Best Process Management - Reach Process Excellence

Process Excellence model

This page describes the Process Excellence pillar of our 100-criteria Operational Excellence model. The principle of the Process Excellence pillar is to proactively manage processes so that they become the best possible and achieve excellence. The purpose of this page is to give you the main keys to evaluate your best process management and identify the ways to progress.

As soon as there is more than one team using a method or working from a particular process, the need for this to be well-defined becomes of paramount importance. This allows everyone to better understand not only his or her role to play in the larger whole, but also what will be expected of them. As any business continues to grow and the situations become more complex, these methods and processes need to become both standard and flexible – as well as monitored, to enable their improvement. 

However, keep in mind that an organisation can rapidly be stifled by the burden of defining and measuring its own processes. Therefore, we deeply believe that two rules matter most of all here:

  • Process management, as is true in most other areas, must be focused on the most important processes for the business. These ones must be close to perfection, to Excellence. 
  • Processes must be adopted by people. A “perfect” process on paper is useless if it is not actually utilized by the people who matter most. People must adopt them and when they do, people need to take care of them and should have a genuine need to improve them.

This is indeed very hard to achieve and requieres an effective Best Process Management. We have experimented over many years that  Best Process Management should focus on 10 main criteria to reach Excellence. They are described below, numbered from 9 to 18 after the Strategy Implementation Pillar criteria. 



The main and final criteria is that the processes must be adopted by people; they must first be clearly defined including the decision and escalation process and their performance must be measured. Please note that the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) standards are embedded in our criteria.

9 - Best Process Management 1: Clearly defined process

All key processes must not only be clearly defined, but also documented and up-to-date. The definition must include the following elements, summarized by the popular acronym SIPOC:

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Process steps
  • Outputs
  • Customers

However, other elements must also be added, in particular through a detailed flow chart. These include things like:

  • What are the key activities for each step?
  • Who performs them and with what tools, if any?

All key processes that need to be executed in a very reproductible way with minimum variation (eg. manufacturing, call center...) should have a description detailed at the Operating procedure level to constitute Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). 
The list of the key processes needs to be documented in a way that is either reviewed regularly or when issues come up from an “undocumented” process are too frequent or too critical.

10 - Best Process Management 2: Decision criteria and escalation

One thing that is important to understand is that some process steps depend on either specific criteria, or decisions to be made. All those criteria, including the ones used to support decisions, should be clearly listed, defined and quantified as much as possible.

In the absence of any kind of simple, qualified criteria, decisions should be guided by clear guidelines or pictures (like when a manufactured product must comply to a specific non measurable visual aspect).

In the event of any doubt, the escalation process should be clearly defined as it will be utilised to make the final decision.

11 - Best Process Management 3: Performance measured

Key process performance should always be measured regularly, no exceptions (for the ones identified as key; which implies that some processes are identified as being key!). The ones that have a significant impact on the business performance and on the achievement objectives should as well, also having a performance objective with and indicator published in the relevant dashboard. This latter depends on who is accountable of this process performance. 
These key processes should be the focus of improvement actions until they are at the right level of performance.

12 - Best Process Management 4: Adopted

It is of critical importance to understand that processes MUST be adopted by the people. They must be used because people find them useful, not because a manager has told them to do so. They need to be loved so that people also want to improve them. Lean, effective, efficient processes...are nothing if not adopted and used. They are anything but excellent.

An organisation has reached the highest level of maturity when its real people – not managers or the continuous improvement team – take initiatives to improve them. Once adopted, they will become optimised, sooner or later, for the greater good.


Standard and flexible

One of the challenge for processes is that they must be both standard AND and flexible or customised. This challenge for Best Process management is more difficult as the organisation grows. This is only after some experimentation and learning that the right balance between the two can be found; though they will need to evolve as the business changes.

13 - Best Process Management 5: 80/20 of cases

Processes and rules are not built in a way that allows them to handle every situation – if they were, they would either be far too complex or would be changing too often. As a rule of thumb, they should cover about 80% of the situations that might be faced.

However, for some processes this number may actually be much closer to 100%. This is likely true in situations with very high volumes, high cost of defects and safety.

14 - Best Process Management 6: Not one size fits all

Likewise, processes should cover most cases with a very limited number of variants. At the same time, they should be adapted or customised to handle significantly different situations as well. For example, when one is answering a client Request for Proposal to sell a complex product. Then, there may be a simplified process when the price and complexity of the product is below a given threshold.

15 - Best Process Management 7: Standard processes

In large organisations that have several sub units of the same type (like several regional offices, several production plants, etc.), the processes for similar units MUST be standardised. However, there may also be some level of local customisation to take into account local differences (like different products, varying customer segments, and more).


Methods and tools

16 - Best Process Management 8: Methods

First of all, let us remember that a method describes how to carry out an activity, which is itself within a process. Depending on the definitions, a method can be considered to be the equivalent of a an operating procedure.

All relevant methods should be formally defined and used across the business. They must also be consistent with the strategy and should be applicable to the many different business situations likely to be faced, all with relevant people fully trained in using them. They must clearly indicate why these methods are being used rather than another

Likewise, they should be reviewed and even challenged periodically to guarantee that they are still relevant and state-of-the-art. 

17 - Best Process Management 9: Templates

Relevant and standard templates should always be formally defined  – with checklists, report formats, and quality plans being key examples. These should be used across the business, should be consistent with the methods and processes and should be customised to meet the needs of different business situations. But again, focus is important. A common pitfall of Best Process management is to spend a lot of efforts to define tons of (inadequate) templates that are not actually used.

18 - Best Process Management 10: Performing tools at the right place

The processes that are core to the performance of a company should have high performance tools associated with them. However, not all processes need this, nor should they have them: an organisation tries to limit costs and allocate financial resources to the most relevant places..

This implies that the key processes and their associated tools must be identified and that the buying or investment criteria are adapted. Within this context, tools may be an information technology system and could be technical, financial or even administrative. They could be communication tools. For example, a company managing R&D in multiple locations,  should have the best online project management platform available.

They could also be specific equipment or even individual tools. A luxury fashion business would rely on high quality manual labor. Thus, it would need the best needles for all employees, for example.

Look at the next 35 criteria of the Excellence pillar of performance management
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