Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Introduction to Process

By Valinda Rose
What is process? In the simplest sense, process is the way we get work done. Each of us participates in multiple processes every day, from simple processes we do on our own, like getting ready for work or ordering fast food, to more complex processes like providing technical solutions to meet customers’ business needs, in which we each do our part.
Making a sandwich is an example of a simple process. Most of us probably learned how to make a sandwich by watching mom spread peanut butter on “marshmallow” bread, followed by a dollop of fresh jam or honey, spread all the way to the edges in long, full strokes. Or maybe your crust was dry because the sandwich filling didn’t get all the way to the edge. Regardless, there is a series of steps, which, if followed, provide a tasty lunch. While there may be some flexibility of order, even with this simple process there are a few rules that one must follow in order to avoid extra work and undesirable results.
Here are a few examples:
  • Start with the bread or you’ll have one gooey mess to clean up off the counter
  • Decide up front what you want on your sandwich or you may end up making several trips to the fridge or cupboard
  • Heaven forbid you put mayonnaise and pickles on your bread and then decide what you really want is peanut butter and jelly
How I make my sandwich probably doesn’t affect too many people, although there may be a few exceptions:
  • Sheri gets peanut butter on her homework because I left a mess on the counter
  • Dave gets get dry bread because I left the package open
  • Lisa can’t eat any of the jam now because I used the peanut butter knife to dip the jam. Who knew she was allergic to peanut butter? Oops!
Businesses and non-profit organizations rely on formal processes to get their work done and to deliver value to their customers. OIT is no exception. In OIT, we have a tremendous pool of talent. We also have many processes and procedures in place. We have employees who execute their processes with great skill. But there is also much confusion. Improvements can be made. Roles and responsibilities within processes, connections between processes, and expected process results need to be clearly defined. Well-defined processes are documented, trained, implemented, communicated, and integrated with other organizational processes. The needs of all pertinent stakeholders are taken into account and measurements are established and tracked to demonstrate process capability.
Consider the possibility of the following scenarios occurring in our organization:
  • Employees don’t understand how their process fits in with someone else’s process. Therefore, they provide a “round peg” to a process that has a “square hole.” Confusion, frustration, and rework ensue, along with high costs and upset customers
  • Everyone wants to be involved and play every role to the point that no one really knows who plays which role or even who makes the definitive decision
  • Only the employees directly involved in performing a particular process understand how that process works, yet those who depend on the outcome wonder why it doesn’t meet their needs
These scenarios can be avoided with proper definition and integration of processes.
Processes that cross functional boundaries are known as “cross-functional” processes and require attention that may not be necessary with more localized processes. For example, the service catalog and the order fulfillment process involve virtually every part of our organization and therefore require coordination in order to make sure things don’t fall between the cracks and things run smoothly. Efforts in achieving clarity in cross-functional processes can reap great rewards for individuals and for OIT. In addition, some local processes may require a high level of definition due to high visibility or high risk.
Process isn’t new to our organization, but under the direction of the OIT Leadership Council we are headed to a new level of process clarity. Step by step, your support and team effort will make a great difference in helping OIT to achieve the vision our leaders have established. One small step by you… one giant leap for OIT.

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