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Processes – what is not discussed and is extremely important

When designing a process, we usually think about specific requirements set for it, for example, under the ISO 9001: 2015 standard. It defines in section 4.4. requirements for the quality management system and its processes.

Probably if I had not examined the process approach as part of my dissertation, I would have concluded that what is in the standard is sufficient. But because … my mission is to show you that quality management goes beyond the world’s most popular standard ISO 9001:2015. For this reason, in this article, I will write about what should be additionally considered when designing a process-based organization.


Qualitywiese.pl, agata Lewkowska, processes, IATF 16949, ISO 9001, QMS

Processes - can they be categorized?

I have already presented the idea of the process in the article entitled “Process – how to design it to manage it effectively.” However, not every process is equally important. The most important are the processes that determine the success of the organization at a given moment. Therefore, the categories of processes allows organizations to better understand themselves and reflect their own functioning in terms of processes.

Here are the most interesting and most frequent categories of process that I found in the literature:

  • operational and support process[1],
  • operational process (related to customer acquisition and identification of customer needs, execution of orders, product development, logistics, service) and organization management process (monitoring, resource management) [2],
  • innovative, service and operational process[3],
  • strategic (direction setting process, the most important from the point of view of the mission, goals, intended position on the market and strategy)[4],
  • business network process; with a scope that goes beyond organizational boundaries[5],
  • physical and non-physical (based on the physical criterion)[6],
  • added value (creating / not creating value, although necessary for the processes creating it)[7],
  • external (process that is performed for the organization, outside the organization, by entities indicated by the organization, on the basis of relevant agreements and contracts)[8].

And the most popular categories are ...

As I have already said, the presented proposals for dividing processes in an organization fit into the most common processes categories in literature[9]:

  • main process – this is a process underlying the operational activity. It concerns the current company’s functioning. It is directly related to the way the company designs and manufactures products and services. It brings value to the organization. It refers to the production processes and processes related to customer service and communication.
  • management process – this is process that results in decisions affecting the functioning of the organization. Main task is to define the rules of operation of the entire organization by regulating the main and supporting processes. Management processes are also called as decision-making processes.
  • supporting process – thit is defined as process supporting the realization of main processes. For example, these are processes ensuring competent personnel, IT support process, maintenance process, financial support process, etc. Supporting processes are responsible for ensuring the right resources and organizational back-up for the main and management processes.

Processes versus hierarchy

Hierarchia procesów w podejściu procesowym

The processes specified in the organization can be arranged hierarchically, which allows to organize the process structure. In a literature you may find a process division into mega-processes and sub-processes[10]. Megaprocesses extend to many areas of the organization, e.g. from order, through implementation, to sale. Subprocesses, on the other hand, are elements of megaprocesses. They are separated on the basis of homogeneous sets of tasks.

The hierarchy of processes depends on the size and complexity of the organizational system. It should not exceed four levels of sub-processes[11].

What should be the number of processes in the organization?

The number of processes is also important from the point of view of the effectiveness and efficiency of process management. First of all, it depends on the size of the organization and the purpose for which they are used. Too many processes may cause difficulties in managing a large scope of the system. It can also affect the speed of decision-making regarding defined processes. Therefore, many organizations are limited to processes with strategic value in terms of the functioning of the organization and creating added value for the customer[12].

Only 5-20% of operations carried out in organizations increase value and only these should be the focus[13].

In the literature, you can also find recommendations regarding the number of defined processes, e.g.

  • M. Hammer recommends 5 to 10 major processes[14].
  • R. L. Manganelli and M. M. Klein 12-24, suggesting to limit their choice to processes meeting the strategic condition and the condition of creating added value (they satisfy the client’s needs and expectations); according to these authors, only about 6 processes meet both conditions simultaneously[15].
  • J. Brilman talks about 6 main processes and 6 management and support processes that should be defined[16]; at the same time, only he gives their names, thus justifying the proposed number of processes.

…so how many?

It should be borne in mind that the number of defined processes should be a compromise between the importance of the processes for the organization and the possibility of managing them.

The tendency is this: the fewer processes, the better to manage them (especially when all the specified processes should achieve the organization’s goals).

This will allow for better control and transparency of processes, as well as for the creation of a clearer model of process organization.

But is it enough?

The division, number and hierarchy of processes are related to the assessment of their importance. Among the criteria important when making it, the size of the process potential should be taken into account, which is manifested in:

  • effects, e.g. their value for the client, profit share, sales volume share, market share,
  • costs, e.g. share in overhead costs, the amount of quality costs, the amount of fixed costs,
  • innovation,
  • the degree of complexity of the process and the product,
  • the degree of mastering the process,
  • the role of the process in the company’s strategy.

Finally, something that is really little talked about!

When establishing processes in the organization and their links, you can use the available guidelines collected in reference models. They have been developed by a number of industry consortia, non-profit associations, government research programs and academia.

Reference models standardize what can be viewed as different processes with unique characteristics that deliver distinctive products.

The greatest value is the identification of regulatory or industry-specific processes in process-managed organizations.

The most famous are:

  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL),
  • Supply Chain Operations Reference Model (SCOR) created by the Supply Chain Council,
  • Value Reference Model (VRM) developed by Value Chain Group,
  • Performance Framework by G. Rummler and A. Brache.

Particularly noteworthy is the Process Classification Framework (PCF) developed by the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC).

Since 1977, this organization has been involved in the activity of supporting enterprises in providing tools and patterns to improve management related to the process approach. It has one of the largest databases in the world with 8,500 descriptions of good practices and comparative data used in benchmarking. This study seems to be particularly helpful in modeling the processes of organizations of various sizes, regardless of their operating profile.

Hope you found this article interesting.

Let me know in the comment and sign up to the newsletter!

Thank you for your presence.

Agata Lewkowska Ph.D.

If I can help you with quality management issues, please contact me. You may also join me in my private group on Facebook: ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 QualityWise Group.


For people who want to know more

Knowledge must have a solid foundation in order to avoid information noise.

Therefore, the article was based on the following literature:

[1] Brilman J., Nowoczesne metody i koncepcje zarządzania, PWE, Warszawa 2002, s. 287; Pande P.S., Neuman R.P., Cavanagh R.R., Six Sigma, sposób poprawy wyników nie tylko dla takich firm, jak GE czy Motorola, Liber, Warszawa 2003, s. 152-153

[2] Davenport T.H., Process Innovation. Reengineering work through information technology, Harvard Business School Press, Boston 1993, s. 29

[3] Kaplan R.S., Norton D.P., Strategiczna karta wyników. Jak przełożyć strategię na działania, PWN, Warszawa 2001, s. 99

[4] Armistead C., Machin S., Implications of business process management for operations management, International Journal of Operations & Production Management 1997, nr 17 (9), s. 894; Armistead C., Machin S., Business Process Management: implications for productivity in multi-stage service networks, International Journal of Service Management 1998, nr 9 (4), s. 325

[5] Al-Mashari M., Zairi M., Revisiting BPR: a holistic review of practice and development, Business Process Management Journal 2000, nr 6 (1), s. 11

[6] Szczepańska K., Budgol M., Podstawy zarządzania procesami, Difin, Warszawa 2016, s. 44

[7] Szczepańska K., Budgol M., Podstawy zarządzania procesami, Difin, Warszawa 2016, s. 45

[8] Harmon P., Tregear R., Questioning BPM?, Meghan-Kiffer Press, Tampa, Florida 2016, s. 27

[9] Dumas M., La Rosa M., Mendling J., Reijers H.A., Fundamentals of Business Process Management, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013, s. 35; Durlik I., Restrukturyzacja procesów gospodarczych, Agencja Wydawnicza Placet, Warszawa 1998, s. 58; Grajewski P., Organizacja procesowa. Projektowanie i konfiguracja, PWE, Warszawa 2007, s. 62; Miller P., Systemowe zarządzanie jakością, Difin, Warszawa 2011, s. 47; Preihs J., Analiza ważności procesów, [in:] Grudowski P. (red.), Inżynieria jakości w przedsiębiorstwach produkcyjnych, usługowych i sektorze publicznym, Politechnika Gdańska, Gdańsk 2009, s. 172; Rummler G., Brache A., Podnoszenie efektywności organizacji, PWE, Warszawa 2000, s. 75; Tkaczyk S., Kowalska-Napora E., Strategia zarządzania jakością, Difin, Warszawa 2012, s. 52

[10] Dangel J.W., Business Process Reengineering: Radikale Umgestaltung von Geschäftsprozessen, Management Zeitschrift 1994, nr 5, s. 31-33

[11] Grudowski P., Podejście procesowe w systemach zarządzania jakością w małych i średnich przedsiębiorstwach, Wydawnictwo Politechniki Gdańskiej, Gdańsk 2007, s. 20

[12] Mielcarek P., Koncepcja dojrzałości procesu innowacji, Nauki o Zarządzaniu 2014, nr 3(20), s. 56

[13] Adair C., Murray B., Radykalna reorganizacja firmy, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 2002, s. 121

[14] Hammer M., Process Management and the future of Six Sigma, Sloan Management Review 2002, nr 2, Zima, s. 27; Hammer M., What is Business Process Management?, [in:] Vom Brocke J., Rosemann M., Handbook on Business Process Management 1, Introduction. Methods and Information Systems, Springer, Heidelberg 2010, s. 12

[15] Manganelli R., Klein M., Reengineering. Metoda usprawniania organizacji, PWE, Warszawa 1998, s. 29

[16] Brilman J., Nowoczesne metody i koncepcje zarządzania, PWE, Warszawa 2002, s. 288

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