This blog has planted a long row of posts on processes (See my posts of April 27, 2006 which defines processes; May 1, 2006 about the breadth of the term; June 28, 2006 on their importance; and Aug. 13, 2006 on components of processes; Oct. 16, 2006 on processes in law departments generally; and Oct. 18, 2006 which compares processes to “tools.”). There is much more to say about processes in law departments.
Why are processes a useful construct for general counsel? Because once you identify and understand processes you can streamline them and teach people to step through them more adroitly (See my posts of Oct. 30, 2005 on guidelines for processes; and Aug. 28, 2005 on process maps.).
Every activity in a law department can be subsumed in one or more processes (See my post of). Processes are a fundamental unit of activity, while most of them can be aggregated with others into a larger process. At the most macro aggregation, everything a law department does could be lumped into one process: helping the company avoid legal problems. At the micro end there can be processes for issuing and tracking litigation holds (See my post of Feb. 5, 2007 on software that helps this process.).
Processes fit within a more comprehensive organizational framework (See my posts of Aug. 13, 2006 on processes, tools, and productivity; June 28, 2006 and the need for continual vigilance.). As just one consequence of this view, all analysis of errors should be thought of as process analysis (See my post of Nov. 14, 2005 on Six Sigma.).
All processes exist as a range of activities that can vary (See my post of Nov. 26, 2006 on spectrum of processes and practices.). Six Sigma methodologies dig for process wrinkles and try to iron them out (But see my post of Jan. 20, 2007 on the whether such techniques stifle innovation; and Jan. 16, 2007 regarding Lean Sigma at GE.).
Arguments can be made for and against every process (See my post of Dec. 17, 2006 on pros and cons for every process and practice.), which means to me, among other things, that there are no best practices. Fortunately, all processes produce metrics, whether or not managers collect them (See my post of Jan. 25, 2007 on this point.). Thus there is at least hope that empirical research can lead to improvements in processes.