The other day I took part in an ISO 9000 Internal Audit.  The topic of the session was  “Can we demonstrate that the processes that we have put in place are leading to operational improvements”.  In other words, are we getting better at what we do.     We discussed the process improvements that we’ve made and a variety of metrics that we utilize to monitor the operation.   Somewhere during the conversation I asked if there was a way to measure the rate of change for certain processes.

 I started with an assumption that any planned or designed process change would only be done for reasons of improvement.  Why would we intentionally make things worse?   We do a very good job of documenting things like assembly procedures, checklists and forms.  But our documentation on larger business processes is very generic.   Processes such as placing purchase requests,  processing customer returns,  incoming inspection requirements,  product feature requests, corrective actions, etc…   All of these have a process,  but they are not documented to the detail level.   Which is probably okay,  this allows the individual to pursue, within a larger control, some flexibility to execute.    But it doesn’t answer my question of “How often has this process changed?”  This to me would be a good indicator of a company’s ability to learn and adapt.

 I’m not sure of the correct way to handle this.  I want to be able to rationally measure changes, but I do not want to burden the operation with a need to document every detail of every process, and then require any change to go through a change process (ECO).

 I assume that early in a process life the rate of change would be relatively frequent, compared to a mature process.    At a certain point a process becomes stable.  This is when it becomes entrenched and harder to change.  It is these mature processes that present the greatest opportunity for real improvement.  If something hasn’t changed in years, there’s probably some way to improve it.