As I sat by a river on a Monday morning, trying to reflect and be ‘mindful’, it didn’t take long for my mind to wander and start thinking about process. For years now I’ve always thought of processes as streams of related activity, which is why the process waters seem so muddy to so many.
I’ve also been keeping up with Jan van Bon’s newsletter, In Control with USM in which he demystifies the term process through USM’s 10 design criteria for something to be considered a process…so I guess this rant was inevitable.
It has always seemed to me that simplification was the name of the game when it comes to process improvement. Having performed many standards-based process assessments, I can say with certainty that less is better when it comes to process.
From a customer experience perspective, we want to minimize the number of moments of truth or touch points (which are also opportunities for moments of misery). From an efficiency perspective, the fewer process steps we must take, the more efficient a process is likely to be. And certainly, from a capability/maturity perspective you are more likely to establish and mature fewer processes than many.
Doing a process assessment using frameworks like ITIL (with 26 ‘processes’) or the Cross-Industry Process Classification Framework (PCF — with over 300 ‘processes’) seems like an exercise in futility to me. There’s just no way you are going to establish reasonable process capability for this many processes.
We often use the word ‘process’ in the context of the analysis we’re doing of various streams of activity. For years I’ve used APQC’s PCF to distinguish streams of related activities that happen at different depths of the process river. Procedures (focusing on WHO does what) and Work Instructions (focusing on HOW work gets done) are not the same as Processes (which describe WHAT we do) even if they are related to a specific flow.
So, when we work on procedures or work instructions, we still say we’re doing ‘process improvement’. We tend to say ‘process’ when we’re referring to any part of the process river, rather than process as a specific artifact.
This leads us right back to where we started…. what exactly is a ‘process’? This is where USM’s 10 design criteria become very useful. By applying these design criteria, we get to the heart of service management; 5 processes and 8 standard workflows.
Perhaps even more important, this work has already been done for you. All you need to do is apply the USM Method.
USM has distilled the various currents of activities and tasks happening at different depths of the river to keep us focused on what we’re doing (or should be doing) from a service management perspective.