Designing a process is a process in itself. Webster defines process as
“a series of actions or operations conducing to an end”
By this definition, almost everything we do is a process. So as we design processes as engineers, managers, or practitioners, we must consider several things. Here is a list of six that, if not considered, can lead to disastrous results.
Sin Number 1: Not Involving the End User
It is easy to get caught up in the theoretical and to put pen to paper. It is hard to get a lot of people to contribute to the design and to be humble enough to let them tell you how something should be done. The End-User is the customer. As a designer of a process you are typically not the end-user, but merely the creator. Create a process and then walk away, right? Wrong. The process is no good if it is not used and it will not be used if the customer doesn’t have any say. You have to get people involved with the design if you want the ever-elusive buy-in that has to come with a successful process. Listen to what causes pain today and eliminate the pain in the process. Not only will this result in a happy customer, it will also result in a more efficient system.
Sin Number 2: Not Knowing the Payback
The savings can dictate the intricacy of the process. This is especially true for equipment and engineering. If you know how much you save with the process improvement then you can understand how much you can spend and get away with it for the project proposal. If your company has a standard payback rule of 18 months, then try to get every last dime you can into the project cost without jumping over the payback period. Then you can design the project with the most automation or bells and whistles you can to make the system more appealing.
Sin Number 3: Doing Too Much Yourself
Don’t be afraid to seek help. You can’t do it all. Often times, taking on too much results in mediocre design and execution. Get others to help take the burden up for you. Supervisors, operators and engineers are great resources for technical knowledge and interviewing end users to identify project needs. If you are on a multiple shift operation, get help from the supervisors on those off-shifts to help you with questions, implementation, and auditing.
Sin Number 4: Sticking to a Process for Process’s Sake
Just because you learned a really interesting process doesn’t mean it applies to your application. Sometimes it is tempting to force a process design where it doesn’t belong. Other times your organization needs to change a little to accommodate a design and that change needs to be the project first. Very few processes can be implemented without some sort of modification. Consider your options and don’t force a square peg into a round hole.
Sin Number 5: Not Consulting the Experts
If you are not the technical expert for the process, get the experts involved. Don’t think you have to be the expert about everything. You are the designer of a process. Processes usually have individual components or unit operations as part of the system. You don’t have to be the unit operation expert to create a stellar process. But you need to make sure that you consult the experts to understand how the parts connect and make sure your design considers all of the needs for each unit op.
Sin Number 6: Neglecting the Future
Guess what…your process will not be the last. Something will come along that will be better. Another process will have to interact with yours. Something will change in the system and it will have to be modified. Don’t be arrogant, you can’t see the future, but you can accommodate it. The U.S. Constitution was designed so that it could be changed in the future as the times changed. Make sure that your process has a way to be modified with the times. Document your process so that it is easy to follow and alter as the need arises. Allow for simple bolt-ons or modifications. Anticipate near-future changes and design for them wherever you can.
If you can avoid these sins you will have better processes. It takes a lot of work to design something that will be functional, helpful and will last. Take the time to do it right.
What other sins can you think of related to Process Design?
Which sin have can you relate to the most in your life?