The Laws of Process Optimization

Two major ideas should drive process improvement efforts, two ideas that, taken together, form a core philosophy that underlies effective improvement initiatives. As such, they might well be thought of as “Laws” of process optimization, inasmuch as those who accept these as fact – as fundamental principles behind their improvement programs – will enjoy far greater success for their efforts. Conversely, those who ignore them or fail to recognize them as important foundational principles will more often than not fail in their quest for operational excellence.

The First Law of Process Optimization is also commonly known as the first law of ecology; that is, thateverything is connected to everything else. This notion has been variously attributed, sometimes to Lenin, other times to Goethe; I’m sure some other folks have grabbed credit as well. But the idea is a strong one and one that is too often overlooked when attacking process improvement efforts. A quick read of some earlier entries in this blog will reveal that I believe wholeheartedly in this concept, and that the very idea is carried throughout the methodology I employ in my process improvement engagements. (See, for example, my entry, The Big Picture from November 7, 2006.)

The next idea, the Second Law of Process Optimization, is a simple engineering tenet: that a collection of local optima do not yield a global optimum. This, of course, is related to the First Law when one considers that the global process environment (e.g., the enterprise) comprises a web of local processes and process environments (e.g., divisions, departments or other business units).

These Laws support the contention that process improvement efforts are best accomplished by taking a top-down approach, where strategic imperatives quantified by specific, measurable, well documented and widely communicated objectives, are the light guiding improvement efforts, and like all roads leading to Rome, all processes lead to the fulfillment of organizational objectives.