The Call Center Professor

First Principle of Process Management

To run an operation, department, service center, machine, etc. optimally, we must understand the First Principle of Process Management. Clearly understanding this principle is mandatory to everything we will do.

First Principle of Process Management: 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.

The First Principle explains the interconnection between product and process and its final sentence is our key. This sentence reads, “The underlying component for improving the product is the process.” Often all our efforts and energies are directed at analyzing the product. As an example eating a lot of biscuits does nothing to the baking effort. Having the ability to differentiate between good and bad biscuits does not make you a fine baker. A baker must focus his attention on the baking process. The temperature of the oven, how long the biscuits are in the oven, location of the baking tray, etc. are the key components for the baker. These are the measures of the process; for the tactician, they are significantly more important than eating the biscuits!

Obviously, the person running the operation must focus their attention on the process, and their knowledge of it must continue to increase. My Grandma told me the only way to learn how to make biscuits was to get into the kitchen and learn about the oven. Similarly, to improve our product, we must understand our process and this understanding must be converted into a process knowledge base that we can use to improve our product.

The Importance of Process Data: When we just monitor the product, we are aware of its deterioration or improvement only. We might be aware of the change but we do not have a reason for it. Product monitoring is important, but it is reactionary, tolerates waste with no understanding of why, and accepts improvement with no understanding of why.

Without understanding the why we cannot operate our machine to its maximum performance. For us to make Grandma’s biscuits, we must understand why things occur the way they do. Product information gives no insight into why we made good biscuits or why we burnt the biscuits. Since we don’t know why we are making good biscuits, we cannot repeat the activities that produced them. This loss of knowledge is tragic.

When we monitor the process and the product, the process parameters allow us to know the conditions that caused the change. Monitoring both the product and the process is essential to proactive decisions, improvements, elimination of waste, and understanding the “whys” of change.

Knowledge of “why” allows us to improve continuously. By adding knowledge about the activities required to make a biscuit (process), we begin to learn what is required to make good biscuits. The additional information about the different processes that were used for good biscuits and defective biscuits allows us to continue to repeat the improvements and to discontinue the defects.

Since we live in a not-so-perfect world, we must monitor both process and product. As we gather data and knowledge, we must accumulate equal amounts of knowledge about both the product and the process. This will allow us to build a knowledge base for both the product and the process. Increased analysis of the product does not equate to increased knowledge of the process. Knowledge of the process and product are two separate but equal efforts and results. Both product and process knowledge is necessary for improvements.