What is a critical process?

Business Concepts

A critical process is defined as a process that has priority over others, either because its importance is greater or because it has certain flaws that must be modified. Critical processes are those that demand more attention since they are the most important.

Defining a process as critical depends a lot on the perspective and specific situation of each company. What is a critical process for one company may not be for another.

Being critical or not will depend on the subjectivity of each context. Some processes are critical because of the urgency with which they must be treated, others because they are essential, others because they must be solved.

We can say that, in general terms, a process is critical when it contemplates any of the following characteristics:

  • High risk: The process generates a risk for the company, whether of a financial, legal or operational nature.
  • Vital importance: A process is critical when it is vital for the operation of the company, that is, it largely determines its proper functioning.
  • Customer satisfaction: This point can be compromised when there are problems in the communication with customers.

Difference between critical processes and strategic processes.

While a critical process is fundamental and decisive for the success of the business model, a strategic process is the one that allows its support. The concept of “critical” is related to the operation, although not necessarily in the long term.

Although all processes are important, each industry has its processes with a certain level of criticality. For example, in logistics companies, the delivery process has this character: packages must be delivered on time and achieve maximum customer satisfaction.

For this reason, the challenge is to provide objectivity to the concept of critical process: it can vary according to reality and the moment the company is going through. While the critical process has an impact in the short term, incidents in a strategic process have an impact in the long term.

A strategic process is one that generates or contains the necessary skills to sustain the business over time. For example, for a company that considers investment in technology to be central, then technology development is a strategic process.

On the other hand, the level of attention and detail that must be given to a critical process is greater. Although critical processes can be identified in all types of industries, some such as steel, chemical, aluminum and cement have certain complex operations, so there are more critical processes.

A critical process is given priority: if it was not identified as such, it will have repercussions when the objective is not met. If a process considered critical was improved, but it was not critical, the company made an economic investment in its improvement that could have been avoided.

Therefore, reviewing a critical process is useful to know how much we want to invest so we can reduce that risk and avoid wasting resources.


Theory of constraints.

To identify obstacles in a process, the theory of constraints is applied, being a continuous improvement system that is implemented in those companies in their critical processes, when they affect their development or productivity.

In this way, it is possible to work on the restrictive factors or bottlenecks, that is, those elements that represent an obstacle and delay the achievement of objectives.

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