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Risk Management Exercise 4 - Process Gap Analysis

Context

We’re all familiar with terms like “dropping the ball” or “falling between the cracks”. In business there is often a gap between the way an organization currently operates and how they would like to operate. These problems happen for many reasons, including too few resources, inadequately trained people, lack of funding, poor communications, poorly integrated IT, unclear processes, and many others.


Review objective

Often gaps are obvious with hindsight. This exercise is intended to identify those gaps “up front” so they can be rectified before they become a major problem.


Setting up the exercise for success

Pick a key process in your business. Identify each person/team/department involved in the process and invite them to the meeting. If process documentation exists, consider sharing with all participants ahead of the meeting. Ask participants to consider their “gets, do’s, and gives” at each stage of the process (see below for definitions).


Ideally this exercise will be run in a room with a large white board or glass wall that can be used for sticky-notes and dry-wipe pens, where people can stand to move notes around and draw new pathways etc. If a process flow already exists, create sticky-notes for each step in the process and map it out on the wall ahead of the meeting.


Running the exercise

As with other risk exercises, this one is best run by a knowledgeable but unbiased facilitator to mediate between groups.

Get each participant to introduce themselves and their main function in the process. This needs to be quick and punchy, don’t let people waffle on.


Get the group to agree the company objectives for the process. This sounds obvious, but it’s not always clear to some parties why they are doing something. It sounds obvious, but people are far more likely to engage with something if they understand the purpose and importance.


Now go through each process step asking the following questions:


1. What’s the “get” coming into the step? This deliverable could be information, a request, an order, a decision, materials, documents etc.


2. Who is the “giver”? What can or should the giver do to ensure the receiving party knows what is being given, why, what they need to do with it, and by when?


3. What does the receiver currently “do” with the deliverable? What value-add do they bring to the process? If none, then why are they included in the step? What could or should the receiver do with the deliverable that would improve the effectiveness or efficiency of the process?


4. What do they do with the deliverable next? Who does the receiver need to “give” the updated deliverable to and by when? Is it clear what the next receiver is being asked to do and by when?


Asking these deceptively simple questions quickly exposes both gaps and inefficiencies.

Inefficiencies are often caused because of historical “we’ve always done it that way” reasons. Gaps typically occur for four main reasons:


1. The “giver” fails to clarify or verify the “real” request (either explicitly or implicitly)


2. The “doer” fails to add the required value-add in the required timeframe


3. The “giver” fails to supply the value-added deliverable on time


4. The “giver” fails to clarify the requirement to the next receiver (see 1) and/or verify that the receiver understands the requirement. They just “throw it over the fence”.


Once the new or revised process is complete and agreed, the team need to review actions, implications, and risks in implementing the new process. That includes communicating to everyone involved in the process, potentially re-training staff, and changing systems. The meeting isn’t finished until there’s a clear action plan of who is going to do what and by when.


Conclusion

Process gap analysis is simple, but often not easy. That’s because it quickly exposes process problems and inefficiencies, many of which have become ingrained in the culture and are hard habits to break. When you do break those habits, plug those gaps and remove the inefficiencies, you’ll wonder why you weren’t doing them years ago.

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