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Process Model or Process Instance … Which Do You Mean in ‘Metaprocess’?

Razvan Radulian, business transformation consultant, commented[1]: Is there such a thing as a metaprocess? When we say ‘process(es)’ there actually two things that match the term: (1) process models and (2) process instances. Going back to your definition for metaprocessprocess that transforms other processes – which one(s) are you talking about?  
    • If instances, that’s probably easier to grasp (and, most likely, already taken care of … by some process model).
    • If models, that gets quite more interesting. So, let’s see! Would that a process instance be (of a metaprocess-model) that changes another process model?
My reply: Good points. To answer I need to ask what an instance of a process is. You’re probably referring to a performance or execution of a process. Clearly, “transforming” a (‘live’) performance is an interesting question. There are at least two ways of doing that. The first is a process that coordinates another process in real-time. Think of a conductor’s process to direct a symphony, or a director’s process in the making of a movie. Another way is by real-time evaluation of business rules. That’s how you get truly dynamic, traceable, repeatable ‘performances’. But I was actually talking about process models, not instances (performances). If you change the model of a process, the effect is to change every performance (execution) of that process model thereafter. That’s the how I think most people in business process improvement would think about the matter. But your points are well-taken. First, there are probably two kinds of meta- with respect to processes:
    • Meta-process-performance coordinates other process performances.
    • Meta-process-model transforms other process models.
Second, you can mix the two – e.g., talk about a meta-process-performance transforming other process models. In that case, however, you’re not really talking meta-. The noun subjects are not the same (i.e., performance vs. model). At that point I think you’re just talking about doing actual process improvement work. http://www.brsolutions.com/

[1] This series of point/counterpoint replies is a follow-up to my post “Meta Here. Meta There. Meta Everywhere?” (March 31, 2014), which generated a surprising amount of great discussion. (Thanks all!) Refer to: http://www.brsolutions.com/2014/03/31/meta-here-meta-there-meta-everywhere/ The definition I’m using for meta- is from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [3b]:

3b: of a higher logical type – in nouns formed from names of disciplines and designating new but related disciplines such as can deal critically with the nature, structure, or behavior of the original ones *metalanguage* *metatheory* *metasystem*

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