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Process Management

Process Management is often viewed as an operational activity, ensuring that processes are repeated consistently. But it is and should be much more than that. A better definition of Process Management is:

'Ensuring that the process consistently and optimally delivers value to its customers and other stakeholders.'

Let's look at that a piece at a time:

...customers and other stakeholders. There are often a lot of people who have an interest of some sort in the process, from senior managers to people in other processes to direct customers of the process and the end customers who ultimately pay all of our salaries.

...delivers value... Value can only be determined by the person receiving that value (although, strictly speaking, value is never delivered; it is only received). Value is determined using a number of evaluation criteria (spot the embedded 'value' word), each of which may have a different importance (which, to complicate thing further, may vary over time).

...optimally... Here's where reality kicks in: no process manager has the resources (people, time, money, etc.) to be able to deliver 100% value to all stakeholders. So you have to decide where to place your chips, which means having your own evaluation criteria by which to decide which stakeholders get what. The bottom line for this is in the question 'so what does the stakeholder give us (the process and the company), now and in the future, in return?'. This generally means that the end customer gets the lion's share of attention. This is a really critical activity, because if you do not manage the other stakeholders, they will manage you with urgent requests, backdoor deals, chumminess, powerplays and so on. As you have probably guessed, optimization also may well imply improving the process.

...consistently... People often judge you by your worst performance. If you go to a restaurant and get a great meal, then go again and get food poisoning, would you recommend the restaurant to anyone else? Probably not. The problem that often comes up around consistency is that to do the same thing every time can be pretty boring. And this is where people management and leadership comes into its own, where great managers ensure that their people can deliver consistently whilst staying happy.

...the process... All this means understanding the process in terms of process, with all that this implies.

Ensuring that... This means that it is a responsibility, a part of the job, in the job description, etc. Ensuring also implies measurement, assessment and review, knowing the value that is being received, knowing the capability of the process, and so on, then acting to optimize and ensure minimum delivery.

Overall this means that the process manager should:

  • Know who all of the stakeholders are, and what each wants from the process.
  • Know the importance of each stakeholder, now and in the future, to the process and to the company, and hence the criteria that will be used to prioritize the effort and allocation of resource (time, people, etc.) within the process. And then use these criteria to prioritize.
  • Know the criteria by which targeted stakeholders evaluate what they get from the process and the important they ascribe to each one. Criteria may include aspects of time, functionality, reliability, usability and so on. And then measure against these to determine and manage the received value.
  • Know the capability of both the process and the people within it, and act to optimize these within resource constraints. If appropriate, these resource constraints may be changed (such as recruiting more people, buying more equipment, etc.).
  • Know the risks that can occur and act either to reduce these (probability and/or impact) and prepare appropriate contingency processes).

Does this sound like normal management? Of course it is: if everything is a process, then all management is process management.

See also:

Process, Process Ownership, ISO9000

Toolbook chapter: Processes

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