The four principles of process science

  1. Energy flows through processes to create value
  2. Anything in motion is a process
  3. If a process exists, there is value being produced
  4. Any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely. Any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long.

Process science, like other scientific disciplines, has certain “laws”–or “principles”–which serve as the foundation for the entire body of knowledge. These principles are the fundamental building blocks on which the applied practice of process science is built. If you understand these four principles, you will always be able to orient yourself when viewing a new process or set of processes for the first time.

Overview of the Four Process Principles

The Four Process Principles build upon each other. Each principle follows from the previous one. These principles are:

  1. Energy flows through processes to create value.
  2. Anything in motion is a process.
  3. If a process exists, there is value being produced.
  4. Any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely. Any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long.

Energy flows through processes to create value

The First Process Principle states that “Energy flows through processes to create value”. 

This statement represents the heart of the process science discipline. If you understand this single sentence, you will be able to tap into process vision

This first principle refers to three of the key elements of process science: energy, process and value. Energy can take many forms, but in its simplest it represents the capacity for doing work (this is a definition which process science shares with physics). The first law of thermodynamics (in physics) states that “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only changed from one form to another”. The method by which energy is transformed is called a process. 

Anything in motion is a process

The Second Process Principle states that “Anything in motion is a process”. 

The principles of energy are in relationship with the principles of motion we learn in physics. Physics teaches us that any object in motion contains kinetic energy. Because it moves through both time and space, the energy contained in motion cannot remain static but is always in a state of transformation. In other words, anything in motion is necessarily transforming energy. 

Since the mechanism by which energy is transformed into value is known as a process, this correlation can be expressed in the following logical sequence:

Thing in motion = mechanism that transforms energy
Mechanism that transforms energy = process
Thing in motion = process

If a process exists, there is value being produced

The Third Process Principle states that “If a process exists, there is value being produced”.

This is because a process which is creating value attracts more energy input, sustaining and even expanding itself over time. A process which is losing value, whether through blocked flow or a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes it valuable, eventually dissipates all of the energy currently flowing through it in other directions and out of the process itself. Once there is no more energy flowing through the process, that process no longer exists. 

A process consultant can typically identify successful processes in a business and define the value being created by looking at what process outputs people are willing to pay for. Where people are paying for things (whether in monetary terms or another form of energy exchange), this is a sign that value is being created. When people are no longer willing to pay for a process output, that is a sign that the process is no longer creating value. If that process can’t be changed in a way that allows it to begin creating value again, it will cease to exist.

Any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely. Any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long.

The Fourth Process Principle states that “Any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely. Any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long”.

We know from the First Process Principle that “energy flows through process to create value”, and from the Third Process Principle that “if a process exists, there is value being produced”

This Fourth Process Principle simply expands on these statements further: as long as value is being created, a process can continue indefinitely; but if the process is no longer creating value, it will eventually cease to exist. 

This principle is related to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which we see in action in nature and which is defined within the biological sciences. We’re familiar with the phrase “survival of the fittest”; this Fourth Process Principle is a variation on that theme. Darwin’s theory of natural selection teaches us that an organism whose qualities make it more able to adapt and survive (in other words, more valuable) continues to reproduce. Those variants of the organism with less desirable features are typically less successful in reproduction and eventually cease to exist. The Fourth Process Principle simply extends this law of biology and natural evolution and applies it to all processes.

Principles of energy flow

Flow measures the amount of energy moving through a process. The goal of process improvement work is to increase the flow of energy through a given process, by reducing waste and removing obstacles to that flow.

Understanding the concept of flow is essential to the study and practice of process science. After all, as the First Process Principle states: “Energy flows through processes to create value”. In order to optimize a given process and increase the value it creates, a process scientist must be able to see how energy flows through that process. This ability is known as process vision

Defining flow

The term flow represents directional, continuous, uninterrupted motion. In a process science context, the definition of flow is:

A measurement of the amount of energy moving through a process

In its natural state, energy moves in an uninhibited way throughout a process. However, real world processes typically contain numerous obstacles to flow. This can be due to a range of factors, including poor planning, not understanding the value of the process, and sometimes unavoidable constraints.

Illustration of energy flow through a process blocked by obstacles.
Illustration of energy flow through a process blocked by obstacles.

Increasing flow

In humans, there is a concept known as cognitive flow, or what is sometimes referred to as flow state. Cognitive flow is experienced by increasing the natural energy flowing through your body, allowing a greater ability to focus on the process at hand. Business process flow is the same idea as cognitive flow: increasing energy flow through the business. The difference is that the energy flowing through a business is human labor (physical energy) and money. 

Energy flow is like a powerful river. A river runs freely and continuously in a single direction unless its movement is blocked by an obstacle, like a rock or log. Imagine you want to divert the course of that river. You would need to do a lot of work and spend a lot of resources to build a dam. In the same way, energy flow naturally has a directional and continuous movement and it costs energy to block it.

Illustration of the impact on the flow of energy when moving through a process impeded by obstacles
Illustration of the impact on the flow of energy when moving through a process impeded by obstacles

This is why, if we want a process to create greater value while maintaining the same (or less) cost to run, we have to make it easier for energy to move through the process. We can increase the output of a process by adding additional energy into the process (for instance, by adding staff or buying more materials). But this approach increases the cost of running the process, and eventually produces diminishing returns. It is more effective to start by identifying and removing existing obstacles to flow.

There are many benefits to improving energy flow by getting rid of obstacles throughout business processes. These include:

  • Better quality products / services
  • Lower cost of operations
  • Faster cycles for business changes
  • Improved ability to measure, analyze, and control processes

Measuring and improving flow

We can measure flow as the amount of units of value which a process can create in a given amount of time:

flow of X process = units of value created / time the process takes to run

A “unit of value” in a business process can be visualized as a single discrete output of that process which someone will pay for. For example, a single product, consulting deliverable, service session, etc. 

When we analyze a process to identify and remove obstacles to flow, this is known as process improvement. If we want to measure the success of process improvement work, we can compare the energy (e.g. cost, time) it takes the process to produce a single unit before and after making changes. This helps us figure out whether our improvement efforts are working, which is a vital element of the process improvement cycle.

What is a process?

Process is the mechanism that transforms energy into value. A process (noun) is a series of events that transform energy into value. The first principle of process science states that “Energy flows through processes to create value”. The second principle states: “Anything in motion is a process”.

Introduction to process

Many people use the word process without being able to define it. This makes it hard to be consistent or even to agree on expectations for process improvement and documentation work. In process science, we use the following universal definition for the term “process”:

Process: 
a series of integrated events that transform energy into value

In other words, a process is something where energy goes in, things happen and as a result, value is produced:

diagram of relationship between energy process and value
Diagram of the relationship between energy, process and value

This might sound vague, but it leads to a few key conclusions, which are stated in the first three principles of process science:

  1. Energy flows through processes to create value
  2. Anything in motion is a process
  3. If a process exists, there is value being produced

When we consider process in this way, it also becomes clear that we are continually participating in processes throughout the day. Simple activities like brushing your teeth, preparing and eating breakfast, and fueling a car are all examples of processes. A process scientist would call these personal processes, to differentiate them from business processes. 

The scientific principles of energy, process and value

We know from physics that if something is moving, some kind of energy started its motion. Eventually, that energy will either change or dissipate, ending the motion. When the motion has direction and sequence (i.e., a series of events), it is a process. This is why we say that “everything in motion is a process”. 

Processes can be large, requiring many hours or days, or simple and take fractions of seconds. They can happen once, or occur by design hundreds of times a day. Our physical existence is immersed in process. The planet we live on absorbs energy from the sun and transforms that energy into value (such as growing plants and giving us warmth). Everything that lives and moves is trying to take this energy and transform it into more and more value over time.

Even the theory of evolution is really just a statement about process principles. “Survival of the fittest” can be translated into the fourth process principle which states that “Any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely. Any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long.” Whether in nature, society, or the business world, survival of the fittest is an inherent cycle. The flow of energy tends to get stronger where more value is being created. In processes which are less effective, however, energy flow will weaken and eventually dissipate. The “fittest” process is the one which best transforms energy into positive value. 

The three layers of process

Above we focused primarily on the relationship of process to energy and value. However, to understand process fully, you must also understand the three component layers which together make a process:

  1. The physical, or “workflow” layer: this is the activity which is actually happening in the physical environment 
  2. The “design” layer: this is how a process should be happening in theory (ideally, in order to create value)
  3. The “value chain” layer: this is the part of the process which directly creates the value

In order to optimize and improve any process, you must first be able to identify all three of these distinct layers and understand how they relate to one another. This is the foundation of the Cavi Method, process scientist Samuel Chin’s framework for understanding and improving process.

What is value?

The formula for value is: “Value = Benefits – Cost”. Understanding the concept of value is central to the process science discipline. Process scientists learn how to define and measure value. The first principle of process science states that “Energy flows through processes to create value”.

The concept of value is key to the entire discipline of process science. After all, the term appears in the first process principle: “Energy flows through processes to create value”. A process scientist or consultant must be able to define and measure value in order to successfully optimize a process. There are many definitions of the word “value”; and sometimes it can seem like an overused corporate buzzword. So before we proceed any further in the realm of process science, we need to get clear about how we are using the term.

What exactly do we mean by “value” in the context of process science?

What is value?

The simple definition of value is this: value is the difference between benefits and cost. This definition gives us the “value formula”:

value = benefits - cost

The formula looks simple, but it is important to understand what each of these elements actually means.

In a business context we would typically define cost as resources spent on business goods or services. This could include money, labor or any other way we might expend energy. Cost is a measurement which is objective and quantifiable.

Benefits, though, are harder to quantify. The measurement of benefits is subjective, and depends on the context of the recipient. For example, the benefit which an adult experiences from receiving a $1 bill is different to the benefit which a child would experience. So we can’t say that something is providing $1 worth of benefit and just leave it there.

This is why we sometimes need to perform a “cost-benefit analysis” when we are trying to decide the value of an activity or purchase. If benefits could be quantified like cost, we would simply look at the two numbers and see whether it was a net positive or net negative outcome — but it’s not that simple.

Value is a subjective measure

Because the value formula contains a subjective element (benefits), value itself is a subjective measure. But we can still analyze value objectively because the formula also contains the objective element of cost. Cost acts as an objective comparison factor. I can use cost to compare different options, determining which will generate the greatest value (for me), and spend my money (/time/resources) accordingly.

This leads us to a rule of thumb: where people are paying for things, value is being created. If value is no longer being created, people will no longer be willing to pay for it.

Value creation goes both ways

There are always two parties involved in value creation (in a business context, the “company” and “customer”). This is where the subjective element becomes so important. Each side of a value exchange experiences the benefits of a given process in relation to what it costs them to get these benefits. The gap between the cost for a company to produce something and the benefit the customer receives (even when buying it at a higher price) is the space within which value creation can occur.

For example, if a customer wants a shirt and feels subjectively that this shirt is worth $100, they would be willing to incur an objective cost up to $100 to get it. This would be the customer’s benefit metric. So a company could charge up to $100 for the shirt and a customer who perceives the benefit of having the shirt as being worth $100 will pay for it.

For the company, however, the benefit is the revenue they receive, and the opportunity to generate profit (the amount above the cost to produce the shirt) from that revenue. If the shirt only costs the company $60 to make, the company could decide to charge only $80 for the shirt with the intent to make a profit and be competitive. In this case, both the customer and the company would receive $20 worth of value, because in both cases their benefits exceeded their costs.

Company value equation:

benefits ($80 purchase price) - cost ($60 cost to produce) = value ($20 profit)

Customer value equation:

benefits ($100 perceived value) - cost ($80 purchase price) = value ($20 savings)
illustration of value equation in a transaction
Illustration of the value exchange between a customer and a company

Understanding the value formula–and how both subjective and objective elements contribute to the equation–allows process scientists and consultants to quantify and improve the processes they analyze. Process in the business world only exists because there is some value which customers are seeking; otherwise, there would be no demand, no energy inputs, and no process. This is why defining and understanding value is essential to the study of process science.

The most important thing for process professionals to remember is that it is unnecessary to qualify whether value creation exists. The job of a process professional is simply to identify what the value is and how to increase the value creation by reducing the energy (cost) required to generate that value.

What is process vision?

Process vision describes the ability to see the flow of energy. It provides a different lens of perception, based in process science principles. People with process vision view the world around them in terms of energy flow and value creation. Process professionals use process vision to identify process problems and solutions more quickly.

What is process vision?

Process vision is a term which describes a way of viewing the world that is based on the principles of process science. To “use process vision” means that you are perceiving your environment in terms of energy and how it is flowing through the processes around you. 

Often a person who is studying process science will begin to apply process principles to their everyday experience, without consciously seeking to do so. When this happens, we say they are using their “process vision”. 

With process vision, a process scientist or process consultant can more quickly and easily sense the ways in which energy flow may be blocked within a business or personal process. Experiencing the world through process vision is sort of like having a process map building itself in your brain!

Where does the term process vision come from?

The term process vision was coined by process scientist Samuel Chin, and is described in his book on process science, Becoming A Conscious Business: Expand Your Life & Work Through the Science of Energy Flow. 

In the book, Chin writes that “to achieve my own process vision, I had to synthesize all the knowledge we’ve discussed up to this point and apply it in practice for many years.”

How to apply process vision

To see a business with process vision means that you can understand the business in terms of how energy moves through its various processes. A business process is a complex integration of individual operating and project processes, much like the human body is a complex integration of smaller biological processes.

Imagine each of these processes as a garden hose that energy flows through. A typical business, when managed ineffectively, is like a massive jumble of garden hoses, tangled together. It’s very hard for anything to flow through hoses that are all tangled up! But once you can identify the different hoses (or processes in this case) and see the energy flowing through them, the work–in principle at least!–is as easy as unbending and untangling the jumbled collection of these energy hoses. 

For most people, doing this task without the process science principles and its associated process vision is very difficult, because the business landscape appears chaotic and represents infinite variation and complexity. But once you understand the principles of process science and begin to see things in terms of energy flowing through processes and creating value, everything looks a lot simpler. 

Because process vision comes from an understanding of universal principles and patterns, it can be applied to any process (business or otherwise).

What is process consulting?

Process consulting is the application of process science in the business world. Process consultants solve business problems and improve business processes. They help companies to grow in a healthy, sustainable way.

Defining consulting

Consultants help businesses solve problems by selling knowledge. They deliver this knowledge in a few different ways, including:

  • Research and analysis (gathering and packaging knowledge)
  • Training and other knowledge-based products (sharing relevant knowledge)
  • Support with implementation (delivering knowledge through deploying resources)
    • Providing extra staff
    • Providing additional technology

Consultants are usually expensive to work with. Businesses hire consultants because the cost of acquiring their knowledge internally (through training staff or hiring employees) would be even more expensive. (In other words, the exchange of the consultant’s knowledge for the business’s money creates value.)

The length of time for which a business hires a consultant will depend on their specific needs. Sometimes, they only need this specialized knowledge for a short-term project. That is another reason why businesses often find a consultant’s higher rates more cost-effective than hiring and onboarding a full-time staff member.

What is process consulting?

There are many different types of consultants. Consultants specialize in many different areas, including:

  • Management Consulting: general understanding of how to better manage an ongoing business operation 
  • Strategy Consulting: understanding of how to inform high-level, executive decision making, typically around large projects or changes to the business
  • Digital/Technology Consulting: understanding how to digitize and automate work and implement technical solutions
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME) Consulting: in-depth knowledge of a particular area of expertise, such as IT, HR, Marketing, Legal, Finance, etc.  
  • Process Consulting: understanding how to measure, improve, and manage processes

The subject matter expertise and knowledge that a process consultant sells is process science: the understanding of how energy flows through the universe. Process consultants are process scientists first and foremost. They apply their understanding of process science and its principles to business processes. 

The application of process science knowledge allows the process consultant to solve business problems and improve business performance by identifying blocks to value creation and improving the flow of energy through business processes. This work is known as process improvement

Defining process improvement

In order to practice process improvement, a process consultant must be able to understand and optimize the various elements of a given process. The term process describes the physical steps needed to transform energy into value. 

a diagram illustrating the relationship between energy, process and value.
Fig. 1 – a diagram illustrating the relationship between energy, process and value.

In order for a process to be successful, it must produce net positive value. In other words, the value of the output must be greater than the cost of the input. Anything else is unsustainable.

If benefits do not outweigh costs within any given process, negative value is produced and the process will eventually cease to exist. This is because there is no more energy flowing through it. 

If benefits do outweigh costs, positive value is produced and the process can continue indefinitely. That is why the Third Process Principle states that “any process that creates positive value can continue indefinitely, and any process that creates negative value cannot exist for long”. The goal of the process consultant is to optimize a business’s processes so that they can create more value and remain profitable over time.

In order for a process to create more value, it has to have stronger energy “flow” through it. Increasing the energy flowing into a process and yielding more value out of it is a matter of removing obstacles to this energy flow. Process improvement is the act of increasing value creation from a process by identifying and removing obstacles to energy flow.

How process consultants work with clients

Like other types of consultants, process consultants help businesses solve specific problems by packaging and selling their knowledge in the form of engagements, research, or products such as training and software. In the case of a process consultant, these offerings are typically focused on process improvement and process management. 

Improving the flow of a process by removing obstacles also often translates to cost reduction in core operations, which overlaps a lot with management consulting. And unlike a subject matter expert who focuses on a single area of expertise, the process principles studied by process consultants are universal patterns which can be applied across departments, teams, and industries.

Because of this, process consultants are not limited to one industry or field, and can help solve problems that span many other consulting disciplines, including management and strategic consulting. 

How to become a process consultant

There is currently no single academic requirement or degree program to become a process consultant, although most businesses will expect their process consultant to hold professional process improvement or project management certifications such as a PMP (project management professional) or SixSigma certification. 

Many of the Cavi process consultants have a background in process improvement work or business consulting; others have experience with project management, marketing consulting, internal management, workshop facilitation and corporate training. The same skills that make a good SME consultant, corporate trainer, team lead or management consultant also make a good process consultant.


If you’re interested in learning more about process science and process consulting, this website is a great place to start! You may also want to sign up to the Cavi newsletter to hear about the upcoming launch of the Cavi Method accreditation course and other training offerings.

What is a process scientist and what do they do?

Process scientists study process to learn about energy flow in the universe. Process scientists analyze processes to improve them. A process scientist can help a person or business to increase value creation and reduce waste in their work.

What is a process scientist?

A process scientist is a person who studies the flow of energy in the universe; specifically how energy moves through processes. Process science is an emerging scientific discipline. This means that process scientists are not only able to study what is currently known about this topic but can continue to define the body of process science knowledge further through their own experience and research.

Process scientists are interested in the principles of energy and how it moves through a process in order to create value. By understanding these principles, they are able to analyze existing processes for their fundamental value creation and identify what barriers may be causing blockages that prevent a process from creating that value. They can also design new processes according to universal principles which will result in better outcomes for any given business or personal context. 

Process scientists also use process science principles to create process improvement frameworks, such as the Flow Maturity Framework and the Cavi Method. Both of these methodologies were developed by process scientist Samuel Chin.

What is applied process science?

When process scientists apply the process principles and their resulting frameworks in a real world setting, this is applied process science. Through applied process science, process scientists can optimize existing processes to increase their value creation, and also consistently and precisely design new processes to meet any business or personal objective.

Applied process science will support any process improvement project. It allows process improvement practitioners to more easily capture process elements, communicate with stakeholders, and redesign a process in a way which puts value creation at the center.

Process science principles are most commonly applied in business contexts, but these principles can also be applied to human processes like personal development, fitness, education, and more. In a sense, process science is the study of everything in the universe and their energy patterns, and can therefore be applied in any situation where energy is moving and value is being created.

Career paths for students of process science

There are a number of career paths for which a practitioner would benefit from a background in the process science discipline, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Process researcher
  • Business consultant
  • Life coach / executive coach
  • Operations manager
  • Chief operations officer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Business analyst
  • Media producer
  • Agency director
  • HR director

Process knowledge can be applied effectively within any role which requires optimizing for human or business potential.

How to become a process scientist

Currently, there is not a defined path of study to become a credentialed process scientist. Many of the process scientists who work with Cavi Consulting have come to the discipline from a background in process improvement work or business consulting; others have experience with marketing and social sciences. Samuel Chin, who first coined the term process scientist to refer to his own work, studied biology in college and holds an MBA in addition to numerous process improvement and project management certifications. 


If you’re interested in learning more about process science, this website is a great place to start! You may also want to sign up to the Cavi newsletter to hear about the upcoming launch of the Cavi Method accreditation course and other training offerings.

What is process science?

Process science is the study of how energy flows through the universe.  There are 3 key elements studied in process science: energy, process and value. Process scientists use the process science principles to analyze human and business processes. Applied process science improves performance and reduces waste.

The definition of process science

Process science is an emerging scientific discipline which aims to understand the principles of energy flow. It achieves this understanding through the study of processes and observing the way energy moves through them to create value. Process scientists study processes in nature, humans, and business. This allows them to identify and analyze how these processes harness energy to create value, and what barriers may be causing blockages or waste in a given process.

Energy flow follows a universal pattern and set of “process principles”, which are distilled in the process maturity framework developed by process scientist Samuel Chin. The process maturity framework can be used to analyze any type of process, in order to improve performance, increase value and reduce waste. The outcome of successfully applying process science is a new version of the process which increases value creation and reduces waste and/or energy loss.

Where does the term process science come from?

The term process science was coined by Samuel Chin, a process improvement expert. Chin was seeking to describe his personal approach to the field of process improvement and organic business optimization. The process science discipline is related to the natural sciences: biology, chemistry and physics, due to its emphasis on the study of physical energy and the patterns of energy flow across nature, humans and businesses.

This perspective, which views businesses as a further stage of evolution and as living organisms in their own right, differs from other process improvement methodologies which tend to take a more mechanical view of business. Chin’s view is that the study of energy in living organisms at each layer of evolution–natural, human, and business–results in the refinement of certain universal principles of energy. These process principles allow us to view the entire world as an interconnected ecosystem, unlocking what Chin has called process vision.

The three elements of process science

The key elements we study in process science are energy, value, and process (which is simply the ways energy moves to create value).

Energy, in process science terms, refers to a force that allows for motion. It creates, transforms, and provides everything we need to power ourselves and our businesses.

Value is the difference between benefits and costs. Benefits are not always quantifiable — for example, a benefit could be that an output or product is better, cheaper, quicker than its alternatives, or simply that it makes you (the customer) look cool…etc. The lack of hard numbers related to benefits can make it difficult to calculate the value created by a process. Cost is easier to understand, as it simply refers to time and/or money spent to receive the perceived benefits of a given process’s output.

Process is what sits between energy and value. Anything in motion is a process.

These three elements come together in the first process principle: “energy flows through processes to create value”.

The goal in life, whether personally or professionally, is always to create more value, i.e. more benefits for less cost.

When is process science needed?

Whenever energy is going into a process and it’s being drained without creating much value, there is a need to analyze the process for energy blocks. Energy drains and leaks are indicative of a flow issue. Applied process science is about looking at the ways energy is blocked from flowing through a process smoothly, and removing any barriers or obstacles to that flow. This allows for more efficient value creation and waste reduction.

The process scientist’s job is to understand the barriers and obstacles to the flow of energy which can arise within processes. When we remove these blocks the flow is stronger and more powerful, and more value is created as a result.

In business, warning signs of disrupted flow might be a loss of profitability or inability to scale or grow effectively. In other words, energy is going into your business processes (in the form of labor and/or cash-flow); and value is not coming out at the magnitude you want. These might be processes which take a lot of effort, or which create a lot of waste.

That said, process science principles can be applied to any process, problem, or anything in your life where you expend energy. Applied process science is a valuable tool at any and all stages of personal and business growth.