The fundamental reference for all four SLP assignments is the Department of Defense Continuous Process Improvement Transformation Guidebook. You should acquaint yourself with its contents before beginning the first SLP, refer to it throughout the course, and cite relevant portions as you prepare each SLP assignment.
The Google online dictionary defines the noun “process” as, “A series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular end.” The Business Dictionary (Webfinance, 2017a) gives a more specific definition: “A sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources (employee time, energy, machines, money) to convert inputs (data, material, parts, etc.) into outputs. These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or end result is reached.”
Deciding what belongs and what doesn’t belong to a particular process can be challenging. A common cliché states that “Everything is connected to everything else.” Here’s an example. Buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks is connected to:
We could spin the list out indefinitely; electricity production, for example, is related to the production of fossil fuels, which in turn is affected by the political stability of the Gulf states, etc. But the further afield we go, the less relevance there is to that cup of coffee.
As the Webfinance (2017a) definition implies, any process consists of subprocesses, each of which can be considered a process in its own right. Staying with the coffee example:
Even greater levels of detail could be specified. For example, “Filling a cup” could be considered as a discrete process, consisting of taking a cup from a dispenser, placing it under the espresso machine, loading the machine with coffee, starting the machine, waiting, removing the cup from under the machine, and passing it to the server. Some coffee products may require additional steps, such as foaming milk with steam.
The first task in Continuous Process Improvement is to identify the process. We must decide exactly what, for our purposes, is part of the process, and what is not. This decision is arbitrary. Here are some examples.
As we’ve implied, every process takes place in a larger context (we could also say environment), which provides the resources, inputs, and outputs. The context for each of the items above would be:
Identifying the process within its context consists of identifying the specific resources allocated to that process, its inputs, and its outputs.
Think of a specific process you’re familiar with. The process should be sufficiently important to merit improvement, and also sufficiently complex to offer room for improvement. Filling a coffee cup, for example, could be considered a process, and may be important, but it’s so simple that it’s difficult to see how it could be improved. On the other hand; running an aircraft repair facility is a process within the larger process of running an Air Force Wing, and while it’s definitely important, it would be too complex for this SLP.
Any process is embedded in a context. This is the organization which provides its resources, its inputs, and either consumes or distributes its output.
Before going further, please read all of the SLP assignments, to make sure you don’t do everything at once. That would result in an overly long paper, which despite its length, wouldn’t have sufficient details or adequate explanations. For this SLP, the specific tasks are:
Bear in mind that resources, inputs, and outputs may consist of materials, products, or services, or any combination thereof.