3. The process approach – a quality management principle
The process approach is one of the seven quality management principles included in ISO 9000:2015. Let us see the statement of that principle:
Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system.
It is easy to relate those “Consistent and predictable results” with the objectives referred to in the definition of a management system.
And what does the same ISO 9000: 2015 say about what a process is?
set of interrelated or interacting activities that use inputs to deliver an intended result
So, we may see an organization as a coherent system made of a set of interrelated or interacting elements called processes, and it is through those processes that an organization achieves its intended results, its objectives.
At a first glance, we have:
The intended results may be:
Now, let us zoom the organization to find out which processes are present and how they interrelate.
For example, the processes may be:
When this organization wins a new project, they have to start ordering resources needed to provide the service. At the same time, winning a new project means developing a new service, new resources need will be determined, and service preparation may start. Then, at an agreed date the service provider may start.
Let us go back to the management system definition:
System to establish policies and objectives, and processes to achieve those objectives
Now, our system is our set of interrelated processes, and it through those processes that you try to meet intended results. Processes are like variables in a mathematical equation that we operate in order to meet our intended results:
Let us go back again to ISO 9000:2015, clause 188.8.131.52, where we can read:
These processes interact to deliver results consistent with the organization’s objectives and cross functional boundaries. Some processes can be critical while others are not.
When we model how an organization works, we include in the model a set of processes. Those processes are needed, but not all processes have the same impact or influence in meeting each objective or intended result.
Just as an example, let us consider this matrix that relates processes and objectives:
Processes are where the rubber meets the road. Whatever an objective the management wants an organization to achieve, it is only a dream if one or more processes of the organization are not mobilized and changed to that. In the matrix above, meeting objective “Better sales” requires working on the process “Win project”. Meeting objective “Less complaints” requires working on processes “Prepare service” and “Provide the service”. Meeting objective “More satisfied customers” requires working on processes “Develop a new service”, “Prepare service” and “Provide service”.
Now, look into the process “Maintain equipment”. It must exist but does not contribute directly to any overall objective. These processes are tricky. If you are excellent in these kinds of processes, they will be expensive but will not contribute to customer satisfaction, but if you make a mistake in these processes, they can contribute to customer un-satisfaction.
No one says: we are very satisfied with our electrical power supplier because at the end of the day there were no power failures. We say, it is the minimum someone can expect, no failures
Next: Process and strategy