The Value of Reliable Process

October 25, 2019 · 2 minutes

If you are interested in reducing random or recurring issues you will find this article valuable. In a previous posting titled, ”Process First” I used the term “reliable process” and here is my definition.

Everything is accomplished by a process. It might be an undocumented process, everyone may have their own version of a process, or one person may use a slightly different process every time they perform the same task.

A "Reliable Process" is one that is documented, consistently followed, and produces the same results each time it is performed.

A reliable process does not mean that the process is perfect. The process may not produce the best product or service. It might not produce results that meet the customer specifications, but you can “rely” on it to repeatedly produce the same results and this allows everyone involved to methodically identify issues and implement improvements in a controlled manner.

To make a point, here’s a story about getting my hunting license. At the age of fourteen kids would attend a gun safety and hunting regulations class that involved lectures, a multiple-choice test, rifle handling, cleaning, and multiple days of shooting practice. My neighbor, Kevin, and I took the class together. Ten kids on the indoor range at a time using 22 rifles. There was a building support post in the middle with five kids on each side. The same with the targets, five targets on each side of the center post. One the final day for the shooting test, Kevin and I were in the center. Kevin was to the left of the post and I was to the right of the post. I failed the shooting test. I didn’t even hit my target once. Kevin passed with all 10 shots on or within one inch of the bullseye. I knew I did some good shooting and the staff was confused by many extra shots all over the place on Kevin’s target. I had to take the entire course over. This time I discovered that six targets were on one side of the post and four were on the other side instead of five and five. So I was shooting at Kevin’s target. Early on in practice sessions during my second class, the instructor asked me to enter competition. I went on to place second in state competition.

The point is my shooting was reliable. Every shot hit the wrong bullseye, I was simply off-target and the corrective action required was easy to implement. Kevin’s were not as reliable. Most were on the paper target but not all were within the outermost ring and possibly none were bullseyes.

It is much easier to improve a reliable process compared to one that is producing results all over the board. If an organization is not process focused it can take a while to instill process principles throughout the organization but the return will be well worth the effort. The key point is a reliable process must be performed consistently.