Process Improvement Archives

If Your Process Were a Drug FDA Would Not Approve It

fda If Your Process Were a Drug FDA Would Not Approve It

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Think about what your process does and what you could learn from likening it to something else we’re more or less familiar with. If you did, I would venture that if your process were a drug, FDA would not approve it.


In case you object that the comparison is unfair or unreasonable, consider that many processes have the capacity to kill outright and many – all too many – has the insidious little appreciated capacity for killing slowly – either the customers or the people in the processes itself.


Let’s take a closer look.


FDA approval requires the successful completion of the following steps: Read More …

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Is 3D Printing the Revolution We Need in House Construction?

350px thai house window beam rebar Is 3D Printing the Revolution We Need in House Construction?

Thai house construction site in Trat Province, Thailand. A block wall is reinforced with a vertical beam. The photo shows the rebar of such a beam. The beam will be used to support a window frame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The construction methods and productivity in house construction has remained remarkably unchanged since about the 1940-50s and the post WWII construction boom.

I have been following the construction industry productivity research for some time and it is not a pretty picture.

It is true that residential and commercial construction are not directly comparable, but take a look at your local subdivision as it is going in.

Does it look very different from what you can remember 10-20-30 or more years ago (your age will matter, obviously)?

The work looks just as disorganized and chaotic today as it ever did to me. Little has changed beyond some minor developments like different joists (less solid lumber) and more OSB instead of planking or even plywood.

Now, this is in the Northern latitudes. In the south and in developing economies, residential construction is almost exclusively with cement. Read More …

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Have You Had Your Duh Moment Yet?

business transformation

tothemoon 300x236 Have You Had Your Duh Moment Yet?The study cited below makes it sound like we are at the front end of a movement like the re-engineering wave of the early to mid nineties.

We didn’t get all that much sustainable change out of that one. Mostly that was because the ERP implementation wave had not finished so that the technology support was simply not there.

I think this round is different.

But first, read the piece and come back. You see, they expose a dirty little secret. Read More …

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The Role of Decisions in Processes

English: Classical ideal feedback model. The f...

350px ideal feedback model svg The Role of Decisions in Processes

A process consists of a string of activities, of actions, which produce outcomes. These outcomes usually in return elicit a reaction.

This reaction is called feedback of which there are two kinds: negative feedback and positive feedback.

Without going into the whole feedback concept, it is clear that the process outcome is dependent up the actions taken. Further more, these actions or activities, call them what you want, rely on decisions.

The process may be very descriptive or only provide guidance through, say, a policy. In most processes we have manual steps – done by people – coupled with technology – that is a system or application. Here the process intends for the person to moderate or direct the system responses. Again: decisions.

At this point we might think that process mapping would focus a lot on decisions, but we would be wrong. As a matter of fact, don’t just tale my word for it. Over at Harvard Business Review someone wrote a telling article on this topic.: the role of decisions in processes.

You should check it out. You’ll learn something. Read More …

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How Robots and Automation Will Affect Us


roybot 184x300 How Robots and Automation Will Affect UsRobots are getting a lot of media attention these days. Mostly that is because of interesting technological developments and news that big market actors are getting involved.

Exiting as this is, the reporting is missing a back story. This back story is about how robots and automation will affect us..

Today I just want to sketch out the major themes we must consider when trying to understand the effects of robots and more specifically, automation.

I see the following themes:

Let’s take a look at each one individually. Read More …

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The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?


nasa astronaut assistant 011 The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?

Looks like I sat on this piece for awhile, but the topic is timely all the same. Will robots bring wealth or a divided society?

There are two trains of thoughts on this:

  1. Robots will move from  manufacturing to the service sector and do to service employment what it is doing to manufacturing employment: Reduce it steadily as machines become more capable of doing more and more with no alternatives to pick up the slack.
  2. Robots will free us up from menial tasks of any kind so we can instead focus more and more on what really matters to us as individuals and as a society. This will bring many benefits that we can even imagine right now, but have faith. Read More …
dot The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?

As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?


ja08 300x223 As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?The New Yorker poses an important question: As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse? I have been thinking about this topic lately because I am doing a lot of background reading on technology, automation and what various people think will be the effect on our society and economy.

So far the outlook seems to swing between doomsday and nirvana with little discussion in between. The in between is not so sexy and controversial I suppose and doesn’t sell books.

The New Yorker piece puts its finger squarely on something we can observe directly. And it is also observable in a more general sense outside the specific community they showcase.

I will be coming back with some more thoughts on this shortly, but for now, read this story and get your own mind going. You need to have a position on this. Read More …

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Complex Behavior Emerges from Simple Rules


w3 120 300x297 Complex Behavior Emerges from Simple RulesI got started on a new line of thinking this afternoon. It began with a post in my RSS feed collection about how complex behavior emerges from simple rules.

This is what the field of emergent behavior studies is about, but I had not made a deep connection with it until today.

I was somewhat superficially although interestedly aware for the work on understanding ant colonies, bird swarms and schools of fish.

But today something clicked that made me see a connection to self-organizing systems or processes.

Check out this TED video and then see what you think of the quoted comments from the blog Collaborative Planning & Social Business. Read More …

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The Unautomatable Process

unmanageable process

3D Women Jump 03 125 The Unautomatable ProcessI engaged in a dangerous activity this morning – I was thinking over my first cup of coffee. Scary thought, but there it is.

For reasons entirely unknown I strayed onto processes and how everything can be seen as part of a process. This led to the unfinished thought that a term that general – encompassing ‘everything’ – ceases to be very meaningful.

I suddenly had the sense that we might as well then say ‘the universe’ runs everything; everything is part of ‘the universe.’

Not very useful.

I doubt there is much of a market for ‘business universe automation.’ But, who knows. We’ve seen some really strange business fads over the years. This whole ‘enterprise everything management’ trend comes awfully close to the still a bit larger concept of the universe. I suppose in between we have ‘global.’ And how about ‘Galaxy.’ Read More …

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Definitions of Quality – An Illustrative Sample

quality hits you

qualityhitsyou 300x236 Definitions of Quality – An Illustrative SampleIn a recent post, Towards a Model for Process Quality of Outcomes, I offered up a definition of perceived quality. I received a comment stating that there are many different definitions of quality and that perceived quality is just one way to look at it.

This is of course entirely true and I realized that I had not made my point sufficiently clear that I was writing about the quality of a process outcome we define as the customer experience.

Such a view of quality is not best modelled with an engineering like quality definition, but requires inclusion of perceptions and the effects of judgments.

At different stages in a process, be that manufacturing or service, we have use of measures of quality and they can take on many forms. Read More …

dot Definitions of Quality – An Illustrative Sample

You, Your Process and Deontic Logic

deontic logic

deonticlogic 300x236 You, Your Process and Deontic LogicDeontic logic is a branch of logic concerned with normative (that is prescriptive) concepts like obligation (i.e., what must be present), permission (i.e., what is allowed to be present, but can be absent), prohibition (i.e., what is not allowed to be present)and other concepts like that.

A key challenge has been how to formally deal with violations of normative rules and subsequently how to react, that is, determining what logically consistent obligations arise n response to violations.

This is a very real problem. Normative documents (e.g., polices) contain sets of directions (normative clauses or rules) to regulate the intended behaviour of the system or process.

The problem arises because normative systems or processes by necessity allow exceptions. The reason is purely practical because exceptions can be damaging and we want protection against harm. This is why we build controls into our systems or processes.

Deontic Logic and Response

Here is matrix view of the deontic logic concepts and consistent responses:

Condition is Present

Condition is Absent

Condition is Mandatory

Accept and proceed

Reject for resolution

Condition is Permitted

Accept and proceed

Accept and proceed

Condition is Prohibited

Reject for resolution

Accept and proceed

Given that exceptions often exhibit randomness, it is impossible (or at least very difficult) to define categorical, normative rules for exception handling.

We resolve this in practice by identifying control points with defined acceptance criteria with an inserted human decision maker to sort out exactly what to do about the encountered exceptions.

Currently this is an unresolved area of business process automation that until further breakthrough prevents full robotization of a process that includes automated exception resolution.

The future may lie in further advancements in machine learning such as genetic algorithms and neural networks, but we don’t know that for certain.

The learning points

The learning points I take away from this are:

  • We know how to define robust acceptance criteria (normative rules)
  • We know controls must consider the normative concepts of:
    • Obligation
    • Permission
    • Prohibition
    • We cannot (yet) define robust normative rules of response for the totality of possible exceptions in a process
 You, Your Process and Deontic Logic
dot You, Your Process and Deontic Logic
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