Can't See the Forest for the Tree Diagrams?

Michelle Cowan's picture

Process management can become a very insular activity. Process-focused teams pore over business documentation, interview key employees, and painstakingly map out the way the organization conducts business. As definitions are written, designs drawn up, and reports presented to executives, some teams develop a kind of process-myopia, losing sight of the ultimate vision of process management: delivering a product or service to a customer more effectively and with higher customer satisfaction.

Granted, this goal is often one of many organizations attempt to address through process management. Most organizations want to save money, streamline work, and enhance employee value in addition to better serving customers. However, I would argue that enhancing the customer experience is the most important of these objectives.

Lexmark's Value Stream/Process MatrixYou can spend all the time in the world analyzing the ins and outs of a business, charting and defining the work being done, making changes that improve the way work is performed, and even reducing costs, but if you don't pay attention to what customers want, you won't know the best places to make improvements. More significantly, if you don't provide customers with what they need, you won't have your carefully mapped-out business for long.

Integrating process management with a value stream approach can prevent insular thinking in process management teams. Value stream management is concerned with the how customers receive value and how the organization generates revenue. Processes can overlap, combine, and indirectly affect multiple value streams, depending on the way an organization defines its processes. Understanding how work is done is important, but understanding how each step in the process ultimately affects revenue generation and customer satisfaction ensures the sustainability of the business itself.

Lexmark International has developed a matrix view of its processes and value streams. And in APQC's recent Using Process Frameworks and Reference Models to Get Real Work Done study, we researched how organizations link customer value to the frameworks they choose.

Don't get lost in the beauty of your process diagrams! Remember the other people who depend on you to deliver what they need.


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