“Process in a nutshell! Simple improvement made easy”

Deutsche Version

Everybody talks about processes and the benefit of managing them right. But opinions differ on their value.

If asked how they are handled in day-to-day operations, people react quite differently.
Some react somewhat positive „Everything is going well. We’re doing it like this for years. This cannot be wrong„.
Others – and between you and me that’s a clear majority – are saying, „We need to do something about the way we work together. Everything is much too slow! And if you even need a decision, you need to look up all relevant information at different places.  And finally, it is completely unclear who actually takes the decision.

But let’s take a step back first and ask: What are the characteristics of a procedure to be called a „process“? At the end of this post you will find a

>> CHECK LIST: What is a (good) process?<<

If you want to “declutter” your operations right now I recommend you to focus on the following two aspects. This easy method works particularly well for internal processes. They tend to develop an excessive bureaucratic life of their own.

Aspect one: Customer orientation

Every process needs a customer. Therefore, you and your team should answer the following question. Additionally it is crucial to make sure that everybody involved into the process knows the answer: Who is the customer of our process?
By the way, a customer can also be an internal customer, like the one in the sub-process „create employment contract“ you see below.

Aspect two: Avoid waste

Examine each process step, each information retrieved, each approval required for the process at hand and ask yourself if it serves this customer.

Again, ask two questions:
-Is this process step important to serve my customer? And:
– What happens if we do not do it?

In particular procedures that are „only“ administrative or internal processes, provide opportunities for streamlining. You will be surprised how often the answer to the question „What happens if we do not do it?“ is simply: „Nothing!“

If a process step can be removed, because it is not necessary any more, you can devote your time to more important tasks in the future.

Is there a simple way to „declutter“ processes?

Yes! Whenever you have a process with
a) many people involved, who do not know each other well or
b) several departments involved (cross-departmental process).
this method is a fast and easy first-aid solution.

„Role play“ through the process or sub-process with all stakeholders in the literal sense. You can use the following template to visualize and document this high level snapshot of your process:


Sit – or better yet, stand – together as a team and fill in the template. It could look like this example:


Ideally, a customer of one sub-process, is the supplier of the following:


Together you will find out where clarification is needed, e.g. when a message to another department is to be send. Using this approach you may discover double or redundant steps. Then adjust your activities accordingly. The greatest value of this approach, however, is that all people involved know the procedures and know what their own contribution to successful performance is.


The depiction of (sub-) processes shown here is only suitable to get a first rough overview, but is inappropriate for complex process mapping. A detailed illustration is not the goal here. For example, the properties of a process, as mentioned in the checklist below are not well documented („Who does what when why?“, etc.).

In future posts I will introduce ways of documenting detailed and complex processes such as the so-called „swim lane“ diagram.

>> CHECK LIST: What is a (good) process?<<

The following elements characterize a process, making sure that all the things we are doing, are providing value:

♦ The goal of the process is defined („What do we want to achieve?“)

Start and end are characterized by events („Who or what is making the activity start and what ends it?“)

♦ Not only the beginning and the end of the processes are defined, but also input and output are determined (e.g. „What is delivered? „and“ What is the result?“)

The sequence of activities is known to all participants (at least: „Who has worked on the issue before I got it and to whom do I hand it over?“)

It is defined which and how many resources are used or needed for processing („How many people, how much money, what materials are needed from the beginning to the end of the activity?“)

Each sequence has a time limit („How do I know that the activity is finished?“)

The value of the activities and procedures for the customer is known („What is my client willing to pay for the result?“, „How quickly has the customer to be served?“)


SAE-smallAuthor: Sandra Aengenheyster


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