Efficient Core Processes Necessary for Good Teamwork

Posted by Kristin Arnold on November 13, 2008

Most workplace teams are familiar with a “strategic” vocabulary, including mission (what the business team is chartered to do), vision (the picture of the team or organization’s most preferred future), goals and objectives (the important milestones to reaching the vision), and strategies (how the team is going to achieve the goals).  Mission, vision, goals, and strategies are foundational elements that unite a team toward achieving extraordinary results.

Let’s take it down a notch and look at the operational or “process” equivalents that many teams forget to address:  core processes and key support processes.

Most teams have three to five core processes that are essential to the team’s work.  Core processes are those activities that your team’s “customer” cares about.  They typically involve everyone on the team or every function of the business.  Core processes make or break the team’s ability to accomplish the mission.

Key support processes, on the other hand, are those three to five processes that your customer couldn’t care less about, but the team sure does!  For example,  do you like to get paid or get trained to do your job correctly and efficiently?  It’s the “back-room” stuff that needs to be done — and done well.

If you haven’t ever invested the time to identify your core and key support processes, try having everyone on your team write down everything that they do on index cards.  Use a verb-noun format, such as “prepare reports,” “assemble widgets,” or “provide answers.”

As a team, take the index cards and sort them.  You will find that some index cards are “subprocesses” of a larger process.  Keep sorting through the cards until you have identified a handful of core and key support processes.

OK, so that was interesting, enlightening, and insightful.  So now what?

As a team, take each process and ask:

  1. Is this process understood by all team members?
  2. Is the process documented?
  3. Is the process operating as documented?
  4. Are you measuring how efficiently the team is using this process?  If so, what are the measures?
  5. If there is a problem in the process, how do you improve it?

At the minimum, all processes should be understood and documented.  Most processes limp along because each team member is busy doing individual activities within the processes.  They haven’t linked their activities together.

So ask each person on the team to be a “process owner” of one core or key support process — someone who will take the big-picture view of the process and marshal the energy to improve the process.

The process owner is the team member with the most to gain (or lose) and has the credibility and resources to improve the team’s work.

Question:  Have you tried assigning “process ownership” and how has it worked for you?

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