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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *