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Process definitions are high level descriptions instead of rigid workflows
Processes can only be defined up to a certain level of detail, and it is difficult to provide low level work instructions or to automate decisions. Because they cannot be formalised in detail, process simulation is rarely possible. Decisions are highly subjective and too complex to be expressed in a formal language, as they are taken based on intuition and not on rigid business rules.
It is extremely important to continuously improve knowledge processes, by creating an environment through which they can evolve. This can only be achieved through coordination of diverse disciplines such as knowledge management, change management, expectations management, etc... It is crucial to establish an adequate process context (the combination of technologies, procedures, people, etc... that support processes). The process context must incorporate feedback mechanisms, change evaluation procedures, process improvement methods and techniques and must be flexible, in order to be able to incorporate enhancements in an agile but controlled way.
If process is instantiated frequently and instances are homegeneous, it is possible to create great process models that dramatically increase efficiency of process. The best way to ensure process improvement is to generate an environment in which people are motivated, enthusiastic and passionate about process management.
Most of time, knowledge processes are collaborative. By performing a process collaboratively it is possible that each task is carried out by most specialised, experienced and knowledgeable worker in that specific area. Having a net of relations within organization is a very important asset for people executing knowledge processes.
In last years some organizations have emerged with aim of creating professional communities around specific disciplines such as Software Development (SEI, ESI, etc...), Project Management (PMI), Business Process Management (BPMI), IT Service Management (ITSMF), etc... One of objectives of these groups is to develop a body of knowledge that compiles discipline's best practices in form of reference frameworks, methodologies and maturity models. These assets should be considered by any organization interested in knowledge process management.
It is usual that knowledge processes take form of projects to manage their execution. If output of process is a unique product, managing work as a project will result in obvious advantages.
There are certain guidelines that can help an organization willing to improve their knowledge processes:
Provide process description on how to approach work
Try to figure out best way to carry out a knowledge process, by making best practices existing in your organization (or in your industry) explicit. Publish process definitions in a format that is easy to consult and understand.
Provide tools that facilitate and standardize work
Decide which tools are best to help knowledge workers carry out their work. Involving all affected knowledge workers in process of deciding which tools will be used is very convenient, in order to obtain user buy in. It is a good idea to choose a champion for each tool who will master its use.
Assign owners to processes
Choose a person with leadership skills and appropriate level of responsibility and influence and make him/her accountable for continuous improvement of process. Give him/her a clear objective to achieve and an incentive to reach goal.
Encourage feedback for process improvement
To ensure that flow of information between executors and process owner is fluid, encourage people to contribute to process enhancement through incentives. Use your imagination to reward contributors (consider not only monetary incentives).
Lucas Rodríguez Cervera is founder and CEO of Nevant – Process documentation software a company specialized in delivering process solutions to knowledge based companies. They pioneered this concept with metoCube.