We will first look at the explanation given in the ISO 9000: 2000 standard. The 2000 version of ISO 9000 is based on the process approach. The extract from this standard is as below:
“Any activity, or set of activities, that uses resources to transform inputs to outputs can be considered as a process.”
For organizations to function effectively, they have to identify and manage numerous interrelated and interacting processes. Often, the output from one process will directly form the input to the next process. The systematic identification and management of the processes employed within an organization and particularly the interactions between such processes is referred to as the ‘Process Approach’.
The intent of this International Standard is to encourage the adoption of Process Approach to manage an organization.”
How would activities take place in an organization that has not adopted a process approach?
In this organization, activities are clearly defined within the boundaries of the department and there is minimal sharing and interaction between departments; except at the time of handing over an activity from one department to the other. For example, the marketing department completes all discussions and negotiations with the customer and passes on the requirements to the design department. The design department then works in isolation on the design and passes it on to the manufacturing department. This cycle of working in isolation and passing on information continues till the last process.
The interaction between persons from different functions happens only when passing the baton and is not an involved team approach. Each one becomes responsible only for their responsibility without having a clear understanding or consideration of the preceding and succeeding activities.
How differently will the activities take place in an organization that follows a process approach?
In an organization that follows a process approach, we will see that all the processes in the organization and also the inputs/ outputs and interrelation between processes are clearly defined. The processes will also have measures of process effectiveness and efficiency. While walking through the process we will notice that there are many stages of interaction between departments. We will notice a smooth flow without halting at the boundaries of each department. We will also see that many of the activities are carried out by a multifunctional team. Typically CFTs (cross functional teams) are very common, especially during new product development.
Since the effectiveness measure is attributed to a process and not to a department, it is essential that all the related department personnel are focused on achieving the desired result. For example, timely product delivery can be achieved by perfect synchronization of production, purchase, inspection and stores departments and hence it is not the goal of just stores or production department.
Let’s apply this to a domestic scenario to get a better grip of the concept –
Say there is a big wedding in the family and all the family members are involved in the arrangements. The head of the family calls all the family members and creates small committees or groups to drive different activities. One person (or group) becomes responsible to print invitation cards, one for inviting people and another for preparing the lists of invitees. Similarly other committees like decoration, cooking, purchase etc are defined. Each committee will get directions from the head and prepare their own agenda and start working on it.
Two major concerns with this are - poor communication and synchronization. Poor synchronization can cause arrival of guests prior to the dates the hotel rooms have been blocked. Again there can be a big gap (due to lack of communication) in card printing, the number of guests planned to be invited and the number of heads indicated to the caterer. The root cause is lack of interrelation in terms of inputs and outputs between processes at appropriate stages. We can see overlaps and big gaps between completion of one activity and beginning of the other. You can relate to experiences in the past and look at all the mishaps that happened with you or your friends caused by this approach. A process approach with a clear time plan linking the activities will make a happy marriage ceremony.
The process approach can be applied to any thing like conducting a big event, setting up a factory or running a business.
If we consider each department or process to be a colored string; then a project development in a traditional company will look like different strings tied to each other with a small knot at the end. For an organization that has adopted a process approach, what we will see is a thick multi strand, multicolored rope with the strings intertwined to one another. That’s how we would want our organizations to look like, multiple processes and activities interacting seamlessly to form an organization with robust processes.
Pradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is Manager-Quality Assurance with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue BG58 Jan06