What Makes a Process Outstanding?


This girl loves processes. If you want to make me smile, show me a great process for a key deliverable in your organization. In my consulting work, much of what I do is help churches put systems and processes in place in order to create sustainability. Today we’re honored to host a guest post by author Karen Martin, whose book Clarity First is launching this week. Clarity is the starting point for the “why” behind a great process as well as the result of an effective process. Enjoy! 


Outstanding processes require attention to three key elements: design, execution, and management. Process design covers the details of the process itself: how tasks are completed, in what sequence what inputs and outputs are expected, and to what standards.


Process execution focuses on the clarity people need to do the work, including the skills they need to be successful doing the work. Process management, in turn, allows organizations to assess on an ongoing basis how well their processes serve the needs of the business, and to continuously improve processes to reflect the dynamic environment within which work exists.

The Well- Designed Process

Process clarity begins with well-designed processes that share the following characteristics:

  • They are safe. They are ergonomically sound and can be performed without placing the customer or team member in danger. This includes eliminating the risk of psychological stress and repetitive stress injuries.
  • They are efficient and effective. A team member can perform the work and produce consistent and high-quality results without heroics or excessive effort. In Lean management, efficient and effective processes are free of three productivity-robbing “enemies”: muda, muri, and mura.
    • Muda refers to all forms of waste, including overproduction, overprocessing, errors, rework, excessive inventory, waiting, excess motion, excess transportation, and underutilization of people.
    • Muri refers to overburden on equipment and people.
    • Mura refers to unevenness.
  • They are easy to understand. The steps for performing tasks are clearly defined and unambiguous in meaning.
  • They are easy to perform successfully. Assuming a team member with the right skills is assigned to the task and well trained for the work, the process is designed and documented in a way that he or she can be successful at it.


Each of the elements of safety, efficiency and effectiveness, ease of understanding, and successful execution is foundationally about designing a process so that the person performing it is put in the best position possible to do his or her best. One of the primary tenets in Lean management is respect for humanity, also referred to as respect for people.


The first definition for respect in Oxford Dictionaries is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements,” and the second is “due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.” In Lean, respect goes deep and focuses on creating work environments that allow each person to become the best version of him or herself, and to perform work successfully. All too often people get blamed for performance, where in reality the performance gap is caused by poorly designed processes.


So, the next time you begin to think that John, Sally, or a specific team is a problem, look again. In nearly 100 percent of the cases, the problem lies with the work environment and underlying processes.

Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.


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