Any process, however convoluted, disorganized, and
complicated, can be broken down and interpreted with a process chart. The
method for accomplishing this isn’t new. In fact, the method has been
producing outstanding results with manufacturing processes for nearly a
century and with information processes for more than 50 years!
work environment. It revisits the work
simplification approach to process improvement that dominated the work
improvement arena for a good part of the twentieth century, with particular
attention to the principal tool for information process improvement—the
detail process chart. The method described in these pages offers the reader
a trained set of eyes, a different (not new) way to look at work.
It is not intended that the methods of work simplification be applied by
individuals at their workstations, but rather by workgroups, teams of people
involved in different parts of the work processes working together to
improve the work they share. In fact, the more people that get involved in
work simplification, the more opportunities for improvement will arise.
Typically, the more documents change hands, the more opportunities for
improvement there will be.
There are many arguments as to who should be involved in improvement work
and what kind of solutions to look for—whether to use outside help or
internal resources, whether to apply radical solutions or incremental
solutions, whether improvement efforts should be top-down or bottom-up. The
methodology described in these pages suggests that when these “either–or”
arguments force a choice between one option or the other, they are futile.
All of those options have their place, and the key is to know when. The work
simplification approach first and foremost taps into the process-specific
experiences of the people who do the work but also calls upon external
resources for technology-specific expertise and alternative perspectives.
The process itself determines the potential scope of the solution. Although
solutions can be radical, there is no place for a “clean-slate” approach
that ignores the current process and the experience of the people who do the
work! Finally, it organizes both top-down and bottom-up participation!
The vision must come from the top. Executives must make it clear what they
expect to achieve. They must provide direction and show that they are
committed. Direction encourages the working people to work together with
shared objectives as they apply their best judgment in improving the work
that they do. It solidly places the responsibility for the completion and
improvement of the work with the people who do it. Commitment comes two
ways—with an assurance that there will be no loss of employment as a result
of process improvement and with a promise to support the recommendations
made by the improvement teams. This doesn’t necessarily mean 100 percent
acceptance (although upfront approval is a great goal to shoot for as
employee teams demonstrate their effectiveness and earn the confidence of
management), but it does mean approval of all recommendations that
management is not strongly (and validly) opposed to.
Improvements come from the people closest to the work, the ones who live it
and breathe it day in and day out—the people who do the work. When the
operating people are given the opportunity to participate in an improvement
process, their ingenuity is transformed from simply doing the work to
improving the way they do it. Benefits include reduced resistance, improved
morale, and better solutions! Instead of using creativity to thwart changes
that are thrust upon them, they develop creative solutions that they are
pleased with and proud to live with.
The methodology presented in these pages is not offered as a panacea. It is
simply a powerful, straightforward, proven tool designed specifically for
displaying facts about process and taking advantage of the insights that
these displays provide. It has been used for more than half a century in
organizations large and small, in government and industry. Its roots go back
to the earliest tools devoted to the study of information processes
(paperwork simplification); it evolved directly from the tools of work
simplification that had, by that time, been used and proven in manufacturing
for nearly half a century.