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Processes Vs Procedures
By Batalas

The new standard uses the word ‘process’ very liberally, and ‘procedure’ very sparingly. So what is the right balance within your quality management system (QMS)? And what part does process mapping play in the development and improvement of the QMS?

Process – a paradigm shift
A process transforms an input to an output. This definition means that processes dominate our lives and virtually every organisational activity can be seen as a process. However, this is not the reason why the ISO9001: 2000 standard features the word process. The process approach has been included so as to provide a paradigm shift in the way quality management systems (QMS) are positioned in an organisation.

A results based QMS will be infinitely more appealing to managers than one based upon procedures.

Processes – providing the bridge between old and new
For many organisations quality management systems have been seen as documented procedures describing the way the organisation carries out routine tasks. The ’94 standard did very little to dispel this view and this resulted in the overly bureaucratic systems which discouraged change. Also, senior management had very little interest in the QMS, seeing it as being the domain of the quality manager. These weaknesses are precisely what the process approach is attempting to address.

There is no requirement for process mapping within the ISO9001: 2000 standard.

Engaging senior management interest in the QMS
The more senior the manager the more focussed they are on outputs, and the less interest they show in the detailed methods of achieving the goals. It is no wonder then that senior managers have more affinity with result-based processes than with detailed procedures. A results based QMS will be infinitely more appealing to managers than one based upon procedures. That’s the theory, now let’s consider some practicalities.

Putting process design into practice
Unfortunately, for many organisations implementation of the ISO9001: 2000 process approach becomes fraught with apprehension. The reason; the phrase ‘process mapping’.

The first point to make is that there is no requirement for process mapping within the ISO9001: 2000 standard. It is true that ‘…the sequence and interaction of processes…’ needs to be described but this can be achieved using a simple diagram with accompanying narrative.

It was never the intention for organisations to reposition procedures as processes.

The second, and not insignificant point, is the incredible proliferation of software solutions to make process mapping simpler. Far from simplifying the task most software solutions provide very complex diagrammatic versions of the organisation’s procedures.

The third point is – where does process mapping end and procedures take over. The simple answer is that processes describe what an organisation does, whereas procedures (and work instructions) describe how it is done. There is a place for (existing) procedures in an effective QMS; it was never the intention for organisations to reposition procedures as processes.

The most bizarre misrepresentation of the process approach is the ‘bottom-up’ development of processes.

The process approach is the most confusing aspect of the new standard. Some organisations have already taken on board all aspects of this approach and can see the benefits. Many organisations however are being misinformed, particularly by I.T. providers, into believing that the solutions are complex and require software support. The most bizarre misrepresentation of the process approach is the ‘bottom-up’ development of processes advocated by at least one software solution provider. This bottom-up approach is absurd as:

1. Processes have to be capable of achieving top down driven organisational objectives. By starting at the bottom you are only replicating what you already have and not seriously challenging the appropriateness of the processes in the context of meeting business goals.

2. The process approach is to engage top management and to demonstrate that an effective quality management system is capable of delivering continual improvement of business performance.

The right balance – processes and procedures
To ensure that your organisation has defined its business processes and supporting procedures it is worth considering:

For each defined process you will need at least one effectiveness performance measure. You also need to show evidence that you are monitoring, analysing and ultimately improving the performance of the process (although not necessarily improving all processes at the same time). Consequently you should limit defined processes to those which are realistic.

A good way of checking whether you have got the correct processes defined is to allocate existing organisational performance measures, objectives and targets to the processes. If you have performance measures but no process then you have to consider how your organisation will deliver the results without a process! If you have processes with no performance measures then you have to consider whether it is necessary to have this as a defined process.

The final check is to ensure that processes which impact customer service are included e.g. excluding invoicing when invoicing is a significant cause of customer complaints is not justified.

Before documenting procedures, and remember the standard only requires you to document 6 procedures, agree the criteria. It is up to each organisation to decide which procedures it documents. The key criteria is your ability to maintain effective control of your QMS.

Making process mapping software count
When you have considered the above points you can then consider whether the benefits of using software outweighs the costs/resources of implementation. The critical factor however is the ability to utilise the information to improve processes. Complex and inter-linked process maps will not in themselves provide improvements in process effectiveness and efficiency. Defining processes is just one small step in the direction of process improvement.

Some frequently asked questions
Q - Do we need a process for continual improvement?

- Most organisations already have a top down approach to continual improvement, this being the setting of annual targets and budgets, which invariably tend to reflect the organisation's desire to continually improve. These targets can be linked directly to processes.
Q - Does a procedures have to be linked to a process(es)?

A - Yes. But it may be possible for a common procedure to be linked to more than one process e.g. corrective action. It is also possible that a single process will have a number of supporting procedures.
Q - What is the difference between a business objective, a quality objective and a process objective?

A - In practical terms there should be no difference. If processes deliver business results, and quality is an integral part of an organisation’s operational policy, then there is no reason why differences should exist.
Q - Are there any processes which are similar in most organisations?

A - There are differences between public and private sector organisations. Taking the private sector as an example typical high level processes would include new product introduction, generate sales enquiries, convert enquiries to orders, deliver product/service, collect cash and asset management.



This article is an extract from The Auditor, a Batalas publication. Batalas is the world’s leading independent trainer of quality management systems auditors, with courses delivered in 10 different languages in 14 countries. For more information on Batalas please contact +44 (0)1527 525250 enquiries@batalas.co.uk, www.batalas.co.uk.



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