What is the leadership process

Define and operate service processes

A high-performance process landscape is the basis for profitable growth. The speed of the processes is usually more important than their perfection. Which aspects have to be considered for the construction and the running of fast processes?

Growth must be based on healthy and fast, or even better, “lightning-fast” processes, and growth initiatives make particular sense if they can rely on the existence of such lightning-fast processes. For the promotion of profitable growth, the speed of the performance processes is actually more important than their perfection. There are six aspects that are important for the development and operation of an efficient, growth-promoting process landscape:

1. Basis: Characteristics of service processes
2nd difference: core and support processes, main and sub-processes
3. Methodology: The process landscape - from top to bottom
4. Overrated: reengineering
5. Undervalued: interfaces
6. Decisive for success: speed and optimization

1. Basis: Characteristics of service processes

A little theory must be allowed at this point if you want to deal with performance processes in a well-founded manner: A performance process is a business process that transfers a performance object from state A to state B and which creates value because state B is a more efficient state, when it was state A. To transform the performance object, defined steps are required that are under defined responsibility, run in a systematic sequence and which require defined resources such as the use of media, machines, time or money. A service process always delivers a defined result. In order for a service process to be able to deliver this defined result, a defined initial condition must be present at the start of the process. If this is not available, the process cannot be carried out or can only be carried out inadequately. In this respect, every process depends on the existence of this initial condition. Since every process result is also the initial condition for a further follow-up process, the focus must be on the process quality. Processes can and must be aggregated so that they can be viewed in a structured manner. But more on that elsewhere.

2nd difference: core and support processes, main and sub-processes

In order for the work on the processes of a company to be carried out in a structured manner, two distinctions are absolutely necessary: ​​The first difference relates to the contribution to the core performance: A process is a core process if it makes a significant contribution to the creation of core value. Classic core processes are, for example, depending on the industry, sales (including customer service), product range definition (in retail), purchasing, research and development (in manufacturing companies), production (in retail this corresponds to picking). The task of the support processes is to support the core processes efficiently. Marketing, human resources, logistics, IT, accounting, controlling, these are classic support processes, to name just a few. It is important to make it clear that there is indeed a hierarchy in the importance of processes: The core processes are more important than the support processes. Even if this usually leads to displeasure, once it is pronounced, the distinction is crucial for success, as it makes it clear that support processes are by no means an end in themselves in the company, but that their only right to exist is to give the core processes the best possible support to give. One criterion for identifying whether a process is a core or a support process is whether you could outsource the process in question to external parties, regardless of whether you wanted to do so without giving up your core competencies. Classically, some processes are already understood as support processes, here above all the administrative processes are to be understood, but some support process owners often claim that the process they are responsible for is a core process. A conversation creates clarity here.
The second distinction concerns the process hierarchy within a core or support process: Is the process under consideration a main or a sub-process? At this point there is no fixed rule as to how highly aggregated a process has to be to represent a main process, it is important to make sure that you always stay on the same level within a company when talking about processes. A process hierarchy, starting with very coarse main processes, through sub-processes down to process steps, must always remain congruent. Main processes can be, for example, the following: market analysis, sales evaluation, goods receipt processing, supplier complaints, disposition, delivery, acquisition. These are processes that need to be detailed if you really want to understand and change them.

3. Methodology: The process landscape - from top to bottom

The process landscape has proven itself in our consulting work as a method for representing the core and, if applicable, the support processes. It includes both the customers, i.e. the external buyers of the products and services, as well as the suppliers and ensures a visual representation of the processes on a highly aggregated level - as a rule, only the main processes of the core processes are included in the process landscape, maximum but also the main processes of the support processes shown. The advantage is that the operational structure of the company can be represented on one page. In addition to the enormous impact of working together, the process landscape also has a communicative advantage. One of our clients, the board member of a listed company, once said when we had worked out a process landscape with him and his team: Now we finally have a single picture that we can use to explain our entire company at a glance. Regardless of which methodology is used - after all, methodology is always only a means to an end - it must be taken into account to move strictly from top to bottom through the processes. This cannot be emphasized often enough, as this strictly hierarchical procedure tends to be forgotten when the experts at the table are struggling to find a specific solution. You get too quickly into details that do not yet need to be discussed, and even more: that are not allowed to be discussed at all. Here, too, an example that a project team member of a client company provided at the time may be helpful.
The lady asked how she should "bring back together" the more than 400 detailed processes that she had worked out as part of her process documentation work before our joint project. My answer was: "Not at all." Merging a few hundred detailed processes and process steps into a larger whole is the wrong order. You can compare it to a mobile that, when it is on the table, you pick it up from the top and not from the end if you want to hang it from the ceiling. When developing the process landscape, it is essential - and this runs through the entire process survey - that the result to be achieved is always considered. The first question must therefore be: "What result should the process deliver?" The second question is: "What prerequisites must be present at the start so that the process can produce this result?" Only the third question deals with the process: "What are the steps that have to be taken in order to enable added value between the prerequisite and the desired result?" These three questions must be answered - in this order - both at the main and at the sub-process level. The questions of accountability, the required documents, resources, rules of the game, and so on are all subordinate. This is remarkable insofar as it can regularly be observed that too much importance is attached to these subordinate questions too early.

4. Overrated: reengineering

“Reengineering”, “Business Process Reengineering”, “Business Process Redesign”, whatever the headings that are intended to designate a reorganization methodology for business processes: Sharpened attention is required because many of the methods have in common that they are nothing but a placeholder What many of them have in common is that they have mainly used their inventors in the form of high consulting fees and what many of them have in common is that they contain interesting aspects, but are not seriously enough thought out. Many readers will remember the bestseller “Reengineering” by Hammer and Champy. This book is a prominent contribution to how I firmly believe that business process work should not be done. The entire reengineering thinking propagated in the plant sounds excellent if it weren't for one essential factor: the people. But it is precisely the person who determines whether a company's business processes are efficient or not. No matter how perfect a process definition, no matter how appealing the potential for economic improvement, is useless if it is "human". Processes don't fail on paper. Processes fail in reality. So they have something in common with strategies that do the same. Courage can therefore be given to those who take the trouble to define their business processes with the involvement of the employees, to put them to the test and to implement them and not to define processes out of a misunderstood pursuit of perfection that look good on paper, in reality, however, fail to provide proof of efficiency.
It should be noted that reengineering is overrated.

5. Undervalued: interfaces

On the other hand, the interfaces between processes are regularly underestimated, especially when they are interfaces between organizational areas, or - even more important - when they are interfaces between different companies or partners. The essential productivity and thus growth losses can be determined at the interfaces. Regardless of whether they are internal interfaces, such as those between marketing and sales or the interface between research and development and marketing or even the interface between production and purchasing, or whether they are interfaces between suppliers and your own company or It is even about the interface between one's own company and its customers: the millions are buried between the processes, not in them, to put it colloquially. The reason for this is obvious: while it still seems comparatively easy to organize one's own area procedurally, it is all subject to disciplinary control, it is comparatively difficult to establish agreement between several areas or even several companies in order to manage an overall process optimize. But this is exactly what is required if you really want to talk about value chains and not just about individual processes. Buzzwords such as Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Supply Chain Integration mutate into placeholders if you are unwilling to think beyond the boundaries of your own area and your own company.
It is therefore worthwhile to spend a considerable amount of time in the context of the configuration of a high-performance process structure to think about the interfaces and to design them in a targeted manner from the point of view of the external service recipient.

6. Decisive for success: speed and optimization

With all striving for perfection: It is extremely unlikely that the definition of a conceptually efficient process structure, an efficient process landscape, immediately leads to the optimal result. The good news is that this optimal result is not even necessary, because the discussions that took place during the development of the process landscape will contribute to the dramatic increase in process quality and performance. In order to pass the litmus test, the speed of implementation is clearly preferable to over-conception. It is therefore worthwhile to implement processes immediately into reality once all those involved have adopted them, in order to test them and to learn from this test. Profitably growing companies have made this a maxim.
If this learning is translated into a regular process that deals with permanent optimization in the interests of the external service recipient, an essential basis for one's own entrepreneurial growth is laid.