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What's in a name? A simple trick to defining processes

Are you guilty of having an "invoicing" process? What about an "onboarding" process? These are very common titles that process documents tend to carry, and often when I workshop with a team of key users, they suggest similar names to processes we have identified.


This is not a good idea. First; a single word as a process title is never descriptive enough. What am I invoicing? Am I sending, receiving, processing, or approving the invoice (or all of the above)? Who is handling the invoice itself? This leads to vague process definitions, vague roles and responsibilities, and ambiguous process ownership. It can also lead to a process map that looks very similar to an organization chart. "Finance" isn't a process. Even if you don't only use one word, the choice of language (active versus passive) makes a large difference.


Think instead of forcing yourself to use a verb-noun pairing. "Approve invoice" forces you to define that process as such. "Onboard employee" makes it clear we are not onboarding customers or suppliers. A verb-noun pairing won't seem to come naturally initially, but it will help put you in the process definition mindset. Specifically, use active verbs.


Often, this will also force you to break up processes that are too large, and a key sign of this is when you have a 1:1 transference for the object of the process, where the object is the item moving through the process (an invoice, a new employee, a leave request form, etc.) More on object transference ratios in a separate blog post, coming soon.


Here are some other examples of process names that I have redefined.


  1. Part Ordering; Request Components, Approve Order, Create PO

  2. Contract Management; Create Contract, Approve Contract

  3. New Hire Process; Onboard Employee

  4. Ticketing; Request Support, Request Hardware.

  5. Sales process; Qualify Leads, Negotiate Deal, Register Customer

  6. Loan Servicing: Approve Loan, Book Loan, Close Line of Credit


Take a look at your process landscape, identify processes that do not follow the Verb-Noun pairing, and see if you can change their titles.


And for bonus fun - notice how public signs are phrased, and how you would improve them using the same technique. For example, what would make a stronger impression on a sign, "No Parking" or "Don't Park Here"? "Left Turn Only", or "Turn Left Only"? The active verb creates a small change, but with a big mental reaction.



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