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The Diagnosing Phase: Describe Existing Processes and Uncover Pathologies


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Diagnosing is the third phase of the business process reengineering cycle. It’s intended to analyze your process environment and describe existing processes in order to uncover "pathologies" or any factors negatively affecting the whole environment or individual processes. The Diagnosing phase lets gain a better understanding of the existing environment and creates a foundation for further process rebuilding and reengineering.

The phase includes the following two activities:

  • Describe existing processes
  • Uncover process pathologies

In order to complete the phase, your team needs to perform these activities. VIP Task Manager can be used for this purpose. This software allows the team to divide the activities into to-do lists and simple tasks. Let’s find out how to carry out the activities of the Diagnosing and what tasks can be created in VIP Task Manager for this purpose.

Describe Existing Processes
Before the team can proceed with doing your reengineering project, it needs to have a detailed description of business processes to be addressed by the project. In other words, there should be a description of these processes with details on their goals, resources, success criteria, performance measurements and other information.

Describing existing business processes is an activity that can be divided into the following three tasks:

  • Conduct a process environment analysis
  • Write a process description
  • Design a process flow diagram

The first task means you need to analyze business processes existing in your organization. To implement this task, you must separate the whole process environment into individual processes and determine what relationships exist between these processes. Here’re keys steps to address the challenge:

  • Define those activities having clear boundaries (start and end points)
  • Estimate an amount of resources every activity consumes
  • Determine specified and measurable results of every activity
  • Identify activity owners and performers
  • Assess activity performance
  • Use the data to conduct change impact analysis and define how one activity correlates with others

Once you complete these steps, you get a big picture of your company’s environment with details on individual processes and activities. Having this picture allows you to make a description of every process.

The second task requires you to use results of the process analysis to write process descriptions. It actually means you need to describe the following parameters of a process:

  • Name
  • Purpose (why implement the process)
  • Owner(s) and performer(s) (parties involved or interested in the process)
  • Time limits (when to start and end the process)
  • Workflow (a sequence of steps to implement the process)
  • Goals (what to achieve by the process)
  • Success criteria (how to define whether the process reaches success)

All the parameters should be specified for every individual process. Then you can this information to develop a document called "the process description".

The third task is to use the process description document to design a flow diagram. Here’re steps to do this task:

  • Determine main activities of a process (e.g. the selling process includes Prospecting, Planning, Presentation, Listening to objections, Objection handling, and Bargaining).
  • Sequence process activities by priorities.
  • Define interconnections between individual processes.
  • Create a process map showing how information is distributed among the processes.
  • Build a flow diagram.

By using some charting software you can build a process flow diagram to create a visual representation of your existing environment with details on individual processes. The diagram will help you uncover pathologies in business processes.

Uncover Pathologies in the Processes
When you team has developed a detailed description of your business processes, now it can start investigating those processes to figure out which ones are "pathological". Process pathology is a sequence of events that negatively affect a process and result in significant worsening of process performance or complete failure. Hence, your team needs to identify what events have a negatively impact to processes and how to mitigate or completely eliminate their negative impact.

Process failure analysis will be best for conducting in-depth investigations of business processes and identifying causes of process faults and pathologies. Here’s a typical flow of tasks to carry out the analysis:

  • Assure process failure validity
  • Localize and characterize process faults
  • Determine root causes

First of all, your team needs to use process documentation (technical requirements, specifications, performance criteria etc.) to check processes for faults. In case a process is performed out of specification, then most likely this process has some troubles that can be regarded as pathologies. The team will focus on details of process performance and compare current performance with planned one. Processes with deferred performance are validated for faults.

The second step of the analysis requires your team to investigate failure circumstances in order to ensure that a given process is faulty and pathological. The team needs to collect the following data about the process:

  • Location and time of failure discovery
  • Conditions under which process failure has occurred
  • Details of failure including occurrence rate

All this information helps the team conduct detailed investigations of process pathologies to determine root causes. This will be the final step of failure analysis. The team will need to identify potential effects of process failure, assign severity and occurrence ranking to faults, and then develop a corrective action plan to fix the troubles and limit or eliminate causes of pathologies.

Using VIP Task Manager
All the tasks and steps of the Diagnosis phase can be managed with help of VIP Task Manager. In Task Tree view of the software you can create the following checklist of tasks characterizing the activities of the phase:

  • Diagnosing Phase
    • Describe Existing Processes
      • Define the name and boundaries of every process
      • Identify first and last events of the process
      • Determine goals and purposes of the process
      • Define owner and executers of the process
      • List key steps of the process (workflow)
      • Write the process description document
      • Identify main activities of every process
      • Sequence process activities
      • Determine interconnections between individual processes
      • Create a process map
      • Build a flow diagram
    • Uncover Pathologies in the Processes
      • Use flow diagrams to review current processes
      • Brainstorm potential process faults and breaks
      • Identify potential effects of failure
      • Assign severity ranking
      • Determine occurrence rate for every fault
      • Assign detection ranking
      • Measure failure risks
      • Develop a corrective action plan
      • Start doing the plan
      • Calculate resulting efficiency

You can assign these tasks to your team. Supervisors can watch over task performance in real-time mode. Team members can send notifications and reports to supervisors when tasks are changed or done.

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