The Definition of Process

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about process improvement lately. I think some of my frustration with current process improvement methodologies is that we don’t properly define process.

The common process mapping acronym SIPOC (Supplier – Input – Process – Output – Customer) leaves off what I believe is the most important part of any process – the purpose of the process, or what the process hopes to achieve. Let me illustrate:

I worked with an organization around some process automation and asked a question “What is the purpose of this process?” The answer – “To create a report.” No – the purpose of that process was to transfer information – the report was simply the means – the output. Perhaps a better way to transfer the information wasn’t a report, but a dashboard, or a stand-up meeting. (Matter of fact, after discussing the purpose of the report, we actually eliminated it as the information was redundant to another report).

I think we need to amend the definition of process – “A process is a series of Activities that Create an Output designed to Achieve a Purpose.

If we step back and make the first step of any process discovery the discussion of purpose, a host of possibilities opens up. Is the purpose relevant or correct? Is the output the best way to achieve the purpose? This is exactly why the topmost box in the Process Innovation Canvas is purpose.

I urge you to think about purpose in your next process improvement efforts.

For more information about the Process Innovation Canvas and Framework, contact me directly –