The Call Center Professor

Process Principles Overview

Good intentions!

Often I have heard that we need to motivate, encourage, and allow our associates to do the right thing. We have meetings and motivational talks. When we say the words “Do the Right Thing,” generally we are really talking about our impression or opinion of the right thing. We must have a clear understanding of the ramifications of our actions and instructions and a precise picture of how our instructions will impact our associates.

I will show you that many of our well-intentioned efforts wind up causing exactly the reverse of the result we want. Often these good intentions not only stand in the way of improvement but also cause our efforts to deteriorate. Everyone has heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Be careful what you ask for—too often we get exactly that. An understanding of Process Management Principles allows us to avoid these costly mistakes

For the purposes of illustration, let’s examine the field of mechanics. The study of mechanics has been marked by steady but slow increases in understanding. Here’s a brief overview of the evolution of thoughts concerning motion. Aristotle, 330 BC All things are comprised of earth, water, air, and fire. The more earth on an object, the faster if falls to earth. Galileo, 1604 Gravity imparts a definite acceleration. Newton, 1606 The moon’s orbit is caused by the same gravity that causes an apple to fall.

Understanding motion has evolved over hundreds of years. Aristotle continually improved his theories of motion. Later Galileo expanded and improved on Aristotle’s theories. Still later, Newton expanded and improved on Galileo’s theories, and so the scientific studies continued through history.

For us to begin our study of process management, we must understand the basic Principles of Process Management. We should begin our studies with realistic time expectations. Just as hundreds of years elapsed in the study of motion, a long-term strategy is required for our process understanding. In the study of physics, Sir Isaac Newton stated the basic principles of motion in his book Principia Mathematica (1686).

  • Newton’s First Principle: Any object left alone remains at a constant velocity.
  • Newton’s Second Principle: The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the resultant force acting on the object. Force equals mass times acceleration, or F = MA.
  • Newton’s Third Principle: For every action on an object there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s three principles are the basis for all mechanical physics, studies of motion, and mechanical engineering. Our Principles of Process Management are as essential to improvement as Newton’s principles were to physics and motion.

How many times have you heard someone say, “We can’t change or improve this process because really, really smart people set it up”? If Newton had believed that statement, he never would have developed the three laws of physics. Who could argue that Aristotle was not a really smart man? But Aristotle believed and taught that objects with more earth (mass) would fall faster than objects with less earth. The knowledge base had not yet progressed to the point when Newton would prove that two objects of differing mass would fall at the same rate. Newton, Aristotle, and Galileo were all smart. Newton had wisely expanded and improved on both Aristotle’s and Galileo’s knowledge base of motion. Wise people can improve on what other wise people have done.

Process Management Principles

In Newton’s statement of the three laws of motion, he set up basic principles for all mechanics. These principles gave a focus to all studies that relate to mechanics. Process Management Principles give the same focus and guidance to our work that Newton’s Laws brought to physics. These Principles are stated below.

First Principle: A fundamental understanding of BOTH the product and process is essential to improvement. Both the product and the process must be described and understood individually and separately. The underlying component for improving the product is the process.

Second Principle: Division of Labor is the framework for all aspects of decision-making. It must be clearly understood to separate the policy, strategic, and tactical decisions. Operations make the tactical decisions of running the facility. Management makes the strategic decisions of assessing the facility’s suitability for the job. Executives make the policy decisions of providing the vision for the business.

Third Principle: An effective operation must be built on a base of correctness, consistency, and capability. The strategic decision makers provide a correct facility for the tactical decision makers to run correctly. Consistency is the level at which the tactical workforce is able to hit the target. Capability is strategic in nature. It measures the facility’s ability to provide what the customer wants.

Fourth Principle: Operational excellence requires foundational structure. This foundation of structure, order, and arrangement is comprised of quantitative and conceptual modeling to determine homogeneous groups. Factoring is the process of building the factors and their support levels. Quantitative structure is modeled into physical, associational, and time series groups. Conceptual structure and order modeling includes issues like customer, enterprise, products, process, skills, knowledge, value, and exposure.

These principles provide a coherent means of explaining and using these ideas. These principles give us clear focus and direction in establishing and maintaining an effective operation. In our next blogs we will explain each principle.