I’m often asked which comes first - Strategy or Process? Without knowing the context, the answer is – it’s both.
Recently, I was booking a place at an event; the process went something like this -
I phone to register for an industry event. The operator answers the phone politely, then checks the event – date/time, title, location, and confirms it’s the right the event for me. They collect my details, name, business name, email, payment etc. and check the phone number (“this one?”). Registration is completed - “confirmation will be sent to your email address”.
Simple, clear, succinct, professional. Another attendee, and a happy client.
So, how does this happen? Good information is available in the system, you understand the 20 different events coming up in the next three months schedule, you can access the information easily, the ‘script’ was well designed (and evolved through practice), and the process of collecting and confirming the information from the customer is logical, and its recording straightforward. Good processes are an integration of – systems, methods and people – linked to strategy.
Congratulations. Now all you have to do is deliver the actual service.
Possibly your service delivery is well prescribed, a routine activity; or maybe it’s different, depending on the customer’s particular needs for the service, or the service context. Can you make the process work well for your customers? Processes need to be well designed - within supply constraints, whilst meeting market demands - to actually match up to your customer requirements.
We are all customers for something, but switching our minds around when it’s our company/ operation/ process can be difficult. Look through the customer’s eyes if you can, and you see a different perspective.
With good flexibility processes can still effectively serve multiple contexts. But to ensure that, the service provider – accountant, lawyer, marketing manager, sales person, technician, front of house personnel, policy maker – needs to understand the process, and be confident about how to serve the customer.
If business strategy has been determined and is operating well, then processes fit the strategy – they will deliver ‘service’ consistently for the targeted markets. Processes will only need attention - to improve performance, develop better processes - as markets evolve.
When new products are being added, or new channels, new competitors, new partners, new customers, or organisations merged, then the strategy will change and it’s more than probable that processes will need to be changed - to support the new environment.
So, strategy or processes? – both must fit together. Good design leads to good processes, confident staff, and satisfied customers and profitable business.