Process orientation creates sustainable success

Every company talks about processes. Process maps and process descriptions exist. But how does reality look like? What is really implemented and how do people live those processes which have been defined, documented and certified for a lot of money? Means how much process orientation can be found in daily business?

Is some cultural change visible? Do the departments successfully cooperate and are all employees pulling together in the same direction? Are they focused on joint success, on customer benefit? Is process orientation recognized and practiced as the key to corporate success and sustainable customer retention?

Lots of questions to be answered. But how about you?

Does your company live process orientation consequently?

How many compromises do you make? How many apologies are accepted for deviations from the ideal state? And how much time and money does your company lose as a result of these concessions?

Process orientation is a feeling, an inner conviction.

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It requires good arguments, mutual understanding, patience and, above all, a clear benefit creation. Benefits for every single person, as well as for customers and the own organization. That’s how process orientation succeeds.

Transparency is important!

To make people love process orientation, transparency is needed about all types of benefits and about all potential weaknesses. An honest and credible confrontation with the critics and their arguments is needed. Because doubts will always arise and these endanger the success of the process orientation. They must therefore be taken seriously and included in the daily optimization of processes.

“But flexibility and individuality are needed”.

These are the strongest arguments put forward by critics of process orientation. Not everything should be standardized and squeezed into rigid processes. This complicates and slows down internal processes and would have a negative impact on customers: Cost increase, complaints and a decline in sales would be the consequences.

Sounds plausible and comprehensible at first glance.

But is process orientation really rigid and customer hostile? Or is its definition and its interpretation much more important?

Process orientation gives direction and is flexible at the same time

Of course, processes are comparable to standards which the employees must keep. In some way, this means a restriction of personal freedom and flexibility. But this is perceived very differently by people. Some love to be given guard rails. Others find it annoying. How big those restrictions actually are depends on the design of the processes and the associated rules.

However, detached from the degree of flexibility, processes first of all provide a clear direction:

“This is how we want to act efficiently and effectively!

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A commitment to a minimum standard. And a cross-departmental consensus that this standard ideally creates maximum benefit for all stakeholders. Although it’s coupled with the knowledge that every rule also has exceptions.

However, exceptions must not become rules.

If an exceptional situation arises, a decision needs to be made that requires a great deal of sensitivity.  Because it can be responsible for the sustainable success or failure of the process orientation. The consistent rejection of exceptions leaves scorched earth and leads to a loss of enthusiasm for process orientation. However, if too many exceptions are accepted, people lose the desire to adhere to standards.

Process orientation requires
credibility and strong leadership

As a manager, you need a good instinct for admitting or rejecting exceptions. In addition, a comprehensible analysis and evaluation system as well as clear communication are required. After all, people must understand the manager’s decisions. Otherwise, doubts will arise about the integrity of the manager as well as about the meaningfulness of process orientation.

Every process chain needs defined exit points

If an exception is allowed, a defined exit point and a defined re-entry point in the process chain are required. The exception from the standard should only be allowed for the relevant process step(s). All other steps must follow the standard. This allows to individualize the procedure within a defined framework and at the same time preserve the higher-level process standard.

If similar exceptions occur more frequently, an audit is required as part of the continuous improvement process (CIP):

CIP,process orientation,continuous improvement,process“Are the exceptions representative and critical for the company’s success?
“Does it make sense to adapt the processes and standards?
“What should they look like?
“Which measures are to be introduced?
“Who’s support is needed for this?

It is crucial that this continuous improvement process is carried out as cross-functional process with a harmonized target system.

Consistent goals for successful processes …

… are often not given. The goals of the top management are not sufficiently harmonized with the goals of the other hierarchical levels. There are often contradictory objectives within the different departments. This leads to conflicts, loss of time, waste of resources and competing actions. The consequences are: A uniform compass for daily business is missing.

Exactly this compass can be generated by the Hoshin Kanri method. At the highest company level, focus goals are defined and systematically broken down level by level. Conflicts of objectives are eliminated horizontally and vertically and the pyramid of objectives is clearly communicated to the entire organisation. All employees know their personal goals and their contribution to the company’s target system and success.

Although a harmonized target structure is not a mandatory prerequisite for the introduction of process orientation, it facilitates the later work of those involved in the process and increases the success of the company.

Process orientation begins with the core process

The focus of process orientation should be the order fulfilment process. It is the central value-added process in each company. Most functional areas of the organization participate directly or indirectly:From sales to design/engineering, planning, purchasing, SCM/logistics, production, quality, finance, and other support functions.

A team in which these functional areas are represented is required to make the order fulfilment process succeed. They analyse, design and implement the new process chain.

With the help of a professional communication concept, the workforce is continuously informed about the project goals, the progress of the project and the experiences gained. The team members qualify the workforce and ensure the sustainability of the new order fulfilment process. It’s their “own baby”, they feel responsible and have a self-interest in the lasting success of the realignment. They ask questions, explain, convince and accept criticism constructively. A cultural change has been initiated.

Processes become more efficient and faster, employee motivation increases, conflicts decrease, costs decrease, customer satisfaction increases. And these are just a few of the successes that process orientation brings with it.

Expand cultural change quickly!

As soon as process orientation is established in the core process, the concept is rapidly extended to the support processes. The goal is a systematic optimization of the entire process landscape, taking into account the entire target system of the company. A strong CIP culture ensures that the new structures are continuously adapted to the changing framework conditions and needs.

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The crowning glory of process orientation is ultimately the alignment of the organizational structure with the process landscape. The company removes the functional boundaries and focuses on a perfect resourcing of its processes. Competence centers accompany the further development of technical and methodological competence fields.

Profitable cultural change through process orientation


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Kind regards

Sven Geelhaar

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