In the busy rush of daily business, it can sometimes be easy to lose focus on what your organization is really about. New revenue streams, exciting industry developments, or internal shuffling can distract from the central purpose of your business. Identifying and developing your core processes for maximum efficiency and impact can keep your organization focused on its mission and purpose and drive people and business results.
What is a core process? A core process is an ongoing, end-to-end practice that achieves business goals. It is a process that the customer is willing to pay for and a process crucial for business operations and customer satisfaction. A core process produces value for the customer and starts and ends with the customer’s interests. Examples of a core process might be your sales process, research and development processes, or new product development.
Your core processes should be the focus of your organization. These processes are essential for scalability and enable clear metrics and reporting. Developing your core processes will improve employee training, onboarding, and performance management and capture best practices to make them repeatable. Core process development can also help you avoid the loss of knowledge through employee departure and capture the tribal knowledge within your organization. Focusing on these processes will give you a strong foundation for improving the organization's quality, productivity, and communication.
Here are seven steps to help you identify and improve your core processes:
- Identify what the customer pays for. What is critical to producing that service or product? What is your competitive advantage for the customer? Is there more than one key process involved in delivering that product or service? If so, list all of those processes.
- If you sell a product, is there a critical product development process that gives you a competitive advantage? If you’ve identified more than one process, prioritize them. Which ones add the most value to the customer?
- Working in reverse order, identify the high-level steps involved to create or provide what the customer pays for. This step might include connecting with customers or analyzing customer surveys to find the key steps that create a satisfied, repeat customer.
- Identify the current and desired variances at each step. Variances could be different locations using different forms or procedures or call center agents using different scripts. What variances work to improve the process? Which ones don’t?
- Identify who does each step in the process. Who currently owns this step, and who should do that step? Are some people performing steps that they shouldn’t own? Are there gaps where no one has responsibility?
- Identify the bottlenecks and problem interfaces. How can you remove obstacles or challenges at these points? Which steps in the process are slow or inefficient? Why?
- Identify sub-processes along the way, which can be captured and prioritized for later work. Not every process will have sub-processes, and that’s all right. For those that do, make sure you set the sub-processes aside for future improvements.
While you may believe that you already have a firm grasp of core processes in your organization, taking the time to review your core processes intentionally and methodically can help confirm or revise your understanding. It can also ensure that every leader in every function operates with the same core processes in mind. By fine-tuning these processes in a step-by-step way, you can ensure that your organization is on its way to being a best-in-class operation.
- What are your organization’s two most important processes?
- How well does the organization perform these processes? (1=poorly, 10=excellent)
- What is one thing that can be done differently to improve these processes?
- What is the one thing you are going to do to better design & identify and manage processes?