What Makes a Good Process?

Good and bad processes are everywhere. Businesses and families rely on processes every day. Processes were used by NASA to put men on the moon, as well as by McDonalds to make their hamburgers. When processes aren’t followed, chaos will reign. Processes allow tasks to be repeatable, consistent, and allow tasks to be completed. There are good processes and bad processes, so what makes a good process?

Jason Piatt, President of Praestar Technology Corporation, says that a good process has these six components:

• “A good process should be simple” - as simple as possible to avoid opportunities for error.
• “A good process should be robust” - robust enough to handle the processes’ scope.
• “A good process should be documented” - a good process can be referenced.
• “A good process should be controlled” – a controlled process will achieve similar results.
• “A good process should be communicated” - a good process is communicated and understood.
• “A good process is error-proofed” - a combination of all the above.

A complicated mission, like putting men on the moon, may have complicated tasks but this does not mean that the processes have to be too complex. A good process will have the above components and can make even the most difficult tasks look easy.

There is an art to making good processes or process design. Patrick Frink points out that good processes make things look easy. Frink says, “Put in simple terms, process design reflects the simplest ambition of facilitation: “to make easy”. By managing the physical environment, processes and technical systems surrounding the participants, process designers remove barriers within the boundaries of the event to allow the participants the neutral space to explore ideas, focus on potential solutions and reach a plan of action.”


“What makes this craft difficult to talk about is the fact that the nuts and bolts of a well-designed process are invisible; the team of facilitators goes largely unnoticed, allowing the participants to focus without distraction. This is the reason why, from the vantage point of a participant, the experience might look seamless and even effortless.”

Rob Davis says, “A good process is one that is: Effective, Efficient, Relevant, Valid, Usable, Used, Reused, Managed, and Measured.”

Rob’s list is different than Jason’s above and focuses on what I believe are keys to a good process. Under Usable, Rob says, “Many people fall into the trap of only modeling the “sunny day” scenario or the “happy path.” That is to say, they only model what happens when things go right. However, a customer’s opinion of an organization is often made or broken by the experience they receive when things go wrong. A problem handled efficiently and resolved quickly can often boost a customer’s opinion of an organization, while you can be sure the customer will tell all their friends about a problem handled badly. Judging the amount of detail and the number of failure scenarios to handle is a difficult call, but keep in mind, does it:

• Affect the customer?
• Affect revenue or profit?
• Affect key process metrics (KPIs)?
• Have regulatory impact?
• Consume significant resources?”

To me one of the most important characteristics that Rob points out is the “Used” characteristic. Rob states, “It is no good putting all this effort into creating an effective and efficient process, making it usable and visible, if no one actually uses it. Making sure that your process design makes a difference is one of the key challenges for creating good processes.”

There are good processes and successful processes. To sum it up, a good process is understood; a successful process is followed.

Rob Davis: http://www.bptrends.com/publicationfiles/FIVE11-09-ART-Whatmakesagoodprocess-BPTrends.pdf

Patrick Frink: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2013/03/the-magic-of-good-process-design/

Jason Piatt: http://www.industryweek.com/continuous-improvement/six-easy-criteria-targeting-good-process

Sherman Drake is a Senior Consultant with extensive oil and gas knowledge at MidDel Consulting, a business consulting company specializing in the Energy industry. We have over a decade long track record of successful project implementations and a client list that is 100% referenceable. For more information, email us at info@middelgrp.com or call #952-500-9275.