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The Five Types of Processes

In working with processes for many years, I have identified five types of processes:

  1. Operational Processes
  2. Support Processes
  3. Monitoring, Measurement, & Management Processes
  4. Environmental Monitoring & Response Processes
  5. Adaptive Processes

Operational processes are those that produce whatever the organization is in business to produce, whether it be widgets, fast food, seminars, college degrees, or any other purpose under the sun. This includes the processes that it takes to sell the goods and for procuring the supply of direct materials.

Support processes are those that do not directly contribute to the raison díÍtre of the organization, but are necessary to get the work done. For instance, hiring and paying employees are processes that most organizations have difficulty doing without. Another example might be procuring office supplies. Equipment maintenance and refresh processes might also be in this category.

Management processes are those that monitor and manage the everyday workflow. For instance, maybe a company has two products, A and B, but only one production line. The management process would determine the production mix. Management processes monitor process throughput. They may tweak the flow. They may respond to issues, such as equipment breakdown or process errors and quality issues. But they do not change the process. They may feed the adaptive processes information for changes that need to be made. Many of the activities done by the accounting function are examples of management processes. They are measuring one of the organizationís primary resources: money.

Environmental processes are all of the things an organization does to interact with the environment. Some examples include: monitoring legislation, lobbying politicians, governmental reporting, paying taxes, competitive studies, cultural monitoring and response. Many companies will come to a point where they start using the environment strategically by trying to alter the environment to be disadvantageous to their competitors or more adapted to themselves. Gathering customer feedback would not be considered environmental in this breakdown, since it is a measurement of the operational processesí effectiveness.

Adaptive processes are those used to change the processes, not the throughput, of the organization.

Why Does It Matter?

In business process reengineering exercises, the reasons for the existence of the activities become very important. Older types of reengineering efforts often classified an activity as value-added or non-value-added, but there is much more nuance needed. For instance, most process measurement and evaluation activities would not be classified as value-added. They donít create the product or service. Indeed, for most services, these activities often take time away from billable hours. But the measurements are valuable to management both for purposes of control and for diagnosing process change opportunities. Recognizing that the measurement activities are not part of the operational process itself, but rather part of the management processes, helps refocus the questions of value.

Another benefit that this sort of categorization gives is in seeing where current functional groups might be trying to serve multiple masters and where failures can occur because of this tension. For instance, procurement processes can be grouped into two types. There might be certain supplies or types of supplies that are mission critical, such as parts for a manufacturing plant. Others, such as copy paper for the office, are not as crucial. The former category might require a more stringent process with contingency plans and more in-depth material management. This would be an operational process. The latter could be a generic best procurement practice process. It would be a support process. Should both of these be run out of a single procurement organization? Or might those running the operational processes be part of an operations organization?

Another example of what this model brings out is in the area of adaptation. Most organizations do not have a separate adaptation organization. Since things are aligned functionally into accounting, production, IT, and so forth, change happens in a disconnected and often haphazard way. Many large adaptation projects wind up falling into the IT department by default; however, this often leads to disasters or suboptimal results. This would be comparable to deciding to add an addition onto a building and assigning it to the electricians. They might be able to talk to the plumbers and drywallers and other tradesmen and manage to get the project done, but usually when you want to do major remodeling or an addition, the first person to call would be a general contractor. He can then consult with an architect and make the plans showing when each of the trades will be needed. The adaptation organization would contain your business versions of the general contractors, senior project managers who are known to and work directly with the C-level executives, plus your business architects, the business modelers who keep track of how things are done and where the connections and constraints are.

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Site last modified: 26 JUN 2016