The Baldrige model is a process model. Leaders who feel like people or parts of their organizations are pulling in different directions can use process thinking to pull them together.
Process thinking builds a customer focus. Process thinking begins with a rock-solid understanding of customer requirements. Each process concludes by delivering products and/or services that serve those requirements. Process thinking contributes to a customer focus by making it easier to identify and eliminate work that does not add value to customers.
Process thinking improves quality and cycle time. Core processes cut across functional boundaries. Improving these processes means improving within the functions, but it also means improving between functions. The cross-functional nature of process thinking brings new perspectives to old ways of doing business. Cross-functional and customer focused means decisions are made based on the needs of the customer, not the needs of the function.
Process thinking reduces costs. A process orientation allows you to take huge amounts of costs out of the system while still improving customer satisfaction. It keeps your eye on both objectives simultaneously.
Process thinking helps drive fear out of the organization. The functional organization encourages blame. If something fails, someone must be at fault. Process thinking means blaming the process, not the person. As quality expert Joseph Juran discovered in studies of a variety of companies in the early 1950s, only 20% of production-level problems could be controlled by workers. The other 80% were problems with the system. Process thinking focuses on the system, transforming a culture of blame into a culture of cooperative problem solving.
Process thinking promotes creative, empowered employees. As an organization gains control of its processes, it can free people to act creatively as long as their improvements respect the process and the organization’s objectives. Clear objectives and well-managed processes keep people focused far better than the old command-and-control approach.
Process thinking supports strategic thinking and organizational design. Strategic thinking and organizational design help an organization become flexible enough to anticipate and respond to major change. Process thinking helps the organization be agile enough to act quickly and decisively in new directions.
Process thinking helps optimize the entire organization. Viewing an organization as a collection of processes rather than as departmental silos is necessary to optimize the organization as a whole. Processes are the relevant, logical framework for analyzing the effectiveness of the entire organization.
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