The 4+2 model for understanding and changing processes
Blog: Process transformation - interventions for meaningful change
When you work in the area of process-analysis and improvement, the beginning of process analysis can be complex. There is a lot of aspects one wants to understand. And there is a risk either to miss important aspects, or to be overwhelmed and get lost. The same applies when you improve and implement a process.
Based on these insights some years ago I created the 4+2 model for processes. This model makes it clear that in and around a processes, various areas of activity are present (or need to be implemented).
In addition, it makes clear in what typical areas, some often overlooked, large potential for improvement exists.
The 4+2 model in a diagram:
Let’s go through the areas…
Essential part of the process
This is the area that most analysts, especially beginners, start to analyse and understand. These are the core activities required to deliver specific value (in terms of delivering a product or service). The key question here: what is needed to deliver a product or service? It’s about value added work.
For example, let’s take the process of requesting a grant, the essential area would be about:
– Receive request
– Review request
– Decide on request
– Inform the requester
– (if positive decision) Pay the grant
This area is of course essential. But to often this is the area that gets the most attention, and sometimes is even the only area that is addressed. This severely limits your power as analyst/designer.
Logistical part of the process
What is often forgotten is the logistical part of a process. The key question in this area is: what is needed to get the right person to perform the right task, with the right inputs and materials, at the right time. It’s about flow, how do we let a request flow efficiently through the organization? Sadly, often this area (and the complex activities that need to take place) is buried in process models in the arrows.
For example, let’s continue to grant process:
– Receive the request by mail, sort them by customer, and distribute them (once a day) to the right team
– Distribute the requests in the team
– Work on the stack of requests in FIFO order, except when Prio 1 requests have been signaled
– Collect all decisions per week (in a folder) and bring this to the financial department.
– Bring the payment tape (weekly produced) to the bank. It takes 3 days for processing.
This area has often the potential for large improvements (my estimate: 30 – 50%, in terms of time and costs). I encountered one time a situation in which a analyst team had been given the assignment to shorten delivery time of a insurance transaction. Weeks had been spent on trying to cut time, but only looking at the essential part of the process. The progress: several minutes of activities could be saved. But when we started to address the logistical part, we discovered that certain arrows between the activities took 3 – 5 days. What was the matter? They needed to fetch the paper client-folder from another location, and the truck that drove between the locations had a limited schedule, resulting a long wait.
This is the area that deals with queuing, first in first out, and waiting for resources for inputs or inputs waiting for resources.
When understanding a process or improving it, it is important to understand what is required (or what actually happens) of the customer to keep the process going. In many process analysis I still see the swim lane/pool of the customer missing. Optimal alignment of the customer activities/process and the essential + logistical process is required to create a customer friendly delivery.
Note: the customer journey often goes through various processes, as the journey travels through phases such as ‘orientation’, ‘selection of supplier’, ‘transaction’, ‘aftercare’.
For certain parts of the process, inputs might be required from suppliers/value chain partners. Again, also in this area it is important to understand the activities and inputs that are required from suppliers, and how these align with the essential and logistical areas of the process.
Operational and tactical management of the process
Where the essential and logistical areas are about ‘do’, this area is about plan, check and act. This area deals with the management within the boundaries of the process. The key question is: are we doing the process right?
This question is on two levels:
– Operational: how to make sure a specific delivery (such as one specific grant-request) is delivered on the right time, place, quality and cost (as defined in the required process).
– Tactical: how to make sure that the flow (the set of current work in progress) is within acceptable ranges.
Sometimes, analysts take this area into account, but limit themselves to only define key performance indicators, norms and create solutions for dashboards, so that involved people are sufficiently informed on the operational and tactical status. However, this is not enough. One needs to also consider the steering-instruments (what can you do if all the signals are in the red zones?): what interventions can we do to (for instance):
– Operational: make sure that a delayed request is prioritized?
– Tactical: decrease the average waiting time, due to seasonal influences, by adding resources?
Often, there is quite some waste involved in this area of the process. We often see many resources that need to collect, administer/maintain, and report performance data manually. And we see confusion and additional work, when different reports from different automatic and manual systems differ…
Strategic management of the process
The last area we focus on the key question ‘are we doing the right process?’.
This is what I would call process management. It’s about analysis and interventions in aspects such as:
– Is the process aligned with evolving customer expectations?
– Is the process aligned with strategy?
– Is the process aligned with IT? Can it be innovated?
– Is the process aligned with HR policies?
– Is the process sufficiently harmonized with other, comparable processes?
– Is the performance of the process acceptable? Can it be improved? Should we apply Lean?
– What is the experience of the customer (during interactions)? Can it be improved?
– What is the experience of the employees? Does this process create a motivating and engaging environment?
– Does the process have the right level of maturity?
(For instance: is there a clear process owner, is it documented, are activities and roles sufficiently established and implemented, are KPI’s defined and measured, is there a clear incident/problem & change procedure for the process? etc).
In this area improvement is also possible. Often this part is not implemented (often as a result from, but also amplifying functional silos). And this leads to various inefficiencies, loss of customers, and loss of employee engagement (for instance: if certain process issues have been reported, but never resolved)
The 4+2 model is one of my key tools to explain, understand and improve processes. I hope you like it too!