A business must listen and respond to a multitude of different voices. In this article, we will discuss the Voice of the Process, or VOP, what it means, how to gather it, how it will benefit your organization, and how it can be used to balance with the other voices you must listen to.
Overview: What is the Voice of the Process, or VOP?
In any organization, there are a number of voices that provide guidance to help you manage your business. You have the Voice of the Customer (VOC), which expresses the needs, wants and expectations that your customers have for your business. The Voice of the Business (VOB) details what people want, need, and expect of your business. The Voice of the Employee (VOE) expresses the needs, wants, and expectations of the people that work for your organization. And finally, you have the Voice of the Process, or VOP, which defines the capability of your processes to meet the wants, needs, and expectations of your VOC and VOB.
The problem is that there must be balance between all the voices since they will often be in conflict. Your VOP may have a significant clash with your VOC. The customer may dictate a spec for quality and for delivery that you’re not capable of meeting without significant effort and cost. Of course, that would also clash with your VOB, whose needs include being profitable.
The VOP often comes from the use of common Lean Six Sigma statistical tools. A run chart and control chart will tell you whether your processes are stable or not. The control chart will tell you whether you are in control or not and whether you are exhibiting common cause or special cause variation. By knowing this information, you will be able to determine what type of action to take on your process to enable you to meet the VOC. Process capability and metrics such as Cpk will clarify to what degree your process is capable.
3 benefits of Voice of the Process
It is critical for your organization to gather, interpret, and properly respond to what you hear from your VOP. By doing so, you will increase the probability of your ability to be consistent with your organization’s VOC.
By thoroughly gathering and analyzing your VOP, you will gain insight into what you need to do to meet the wants, needs, and expectations of your customers. If you don’t have that insight, how can you adjust and adapt to be successful?
2. Common language
If everyone is focused on the same issues and have clearly defined them, then everyone in the organization will be aligned and work in unison rather than at cross purposes. You will often hear the refrain, “Let your data speak.”
There will be conflicts between your VOC and VOP. One benefit of knowing the specifics of your VOP is that you will be able to achieve balance between your processes capability and your customer’s expectations.
Why is Voice of the Process important to understand?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t fix it. That is why you need to clearly define and understand your VOP. As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
You can’t rely on a subjective definition of your VOP. it is important for your VOP to be objectively and quantitatively defined so everyone has the same understanding of what your VOP means. You may need to do a little training of organizational personnel so they understand what and how the statistical tools are being used to define your VOP.
It provides process orientation
Once your VOP is fully understood, you can then link it to the specific underlying processes you’ll need to improve to allow you to meet the needs, wants, and expectations of your VOC and your VOB.
It’s a key link
Not only is it important to understand your VOP, you also need to have the same level of understanding particularly of your VOC. You will want to look for overlaps and conflicts and eliminate or mitigate them — otherwise, you may create customer dissatisfaction.
An industry example of VOP
A medium-sized retail company was focused on their Voice of the Customer. Through a series of surveys and interviews, they gathered information from their customers and felt that they had a good understanding of what the customer wants, needs, and expectations were. They kicked off a high-intensity customer effort and focused all of their energies on meeting that VOC.
Four months later, their head of manufacturing reported that defects were up, variation had increased, delivery times had lengthened, and product returns were up. The CEO was not happy to hear all of that. One senior leader, Janine, who had received some Lean Six Sigma training at a former employer, raised the issue of possible conflicts between the VOP and the VOC.
The CEO charged Janine with the responsibility of developing and executing a plan for evaluating the VOP and coming up with a plan to improve the critical processes that were not currently capable of meeting the customer’s specs.
3 best practices when thinking about VOP
It is difficult to gather, analyze, and interpret all of the business voices, including your VOP. Here are a few tips that might help.
1. Go beyond the obvious
The traditional financial metrics are the ones you would initially gravitate towards. That’s fine, but look beyond those to other metrics that might be customer-focused, employee-focused, and process-focused that should also be part of what you listen to.
2. Be quantitative not qualitative
There is considerably less confusion when people talk in terms of numbers compared to feelings and emotions. Define your VOP in terms of control limits, Cpk, types of variation, averages, standard deviations, and other statistical descriptors.
3. Don’t assume
Don’t rely on assumptions or hearsay. Gather as much data as you can firsthand. Also consider doing some MSA to gain confidence that you can trust your data and your measurement system.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Voice of the Process
Where does the (VOP) come from?
The primary source for your VOP will be your process data and metrics along with other internal quantitative data. The first pass at your VOP can come from your process maps and other process tools such as Pareto analysis, histograms, and fishbone diagrams.
How do I collect my VOP?
The development of your data collection system should include such considerations as sample size, operational definitions of your metrics, frequency of data collection, and the selection of the most appropriate statistical tools for analysis.
Is there a relationship between VOP and VOC?
Most definitely. Your VOC is what your customer needs and wants. Your VOP is whether you can meet those customer needs and wants. Both must be consistent and not in conflict with your VOB.
Let’s summarize the Voice of the Process
Your VOP consists of the statistical indicators of whether your process is capable of meeting the wants, needs, and expectations of your VOC. They are primarily focused on quantitative metrics. Data is defined, gathered, and analyzed to help ascertain what process changes might be needed to keep your customers happy.
But, there are other voices a business must listen to. You must respond to and balance your VOP with your VOB, which are the needs of the business. And don’t forget the Voice of the Employee (VOE). Your employees have needs and expectations that are impacted by the VOC, VOP, and VOB. This juggling of the four voices is a challenge your organization must seek to optimize.