Process Direction


Some processes move in a particular direction.

“The grass verge is all blown land-wards. It must have bent in the same wind for a long time. Even bushes lean to-
wards the ground. Here the northerly wind is well known. As I stare out to see I can see a line of ships on the westerly
freight route, almost like a convoy, there are so many of them at this time of day. It is chilly. A flock of geese are flying
south. I watch in admiration as they embark on their long journey.”


In a business there is a basic flow of ‘inputs’ through the processes of the organisation which turns them into ‘outputs’
– goods and services which can be sold for enough profit that that profit can, in turn, purchase materials, people and
energy to also become inputs. Over time this process of inputting, processing, outputting and feedback profit back into
inputs keeps the business alive. The flow direction is ‘forwards’ for the basic production process. In terms of receiving
feedback and demands from customers, the direction of these processes are ‘backwards, up the line of production !

So, processes flow in different directions. Here, process innovation might involve changing the direction of a process
or making the direction clearer, or the ability to change direction more flexible.


Story time: The flexible laser process

With a bit of clever engineering, Mike and Sue were able to create a directional feed for their very costly laser-welding
machine. This enabled the laser to serve three production lines at once. Combined with a good communication system,
the machine could direct energy to a laser-welding tool located on each line. When required, the machine could be
activated from three completely different locations in the factory.

In the same factory a vacuum cleaner was adapted so that it could meet two different needs. In certain locations the
traditional vacuum ‘sucking process’ was required to clear dust from a workbench. In another part the machine could
be switched to blow out air, which quickly removed waste from a bench on to a floor with more precision, ensuring small
waste didn’t stay in corners of tools and jigs. This could then be vacuumed from the floor.


Process ‘flows’ activity

Write an example of a process, which flows, from you in the direction either of an internal or an external customer:

For example: I provide scheduling information to the production line

Write an example of a process that flows back up the supply chain from you:

For example: I provide purchase order for suppliers

Write an example of a process that flows downwards from you to a person or a group who report to you:

For example: I give my secretary faxes to send

Write an example of a process that flows towards you from a boss:

For example: My boss sets my performance objectives for the financial period.

Write an example of a process that goes out from you and eventually comes back to you:

For example: I send out quality reports which are read by other departments, commented upon, and returned to me
before a write a final draft.

As you can see, processes flow in all kinds of directions in an organisation. Problems often related to processes where
the direction is wrong or unclear.


Visit the Innovation Realm

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