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Improve Process Flow by Rethinking Roles & Responsibilities

Published: 20 Nov 2014 19:22:03 PST

How can you use process mapping to assign tasks effectively within an organization and improve process flow and quality

Last month we published an article, “How You Can Improve Quality At Your Organization In 4 Key Parts”, in which we discussed four key areas where you can revamp your organization to improve quality and process flow. Now, we'd like to delve into one such area in greater depth. The focus for today is on organizational structure and responsibilities.

Managing Expectations Of Roles&Responsibilities

To reiterate a key question that was raised in the earlier blog post, when we want to establish control of an organization in terms of structure we should be asking ourselves, “What is expected of each employee, your suppliers and meeting your customer requirements ”

Employees in a company should have direct involvement in the process of identifying specific roles and responsibilities so that each understands expectations for themselves and others as well as how decisions will affect those at various stages of the company.

Allocating Tasks Based On Roles & Responsibilitiesimprove-process-flow3

When first developing or reviewing the company structure and roles & responsibilities, it is beneficial to think about where each particular task would naturally fall within the organization, rather than, “who has some time to spare” or “who could do this ” If tasks are assigned on a workload rationale, the organization becomes dependent on people as opposed to process flow, and the natural flow of work becomes fragmented. Ask the question, “where would this task most likely reside to have the leanest effect on the work flow ” The following example illustrates this concept:

Company “A” has the following employee structure among four function groups:

Function Group

Number of Personnel

Logistics 7
Goods Receiving and Shipping8

After a review of the roles & responsibilities and process mapping the natural business flow, it was found that:

  • More processes naturally resided with Purchasing, who were already understaffed.
  • Fewer processes were needed with Manufacturing, who were only operating at 82% efficiency.
  • The Goods Receiving and Shipping group would save time and money by taking on 30% of the processes currently performed by Logistics.

A restructuring of the business process flow would result in the following distribution:

Function Group

Number of Personnel

Logistics(-2) 5
Purchasing(+2) 14
Manufacturing(-2) 32
Goods Receiving and Shipping(+2) 10

In this simple scenario we have diplomatically kept the headcount the same while managing to improve process flow. Although there are of course many variations and outcomes to this process mapping exercise, and can be taken to more complexity with “VSM” (Value Stream Mapping), this is also known in the automotive industry as “material and information flow mapping”.


If we want to improve process flow and quality within an organization, we must rethink the way we structure roles & responsibilities. Rather than asking ourselves, “Which employee has time to complete this task ” we should to be asking, “On which employee would the responsibility of this task naturally fall ” All too often, inefficiencies are created in work processes as a direct result of misallocating tasks. We can prevent this by involving employees in the process of determining roles & responsibilities, and in doing so, motivate employees to do their job better.

Finally, transparency, honesty and self-belief will not only go a long way with maintaining integrity, they are the foundation of a successful business. Set clear standards for integrity by creating and distributing a Code of Ethics for your organization. This is especially important in a multicultural organization (click here for an example Code of Ethics). The clearer your responsibilities and authorities are, the more effectively you will interact with your colleagues and the easier and more rewarding your job will be. Then you may feel truly self-motivated.

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