Every day we go to work to execute processes. Whether a financial process, a purchasing process, or a physical work process, we are doing sets of tasks that are generally in a series. The process may be documented and very formal. It may be informal. It may be something we have done for many years that has become automatic and requires little thought, over and over, day after day, year after year. <sigh>
For example, part of my job is to produce raw materials for articles like this. Do I have a mental process to create this input? Yes, I do. Is it, “my,” process in that I am the only one involved in it? Yes. Is it documented? No, not at all. After the raw materials are created, yes, there is a process we follow to review and then publish.
I may be the only source of the raw material (the input) into the process, but the review process requires that other people be involved. We have, “our way,” to take the raw material, and put it through an editing process to get it into something coherent. Eventually, we get it published! Then we move on to the next one. While it is a simple process, it is documented so everyone understands their role.
However, if I was working in a larger team towards a business or project goal of some sort, then the process to execute my part of the work needs to be documented. Again, so it can be clearly understood by everyone involved. Each person involved in the process should understand their roles and responsibilities. They also need to understand the inputs and the outputs of the process, especially if they are providing or receiving either.
A process needs to be documented
What’s the point of documenting processes, especially the simple ones? It comes down to the need for clear communication amongst more than just one person. How can we expect to understand what a process is and that it is the right process for the organization if it is not written down? Does the process need to be extremely detailed and prescriptive in some cases? Yes. But, in most cases no. This is your starting point towards developing (or adopting) best practices for your company.
Allow me to posit that a simple high-level view of any business or work process makes great leaps towards helping the team understand what they’re supposed to be doing and more importantly, why. Diagrams that define who is involved, what the inputs are, what the high-level steps of the process are, and its output are invaluable. A commonly used process tool for this effort is a SIPOC (easily searched for on the Internet).
Part of describing your process is the “who cares?” test. They are the receiver of the output or the benefit of the process. If no one cares what the team is doing, then what’s the point?
A well-formed process is a repeatable one
This may seem an obvious statement; but having the foundation of what you’re expecting people to do all day every day, whether you’re on site or remote, is a powerful tool. If you don’t know what your people are doing, or they don’t know why they’re doing something, how can you possibly manage them? Even better, how could you possibly improve on the situation?
People like to know what’s expected of them. People don’t necessarily like to be told what to do, but they do like to have a general picture of what today is going to look like. Most of us have calendars that we look at. We wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee, put on the headphones and what are the first things we do? Look at our calendar and check email. That calendar is telling me what I am going to be doing most likely today and probably tomorrow. That’s my process. I’m going to have meetings; I’m going to talk to people I’m going to go fix something. I have a new customer request. I’m going to interact with folks. In a way that’s my high-level process.
Goal: The process IS the reality
Without these guides to daily life, I am a little lost. I don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen I don’t have any planning in my mind. I just show up for work, open the toolbox and see what’s going to happen today. That’s not the most efficient best practice for me as someone in the workforce to go about their day.
In theory your maintenance and manufacturing teams are doing real work all day to the benefit of the organization. The question is: Are they executing processes that the organization is aware of, has input to, and is looking at how to improve? TRM/IDCON have many years of experience across industries guiding clients through process improvements, leading towards tangible changes to the bottom line. Make contact to find out more.
Article by John Q. Todd, Sr. Business Consultant / Product Researcher at TRM. Reach out to us at AskTRM@trmnet.com if you have any questions or would like to discuss deploying MAS 8 or Maximo AAM for condition-based maintenance/monitoring.