Processes, Products & Services

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This section provides some thoughts on how you might improve the performance of your organisation by taking a Process view of the world rather than the more traditional view.

The first part is an introduction to the Process World, where the meaning of a process, how to identify Key Processes, build a Process Model of the organisation, manage and review processes and measure it is explained. At the bottom of the page, you will find the “Assessment sheet” to help you assessing how your Process Map is deployed and developed and what are your strengths and improvement areas.

Process, Product and Services in Excellent organisations

Excellent organisations design, manage and improve Processes, Products and Services to generate increasing value for customers and other stakeholders.

Excellent organisations design and manage Processes to optimise stakeholder value. They clearly define process ownerships and roles and responsibilities in developing, maintaining and improving the framework of key processes. New ideas are turned into reality through innovation-processes that fit the nature and importance of the changes they will make.

Your processes are meant to develop Products and Services that create optimum value for customers. In order to be innovative, you can use market research, customer surveys and other forms of feedback to anticipate and identify improvements in your product and service portfolio. Involve your people, customers, partners and suppliers in the development of innovative products, services and experiences. Design them for both existing and new customer groups.

Excellent organisations define their business model in terms of core capabilities, processes, partners and value proposition in order to effectively promote and market their product and services.

What do we mean by Processes?

A process is a sequence of activities which adds value by producing required outputs from a variety of inputs. So, all organisations use processes ordering material, making products, selling services...

The inputs will generally be the outputs of other processes. During the transformation, value is added and resources consumed. The output can be an object, information, data or a decision. The customer may be either external or internal to the organisation. Any representation of a process should therefore include the input, activities, output and the resources required.

There are four basic questions for each process step: 

  • Who are the Suppliers? 
  • Who are the Customers? 
  • What are the performance indicators that describe how well the process is performing? 
  • Are the right control loops in place?

Excellent organisations have clear statements of Vision, Objectives and Values that allow them to set strategies and plans for achieving their Mission. These strategies and plans set out the organisation’s objectives and targets and it is the organisation’s’ key processes that will deliver those organisational goals and Critical Success Factors (CSFs). CSFs are statements that define what the management team must accomplish for the organisation to achieve its Mission. Typically, each CSF will begin with the words we must or we need. Accepted Good Practice suggests that no more than eight CSFs should be identified.

Identifying the needs of all Stakeholders help define the strategies and plans for the organisation. These strategies and plans, in turn, help to identify the key processes, the outputs of which will satisfy the Stakeholders’ needs.

So, once the organisation is clear on its overall strategy and business goals and knows what the Critical Success Factors are, then it is possible to identify the key processes that will help deliver the required strategy.

How do I identify my Key Processes?

  • Brainstorming: people discuss all the business’ activities and then decide which are the most important
  • Interviewing key Stakeholders: those people affected by or having an impact on the processes
  • Using the services of an external consultant
  • A further option is to start with the generic “Porter” model and then customise it to the organisation.

In determining your key business processes, a main question to ask yourself is: from the perspective of my business strategy, which process are key to achieving my business objectives? It is worth mentioning here that when defining the performance requirements of your key processes, as well as ensuring that the business objectives are met, you take into account other considerations such as:

  • Key Stakeholders’ view of performance,
  • The organisation’s desired future state and
  • What the competition is doing.

Building a Process Model of the Organisation

The next step is to build a top level Process Model of the organisation that begins to show the flow of activities and the inter-relationships. This top-level view can be used to understand and describe the activities of the organisation. Below that, processes can be modelled in more detail. This can lead to modelling of sub-processes to describe at the working level, the process’ operation, and to allow both re-engineering and step-by-step improvements to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

At the top level, generally speaking, most Excellent organisations appear to segment their key processes into two categories: Business or Customer facing processes (those processes that deliver the added value product or service to the customer) and Support processes & Management processes (those processes that provide the resources required for the Business/Customer facing processes to work in accordance with the overall strategy and objectives of the organisation).

The analysis of your key processes then continues as you decompose each key process into its component parts. Typically, organisations will break a key processes down to at least another two layers: sub-process level and procedure or task level (where each task or procedure represents a step in the specific sub-process level).

The Process Model and Process Mapping Tools

The top-level process model is really a ‘container’ for the detailed key processes. To extend it beyond a simple block diagram, the descriptions need to represent the linkages in some way. This is known as process-mapping.

A simple way of representing a process is to use a flowchart that can link (in a logical sequence) the activities that make up the process. The advantages of this method are that it is simple, requires no significant investment in expensive software tools or training, and is relatively quick. A disadvantage is that on a flowchart it can be difficult to describe the resources required to carry out the activities. A refinement is to use the technique known as deployment flowcharting.

The Role of Measurement in Process thinking

If your organisation aspires to improve, then measurement is critical in tracking progress. Measures need to be in place at each of these levels. However, they must not be disconnected from each other and instead they should complement each other, making up a “measurement set or system” that helps the organisation manage the process across the different functional silos to good effect.

Measurement is important because it is the critical element that drives process performance. We measure so that we can monitor, control and improve the overall performance of the process and without the right measures there is no basis on which one can manage by process. Typically, the measures used will cover Time, Cost and Quality dimensions and there should be a healthy balance of Quantitative and Qualitative measures. Measure should address both the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.

How do you Manage and Review your Processes?

Generally speaking, Good Practice organisations put in place a combination of the following: 

  • The “CEO” or one of her/his direct reports is recognised as the champion for the overall Process Management and Improvement approach and all the key processes are owned at the most senior level of the organisation. 
  • Clear roles and responsibilities for managing processes exist. 
  • Cross functional teams, trained in process improvement, are in place. 
  • A system of recognition and rewards is in place and aligned with process performance measurement. 
  • Appropriate measures in place.

There are a number of tools and techniques that can be used to help you manage and review your processes. Amongst these are standards such as ISO 9000 & ISO 14000, plus techniques such as Statistical Process Control (SPC), Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Six Sigma.

Click here to access the Processes, Products and Services Assessment Sheet.  This Assessment Sheet is in PDF format, you can fill it in as a form, save it or print it.

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