Determine a process

One of the key aspects of quality management is to break down your activity into processes. If you are new to it, let this article guide you and teach you all about processes and procedures, from basic definitions to how to identify your own processes.

What is a process ?

The word « process » often refers to a serie of actions, especially in companies and marketing. Breaking news : in that case, no one uses it correctly !

A process, quality-speaking, is a set of interrelated or interacting activities that uses inputs to deliver an intended output. What you used to call processes are in fact procedures : a specified way to carry out an activity. Check our definitions article for more details on ISO 9001 definitions.
Not that simple, you think ? Here is a simple example. You own a 5-stars restaurant. An example of process for your organization is the « Cooking » process

It has a few inputs, let’s say your customers’ orders, the ingredients and the kitchen utensils. The outputs will therefore be the cooked dishes and cleaned utensils. Finally, there are some procedures linked to this process, such as the recipes (« how to make a chocolate fondant ») and the « how to do the dishes » procedures. In short, you can view any procedure as a « how to » tutorial, broken down into small steps… like a recipe.

There will be several processes in your quality management system. Your activities fall into some groups : cooking, staff management, resources and suppliers management, administration, strategic decision, … Let’s group them in processes with sub-processes inside.

The last process, « integrated management system », puts together every supervising and leading activity of your restaurant, such as defining a long-term strategy.
Do not be afraid to define sub-processes within processes. It may seem strange and complicated, but it can be quite useful in for processes with multiple activities. Take the restaurant once again. « Dish preparation » can be considered as a process within the « cooking » process.

Take your time to sort out your activities, you processes will be all the clearer.

Process example

Let’s stop speaking about your restaurant and its cooking process. Here is an example of an Integrated Management System process.

The diagram takes into account the interested parties, the input and outputs of the process and helps understanding it. The informations shall be included in a document describing the process, its key performance indicators, the responsibilities, …

However the diagram is not mandatory, you can just list the inputs, outputs and activities on a text document.It just makes a process clearer.

The complete description of the integrated management system with its 22 documents and 5 procedures is available in the ISO 9001 pack.

Determine your own processes

You need to brainstorm with your teams to determine your own processes. In order to bring your processes to light, start by sorting your activities by category. The golden rule is to keep it simple. You do not need to determine dozens of processes, quite often 4 or 5 are enough to encompass your activities.

Once you know what your processes are, you need to clarify them on paper. For each process, list down the inputs, outputs and interested parties.

Determine 3 to 5 Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to monitor them. They don’t have to exhaustively represent the process. You may have other operational indicators for your activities but only the performance indicators shall be documented.

Each process has to be under the responsibility of a « process pilot ». The pilot oversees the various tasks of the process, the related KPIs and the documents.

Then come the procedures : gather your process pilots and take a moment to brainstorm on the activities that require a procedure. You don’t have to be exhaustive, only document the activites that actually require a procedure. This article will help you describe your procedures.

The question behind that should be « if someone had access to these  procedures only, could they make the organization work like it does today ? ». Identifying all your procedures is tedious work and takes time. You will find that you often come back to add a forgotten procedure, especially once you engage in a certification approach like the ISO9001 one.

Time-consuming as it may be, defining your processes and procedures is a necessary step in a quality management system. Do not forget to always keep it simple ! Formalizing everything will only be easier with a reduced number of well-defined procedures and processes

Save time

The ISO 9001 pack is here to make you save time and money.

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