Unless you are an artisan, the best way to do something in your business is to make it efficient and repeatable. Artisans thrive on the unique and exceptional. That’s too expensive for everyone else.
Let’s borrow two terms from manufacturing:
- Factory Process, generally called a continuous process, is noted for repeatability, large scale, speed, and efficiency. Consistent inputs go in and are processed the same way everytime before coming out as a uniform result. Rigor is built into the process so it is as simple as it can be.
- Job Process is noted for uniqueness, small scale, indeterminate timeframes, and inefficiency. Inconsistent inputs go in and are processed different ways resulting in inconsistent outputs. The more rigor we attempt to place on the process, the more complex it is.
Most enterprises are riddled with job shop processes. Just try to model any process in your business as an essential string of events and your business people will start telling you why it’s not like that in the real world and how they really do it. I have a name for both: “what we’re supposed to do” and “what we do”.
“What we’re supposed to do” is really very straight-forward. When given a fresh look, business processes can be based on a very succinct set of requirements. It often represents a new way of doing something that has become enabled because we are doing something upstream better or we are leveraging a new technology.
“What we do” evolved because it’s what we’ve always done. It doesn’t take into account only the essential requirements but rather all of the exceptions that have appeared, been nurtured, and then institutionalized over the years. It also doesn’t leverage any efficiencies made available by upstream changes or technology. It can often impose obstacles on the upstream improvements and it only uses technology so more of it can be done faster.
“What we’re supposed to do” is as close to a factory process as we can make it. “What we do” is a job shop process. We’ll look into this more next time.