Question 8: Quality of Process or Process of Quality?

Even a cursory comparison of quality management and process management principles and practices shows there is considerable overlap between the two; both are ultimately focused on the consistent, cost-effective delivery of appropriate products or services to customers and other stakeholders. How do you see BPM and quality management being the same and/or different?

How do you see BPM and quality management being the same and/or different?


Our authors took several divergent approaches to this question. Some suggested that quality concerns were a subset of a broader BPM approach. Others suggested they were different, but complementary. Most suggested that the response to this question would vary, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Stepping back, one might have wished that someone had provided a bit more history. Early in the last century, most process work was termed ‘work simplification’, and associated with Taylor’s work on defining the ‘one best way to do a task’. This type of analysis focused on production lines, and sought to define each job in a production line.

In the U.S., this work became associated with industrial engineering, and later with quality control, which put a special emphasis on examining the output of processes to determine that they had been correctly assembled. Later, led by the American Society for Quality, a variety of specific techniques was developed to monitor and assure consistent quality. There is a sense in which Lean was simply a Japanese effort to apply quality control and work simplification to production lines. This very brief history suggests that the two have always been connected. On the other hand, today’s BPM covers many things that were never included in traditional industrial engineering. The emphasis on the management of processes or the emphasis on using business rules to define the knowledge used in processes play a major role in BPM. Clearly BPM and quality control share a lot and, equally, it is clear that many Lean and Six Sigma people regard their work as distinct from BPM. It will be interesting to see where all this stands in another ten or twenty years.

Roger Addison
Performance Architect, Addison Consulting

Carol Haig
Principal, Carol Haig & Associates

Performance architects work in a variety of functions in a broad spectrum of organizations. Most probably think of themselves as whatever their job title says they are, and have never considered that they are also performance architects. However, if they rely on a body of experience, proven approaches, and documented successes to help workers meet and exceed performance goals, then these folks are, indeed, performance architects.

Business Process Management. Think of BPM as a large umbrella under which all performance architects in all organizations “…share an interest in thinking of their organization as a system, of linking activities into processes, of measuring processes, and organizing people and support systems to make business processes more efficient and effective. All have best practices and everyone would benefit if they shared their knowledge and skills.”

Quality management. A system in its own right, sits under the all-encompassing Business Process Management system umbrella. The performance architect sees the need for these two systems to operate together to ensure quality standards are met. It is helpful to think of the relationship between these two critical systems and one of checks and balances.

Ahmad Alibabaei
Professor, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences

[S]table and reliable processes can assure that organization products and services would be based on the specifications and customer expectations and, as a result, a better quality can be achieved. That’s the goal of BPM, and it satisfies the needs of quality management.

Peter Matthijssen
Senior Consultant, BiZZdesign

Again, there are many definitions of BPM and visions on the scope of BPM. Similarly, there are different visions on the scope of quality management. Depending on these definitions and visions, quality management could be included in the BPM practice or positioned next to BPM. For sure, there is a strong relationship between quality management and BPM.

The control-approaches in BPM have a strong relationship with quality management. Controlling is not about change, but is about a predictive performance of processes.

Gilles Morin
Founder, BPMPlus

I would associate continuous improvement to the Lean view. Quality control or compliance and BPM are different if your quality controls are product driven and not process driven. In the case of service, the lines are not that clear, as service can be seen as a customer-driven packaged process. In that sense, quality management and process performance management overlap.

Ron Ross
CEO, Business Rules Solutions

My expanded conclusion: When there isn’t any physical product from a business process, quality and defects must be measured by consistency and reliability of results, which are, in turn, always purely a matter of business rules.

Paul Harmon and Roger Tregear

Paul Harmon is the executive editor of BPTrends website and the Chief Methodologist of BPTrends Associates and the author of Business Process Change, 3rd edition. He can be reached at As a Consulting Director with Leonardo Consulting, Roger Tregear delivers BPM courses and consulting assignments around the world. Based in Canberra (Australia) Roger spends his working life talking, consulting, thinking and writing about analysis, improvement and management of business processes. His work with clients is on short and long term assignments, in organizational improvement and problem solving based on BPM capability development, and business process, analysis, improvement, and management. He is available to help small and large organizations understand the potential, and realize the practical benefits, of process-centric thinking and management. Contact Roger at

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