedures, care and coordination).

After deducting the cost of the resources, controls and inputs from value of the outputs we should receive a reward to share with our families, communities and, perhaps, spend on ourselves. If our life or work continues to add no value then we are subsidized by our savings or by people whose work does add value or we die.

Such is the vital importance of all processes.

How well does your organizational management system help you to do even better work?