Process vs Activity -Whole picture vs a piece
Traditionally business organizations have been built around functions which are popularly called as Silos of the organizations. We have many well entrenched houses or fortresses like Marketing, Finance, Manufacturing, HR, Quality, Maintenance, Services etc. All these functions ultimately become organizations within the organizations. The loyalty of the employees are to their respective bosses who have powers to deliver including the most important deliverable like growth and very existence. Figure no 1 shows a typical hierarchical organization which is normally of a shape of a pyramid.
The silos create strong interface problems resulting into delays in decisions and at times counterproductive outcomes to the organizations. It is plain and simple that this structure is outdated and detrimental to growth and survival of business organizations in the 21st century. The earlier it is dismantles or refined the better.
Modern Approach - Process Approach
Figure 4 shows a simple depiction of process which is basically saying that process is all about converting specified input into desired out put through a set of activity with clearly defined controls, metrics, roles and responsibilities and key performance outcomes.
Fig 3 is a typical process flow chart where rectangular boxes are steps, diamond shaped boxes are decision points and irregular shaped figure is documents.
Process vs Activity
Most of the times we are engaged in a piece of work which is a very small part of the total picture and we are motivated about the success of the "piece" rather than the total picture and thus the piece may be well done but the total picture may turn out to be not as beautiful as desired.
Process approach involves entire organization defined as a system of processes and sub processes. This strengthens the importance of organizational needs vis a vis the functional biases. All the activities are a part of process of sub process. We have process owners rather than designations based on functions. Many processes cut across the boundaries of functions as necessitated by the process.
Process measures are determined based on the desired effectiveness of the delivery of the output. It is in terms of cycle time, %age of rejections, cost per head of the group, cost of a process as a ratio of revenue. APQC site is one of the best source of information on process related issues.
When some one is asked about process review it gets confused with monitoring of the result which are done religiously. A typical process review at some defined period or triggered by some problem is undertaken with the help of process flow map as shown in fig.3 and the areas for review include activity steps, decision points, documents generated and rework loops. This enables a review of entire process and results into high level of improvements.