Process thinking, also known as “the process”, is a philosophy that emphasizes preparation and hard work over consideration of outcomes or results, and is particularly popular in professional sports. Practitioners of process thinking focus on the present instead of past events or future outcomes, and believe that all actions one takes in life, regardless of how trivial they may seem, affect the desired outcome.
Process thinking is about being obsessive about the processes you are using to try and achieve your result. Process thinking does three things: It changes who you are. It lets you replicate the result you want. It allows you to pursue other opportunities if it makes sense.
The step-by-step mechanism of process thinking is a prominent part of cognitive behavioral thinking, which was developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck. In the 1960s, Beck developed a therapy which relies on the idea that thoughts affect feelings, and that good mental habits are systematically built up one step at a time.
Process thinking requires us to view businesses as a set of processes rather than a collection of departments that each perform a function.
Nowadays, it is widely used by business of any industry to better design, track, and optimize business processes. That doesn’t mean that we have to do away with functional departments altogether. But to follow process thinking, we view the work departments do in a different way. A department can’t exist in isolation. It receives inputs from other areas of the business, and it provides outputs that other departments must use to get the process or task finished.
In practical terms, each department or individual is a contributor to one or more business processes. So, instead of managing departments, we should be managing entire processes. A process might flow through a series of teams or departments each with its own set of skills, but the whole purpose of each one is to get results, and results are what matters.
The benefits that can be realized through process thinking are motivating a great many businesses to adopt it. Here are a few of the top reasons why businesses are moving away from traditional, function-based thinking:
– Process Thinking Eliminates “Silos”
When we focus only on the work that each department does, we often lose sight of the real goals we want to reach when performing activities. The people who work in each department don’t communicate effectively with other departments that are involved in the processes their work contributes to. As a result, the overall process suffers.
Process thinking encourages managers on every level to focus on the complete business process and their contribution to its ultimate goal.
– Process Thinking Helps Us to Solve Complex Challenges
Do you remember studying math at school? You’d get a problem that looked impossible to solve. But if you knew which steps to follow, you’d eventually reach the correct answer. Each step was relatively simple, even when the overall problem was complicated. If the answer you eventually gave was incorrect, it was because you had made an error in one of the steps (the process) or had skipped one by mistake.
Business processes work in much the same way. Even if you’ve never really thought about your business as a set of processes before, you have processes happening all the time. How effective are they?
As with our school math problems, looking for answers before following a series of steps gives us a result that is sheer guesswork. The best way to overcome challenges is to begin at the start of a process and carefully evaluate each step until we reach its end.
– Process Thinking Boosts Efficiency and Profitability
Once we start looking at processes as a path to a goal, we’re sure to uncover wastes. We might find that we’re duplicating tasks. We may have physical and human resources that we aren’t utilizing as efficiently as we could. There could be bottlenecks where work piles up and gets held up until the responsible person or team can get around to it.
When processes flow smoothly, transitioning from one step to the next without holdups or waiting time, we’re able to do more with the same resources we had before. With each output costing us less, we stand to make better profits.
– Process Thinking Helps Us to Improve Quality
Quality shouldn’t be variable. We want consistency: a predictable result that matches set parameters. A business owner needs to know that the outcome of a process reliably and consistently produces a certain level of quality. Once again, the key lies in process thinking.
If we have a process that always works, in the same way, every time we run it, we should get a predictable result. Variation is your enemy when it comes to quality. Uniformity is your friend. Process thinking allows you to declare war on unpredictability and variation.
– Process Thinking Allows for Process Ownership and Continuous Improvement
Have you ever experienced the disadvantages of a fully departmentalized business? Each department did its job and what happened next was somebody else’s problem.
Sometimes, you must have become frustrated because a department that passed on work to you wasn’t giving you what you needed to get your work done properly. And when any problem arose, each department pointed the finger at another one to apportion blame.
The problem was that nobody owned the whole process. If you adopt process thinking, you can also assign ownership of entire processes to people. When people “own” or are responsible for something, they take greater pride in it. They want to make it work. There is no “somebody else’s problem” that they can simply ignore. Buck-passing and blame-shifting are a thing of the past.
That means that process thinking has led you to a point where continuous process improvement is on the cards. Your process owners will help you to achieve this because they have a genuine desire to see their processes thrive.
– Process Thinking Helps You to Move from “Acceptable” to “Excellent”
Your business might be doing fine just as it is, but if you aren’t applying process thinking yet, you could be missing out on a golden opportunity to transform an OK business into a great one.
When you implement continuous improvement through careful analysis of processes, there will be ongoing change – and it will be changed for the better. The quest for excellence requires process excellence to succeed. After all, your company’s reputation depends on achieving results efficiently.
– Process Thinking Gives You a Competitive Edge
Clients love working with efficient businesses. The respect you’ll earn thanks to your effective business processes will help you to build customer loyalty. When your business undertakes a process, it achieves a predictably good outcome.
When there are problems or issues, you examine the process and deal with the area where the anomaly arose. If you do so effectively, you prevent the same error from recurring.
If your competitors aren’t already doing the same thing or are doing so less effectively than you are, you will gain a competitive advantage.