Process centering

Process centering involves shifting as many consecutive work steps as possible around a single person. Doing so can massively streamline processes by eliminating non-value-added activities.

One of the key organizational flaws in many organizations is the inordinate amount of time required to complete any process. It can take many days to process a customer order or any other transaction, even though the amount of time spent actually working on a transaction may only require a few minutes or hours. This problem is usually because of the problems engendered by process handoffs from one employee to another.

A simple example is a request by a customer for credit. This request goes from the order entry staff to the credit department, where information is requested from bank and trade references, after which a credit decision is reached, sent to the credit manager for approval, and then the process is shifted back to the order entry staff - which then launches the order internally for fulfillment, probably a number of days after the request was originally made. All of these employee "touches" are commonly found in most business processes.

The concept of too many employee touches also results in a large amount of lost paperwork, since it can be delayed, completely lost, or mixed in with other paperwork. In addition, it is difficult to assign blame to anyone involved in a process, when so many people are involved in the process.

Following the process centering approach has the following benefits:

  • A massive reduction in the number of paperwork transfers between employees
  • An attendant reduction in the amount of lost paperwork
  • The elimination of all time that documents sit in someone's inbound work queue
  • The assignment of responsibility for a process to a specific individual
  • A massive reduction in the amount of time required to complete an entire process
  • More fulfilling work for employees, who can now handle transactions from beginning to end

A clear side effect of process centering is much higher customer satisfaction with those processes that they see, since their orders are likely to be fulfilled more quickly.

Issues with Process Centering

The key issue with process centering is that it requires the complete reconstruction of existing processes, which interferes with existing, well-known work flows. Consequently, those most comfortable in their jobs may be the most resistant to the concept. Only strong support from senior management can overcome this level of deeply rooted resistance.

This issue can be avoided if process centering is adopted during the formation of a startup company, so that all future growth of the company is founded upon a set of highly efficient processes.