Practical Process: Picturing Process

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this will be a long Column. I want to share with you the five pictures that I find useful in explaining process-based management.

Getting cross-functional

Process-based management is all about cross-functional value delivery. It’s about how we work across the organization chart, not up and down it. In this familiar picture, which of the five separate activities need to work well if you are to have a great flight? Yes, of course, all five. No use having the world’s best check in, get the upgrade, have a great flight…and then you arrive but your luggage doesn’t.

figure 1

The different parts are managed by different people, some in different organizations. Who manages it all, who manages across the process? Who manages the customer journey, this time a literal journey from, say, home to hotel? Nobody? Really?

Process-based management is a management add-on to correct for the absence of management in the direction in which work gets done, and products and services are delivered.

The primacy of process

figure 2

My first principal of process-based management is the Primacy of Process. Every organization has two management perspectives.

In the ‘vertical’ direction, and shaped by the organization chart, is the functional organization. This is largely about managing resources. Process-based management changes nothing about this perspective. We will always need to know about reporting structures, authorities, and delegations.

The additional horizontal, or process, view is about how the organization creates, accumulates, and delivers value to customers and other stakeholders. It follows that this is also the way in which an organization executes its strategy. The active management of this view, shaped by the process architecture, is process-based management. It is a new lens that corrects defects in the organization’s horizontal field-of-vision.

A management metamodel

To achieve genuine process-based management, the processes are identified, performance targets are set, governance mechanisms are created, and process performance improved in a process-aware culture where everyone contributes, and appropriate support is provided. How can this be achieved in a practical and sustainable way?

figure 3

An elegant solution is found in two virtuous circles, the Tregear Circles—the PO circle (process ownership) and the PI circle (process improvement)—that facilitate and deliver process-based management.

The PO circle is continually testing process performance to uncover actual or emergent performance gaps driven by measurement, and innovation opportunities driven by ideas. The repeating cycle of target—assess—respond is the drumbeat of process management.

The PI circle is the process-improvement cycle that identifies the current state, defines the future state, and makes evidence-based changes required to close prioritized performance gaps. The PI circle can be instantiated with any formal or informal process improvement methodology.

The PO circle determines whether process adjustment is required in response to a current or emergent performance anomaly, or a development opportunity; the PI circle discovers, details, and delivers the business-process changes.

Processes are selected for PI-circle treatment based on PO-circle analysis. Pervasive process improvement should be a deliberate, systemic management act. Effective ongoing improvement requires a constant search for processes that can be improved.

Our first objective is not continuous process performance improvement. We need first to be deliberately focused on continuous problem finding. Our first priority is not to close performance gaps, but to create them! Turning the circles makes that possible.

Get the circles turning!

Enabling the circles to turn

figure 4

The critical elements of process-based management are that organizations discover their processes, understand how they should perform, know how they are performing, decide what performance gaps are worth closing, and take steps to make the required closures.

And repeat, forever.

Many projects over many years have identified seven elements that together support process-based management, i.e. enable the circles to turn.

All seven enablers are important, if any one was missing there would be a problem. All should be developed at the same time to give the best chance of effective, sustainable process-based management.

These are the 7Enablers:

  1. Discovering, understanding, and documenting the organization’s processes in a hierarchical modelProcess Architecture
  2. Defining process performance measures and measurement methods, along with collecting and reporting performance data — Process Measurement
  3. Responding to the process measurement data by taking appropriate action to address actual or emergent performance anomalies — Process Governance
  4. Continuously discovering processes that can perform better and finding ways to close the performance gaps — Process Change
  5. Creating an environment where the organization, its people, and their teams are conscious of processes in which they participate — Process Mindset
  6. Developing the tools and skills required to identify, analyze, improve, and manage business processes — Process Capability
  7. Providing the support required throughout to develop, sustain, and realize the benefits of process-based management — Process Support

The core artefact is the process architecture since documenting the key processes is the necessary first step. Once documented, processes can be measured, and once we have measures, we need the governance arrangements to define who should respond to the performance reports. These first three enablers (architecture, measurement, governance) are the ‘physical infrastructure’ on which the rest is built. Continuous process improvement is the cornerstone of process-based management. Without process improvement — and its sibling, process innovation—all else is waste. For process management and improvement to become ubiquitous, it must be embedded in the organization culture. Having a central specialist group to do all process work does not scale and will soon impose a bizarre restriction on process management and improvement work. Therefore, it is necessary to build the capability for identifying, analyzing, improving, and managing business processes throughout the organization.


figure 5

This high-level model tripartite model of process governance has developed over my years of projects. It’s a generic model to be tailored to suit individual organizations and their environments; the components don’t change but the names often do. There are three themes in the model that are necessary for effective process governance: authority, ownership, and support.

Process Owners are the linchpin as they are the voice of the process. They take ownership of the need to respond to the process performance measurement.

The Process Council is the source of whole-of-organization authority and the place to which process owners can escalate concerns and ideas.

The Office of BPM (aka Process Office, BPM Group, Center of Excellence, Center of Expertise, etc.) provides support to process owners, council, and all stakeholders.

The Process Council, Process Owners, and the Office of BPM all have an important role to play in the proper and timely completion of these activities.

Get the picture?

These five pictures are the gallery of my process-based management philosophy.

We deliver value through cross-functional processes and that means there is usually a missing piece of management. Processes need to be continuously managed if they are to be continuously improved, and to achieve that state requires deliberate and mindful development. Process-based management is not just about developing new artifacts, it must also be about using them and that comes down to effective process governance.

If you would really like to ‘get the picture’ for your next presentation or report, send me an email and I’ll send you the image/PowerPoint file.

PDF Version

Roger Tregear

Roger Tregear

As the Principal Advisor with TregearBPM (, Roger Tregear delivers BPM courses and consulting assignments around the world. Roger spends his working life talking, consulting, thinking, and writing about analysis, improvement, innovation, and management of business processes. His work with clients is in organizational performance improvement and problem solving based on BPM capability development, and business process, analysis, improvement, and management. He helps small and large organizations understand the potential, and realize the practical benefits, of process-based management. Roger is the author of the book Reimagining Management. Contact Roger on +61 (0)419 220 280 or at


One response to “Practical Process: Picturing Process”

  1. Eustachio Nicoletti

    Good morning Mr. Treager,
    congratulation for this you article: very clear.
    Please, have you written anything about process measures but specificaly about customer satisfaction?
    In my experience I’ve found financial kpi, most of time, process efficiency kpi, something, and never customer satisfaction kpi that I found inconsistent because the main (not the only) stakeholder to satisfy is the customer. What do you think?
    Thank you

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