It’s a simplified graph, depicting two axes and the four boxes start at the corners of the graph. There’s an example further down below.
Why Use Four-box Models?
I love four box models. They’re simple and since they’re simple, they force you introduce clarity where there may have been confusion before. This makes the message easy to convey and simpler to isolate.
As such, all 4-box models provide a way of clarifying the problem space. Even if the solution you end up with doesn’t fit into the 4-box model, they’ll have been useful in clarifying the thinking within the group.
We’re going to see how they can be useful by looking at an example from CRM.
Customer Relationship Management
There are two similar models from Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The first model relates a customer’s historic spend with their predicted future spend. The concept here is to help you decide what to do with different segments of customers.
Last week, I was provided with the short opportunity to improve a service within an NHS Acute Trust. I had 5 minutes to understand the problem and then I suggested a quick improvement. I’d like to take you through how we arrived at a solution and the resulting lean cost benefit analysis of that solution.
I don’t get that involved in the individual solutions anymore, instead I’m usually engaged for more strategic issues and end up mentoring others to make the changes across the whole organisation or enterprise. So it was fun to roll up my sleeves and suggest a solution that could work in a hospital. I fully expect the team to modify it to suit their specific needs and I’ll be on hand to help them improve it.
So let’s get to the calculations:
Lean cost benefit analysis
5 minutes x 1 health professional explaining the problem
5 minutes x 1 consultant listening to the problem
5 minutes x 1 consultant developing a solution
10 minutes x 1 consultant describing how the solution could work and what could be changed to make it more suitable
15 minutes x 1 health professional understanding the solution
1 x flipchart paper
1 x pen
3.5 hours per day x 4 health professionals across a 5 day week = roughly 2,800 hours a year
The 3.5 hours is based on a reduction from 4 hours to 30 minutes for handover and prioritisation.
At roughly 1,400 working hours per year (based on 200 days per year and 7.5 hours per day), that equates to 2 FTE (full-time equivalent) posts saved per year.
So that could mean the service treating a lot more patients, a potential cashable saving of roughly £70,000-£90,000 per year or – as is often more likely – a mix of the two
Not bad for a 15 minute session.
The solution would need installing, but that’s the easy part. It would require some pens and a whiteboard or similar. That’s probably £200-£400 for a board and magnetic strip and counters plus £20-£50 per year for pens.
The implementation would usually rely on a critical core of the staff wanting to implement the change. In this case, by applying Lean Startup concepts, just one staff member could do it and then the others will learn about how it could affect their working lives and the impact on their patients.
What was the solution?
My suggestion was based on Lean, using a Kanban board. It relies on the principle of visual management. In this case, it’s easy to see at-a-glance where the work lies. It seemed a perfect fit for the problem. Due to the small amount of time spent with the service, there is a significant risk that the solution may not work for all the health professionals involved. I’d have liked more time with more of the team to mitigate this risk.
My aim was to improve flow. There was a blockage in the handover stage of the day and that’s what I wanted to eliminate. With more time, I’d have taken a more relaxed view of the entire process, involving other stakeholders, referring teams and teams that are being referred to. As it was, engaging with only one health professional, I focussed on what could be achieved quickest to remove the blockage.
The kanban board isn’t the end of the solution; it’s the start. I expect the therapists to find that the bulk of their work is being stuck in one or two stages or that they are not able to provide services to low priority cases. I don’t actually know what they’ll find, but that’s what I would be looking for. After the therapy team have been running the board for a week or two, they should be able to see patterns. Then they can act on those patterns.
So which appeals more; the lean solution itself or the numbers in the lean cost benefit analysis?
From my perspective, they’re two sides of the same improvement and I teach analysts to remember both sides (and some others) when engaging with teams and their stakeholders.
From what we have seen so far, we’d have 3 separate, but related process models. One for each of the following:
Buy a Book
Choose a Book
Pay for Book
Numbering the processes
Some of that was getting difficult to describe. The fact that Pay for Book is a process step in one diagram and a whole process was causing some difficulties in describing the relationship. I’d recommend reading through it again, slower this time, checking that you are certain which process step is being to referred to at each point.
Some standards help understanding by providing a key to each process step. The most common method is to assign a unique number to each process. The benefit of this is that you can define the process once (e.g. say we define “check stock level”) and then we can use it elsewhere as a process step (e.g. in an ordering, logistics or auditing processes).
Some standards help you navigate the hierarchy by assigning and set of numbers, e.g. everything at the top level has one number (1, 2, 3, 99, 123, etc). The next level down would have another point number so that all the process steps in process 1 would have numbers of 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and those in process 3 would have 3.1, 3.2. Down another level and we’d see labels such 1.1.1, 1.3.4 and 4.3.5. This does lean towards a parent-child relationship between processes. Not necessarily bad, but I prefer more freedom.
The more levels and the greater the complexity, the greater the need for a naming convention.
By allowing processes to appear in other process maps, they can be reused. For instance, theScan Book process step above could be used elsewhere, e.g. to retrieve information about a book such as how many are in stock, price, different versions, etc. The process step would be the same in all processes.
The Process Start in a subprocess doesn’t relate to any process step in any other process map. So you’d never actually use this process.
The process overlaps with the previous or next process in the chain – as we saw earlier with the Scan Book process step.
The Process Ends (i.e. the outcomes of a process) for the subprocesses aren’t reflected in the higher-level processes.
Change in process mapping methods – giving a process step to a different analyst can result in that process step being described using different methods or no standards. This isn’t necessarily a mistake, but should be considered before responsibility for process mapping is delegated.
Why 3 Levels?
You don’t have to have 3 levels, they suited the early part of this article. It’s a common concept in a lot of domains. In Data-modelling, the hierarchy of Conceptual, Logical and Physical data models has long proved beneficial. Closer to the process domain, Alistair Cockburn was promoting multiple levels of Use Cases almost a decade ago.
When do you stop going smaller?
When everyone understands the process step without having to ask any questions.
For many clients, two levels is sufficient for the process analysts to be involved in; a high-level mapping of all the processes, then a more detailed view of each process. a 3rd level may be created for the more complex processes that require more analysis. Developers are likely to look for further detail, so either another level or different diagramming technique can be used.
A process step can be described in more detail in its own process map
Processes can be re-used in more than one process
Process maps should contain sufficient information to relate to each other – using the Process Starts and Process Ends
Different readers will have different ideas of how much detail they want to see
The different levels of process maps can be used for different audiences
As the number of processes and levels increases, the greater the need for a naming convention
Notice that Buy a Book was written from the buyer’s perspective whereas Pay For Book was written from the Bookseller’s perspective. We’ll discuss how to handle that in the next article.
Which Diagram type?
All the diagrams above could be process maps. In some cases, especially with mapping the flow of user-interfaces, then UML Sequence Diagrams can be more useful than Activity Diagrams. I’ll explain why in a later article.
I embraced UML as a communication tool some years ago and have found it successful in being able to convey messages in a simple manner. I don’t use every type of diagram – some are too strange for the average business user. I do use Use Case diagrams. These are great and, with a small amount of education, are suitable for use with business users.
Use Case Diagrams for Scope
As a communication tool, Use Case diagrams are great at showing who does what at a very high level. They’re good at showing system solution scope, types of actors and ownership of integration points. In one diagram, I can show the scope of the system in a way that users will understand. Now that’s a powerful tool.
Depth of the Scoping Use Case
Ideally I like to have short Use Cases, perhaps 2 or 3 sentences at the highest level. Used like this, they don’t conform to the more common view of Use Cases, but they do give a good, brief overview of what happens in the solution. More detail is required in later stages, but you can’t beat a concise description to get the ball rolling.
Why use Use Case Diagrams for Change Management?
There’s a system involved. By system, I don’t necessarily mean an IT software application. There are people, teams, dependencies on other organisations, dependency on phone network being available and so on. Often the people in the change team, including the users themselves are not aware of all the interactions that they have with these external organisations (including teams in the same organisation). This is where a simple Use Case comes in. It can show, at a single glance, the main interactions between the team in question and their environment. I use them to gain a joint understanding of what the team does now, or what they’re trying to change to.
Multi-level Use Cases
Originally the concept was that a system had 10-20 Use Cases. If you had vastly more than that, then you were doing it wrong, it you had less than 5, you probably weren’t analysing far enough. Time’s moved on and real-world, practical experience has been added to this. What analysts and software methodologists/project methodologists came to realise was that the power of Use Cases was that they were readable and understandable by users but that to capture sufficient detail, they were becoming unwieldy and cumbersome. Alistair Cockburn has been influential in his work promoting Use Cases at different levels, some will be user and high-level, some more detailed. It does raise the risk of implementing a more traditional waterfall approach where one analysis has to follow on from another.
Use Case Diagrams for Developers
I know that there’s a strong argument for not using Use Case diagrams at all. This comes from developers and I can understand their perspective. That’s fine by me, I expect developers to know what works for them better than I do. In their case, the text of Use Cases counts for more. That doesn’t prevent analysts from using the tool.
All of the changes facing every organisation require skilled personnel, either increasing a team’s knowledge in the tools and techniques used for change or by mentoring analysts, providing guidance and supervision.
Training packages can be developed in the following:
Each training package is bespoke, specifically tailored to the client’s needs.
Mentoring is a longer engagement than training, designed to offer support to your staff in their profession. For those involved in the change profession (change analysts, business analysts, business process analysts), we can provide a mentoring service; either with regular drop-ins or remote via email or onto your organisation’s existing discussion forums. This service should be considered as supplementary to the standard employee mentoring and welfare within your own organisation.
It is ideal for SME (Small-to-Medium Sized Enterprises) with one or two business analysts, but who do not have sufficient need or resources to accommodate a wider analysis function. This service provides mentoring by a senior analyst, reducing what could otherwise be an costly commitment for a small organisation and providing experience from a number of industry sectors.