(Steps Four & Five of the Cavi Method)

The process maps that result from the process capture and visualization stage (steps two and three of the Cavi Method) allow us to see and work with a business process comprehensively at the design layer.

At this point, you can analyze the current (“as-is”) process to design the future (“to-be”) process to meet improvement objectives. The goal of this analysis phase is to derive the value chain of the existing process and then design a new version of the process which matches that value chain as close as possible (within given constraints).

So how do we perform this analysis?

Step Four: Process Analysis

The goal of the analysis phase is to identify the underlying value chain of the process as well as any waste which is currently being produced in the “as-is” design. If you create an accurate process map, waste often reveals itself intuitively. It is common, particularly in highly digitized environments, for waste to accumulate because no one can clearly see the entire process in a holistic way.

Once the process is visualized in an intuitive “map” format, even with no process training, one can start to identify patterns that point to ineffective process design.

Consider the following:


This shows a process pattern that moves work back and forth again and again between two different roles. Once you see the process visualized in this way, you should be able to intuit that this flow would not be continuous.

Does this mean it’s wrong? You can’t determine whether this is the most effective flow without understanding the requirements and constraints that characterize the work itself, but you can initiate a line of inquiry immediately based on your observation. Process improvement is all about improving flow and the more process maps you see, written in a consistent language, the more you can intuitively detect where obstacles to flow may be causing waste.

I can say from experience that the structure illustrated in the above example would contain waste in the as-is configuration of resources and the way in which work moves between human roles.

Technical mastery during analysis is simply the ability to speak clearly and actionably regarding what waste you have identified within the process. Lean methodology has already done an excellent job in comprehensively classifying all the waste you could find in a process, and has articulated these “types” of waste in the “3M” model (which categorizes all process waste into three categories: Muda, Mura, and Muri).

For more explanation of the Lean waste terminology, see our recent presentation on the 3 M’s of Lean.

Although our end goal is to derive the value chain of the process, it is easier to start by identifying all the waste that exists around the value-adding elements. Once you can use your process “vision” to identify and label all the waste, the value chain is simply whatever remains.

With the value chain derived from the process design, you can clearly see which steps add value. These form the foundation for designing the new version of the process (the “to-be” design) without all the other waste-adding steps needed.

Step Five: Process Design

We’ve already discussed how capturing complex workflow observations can translate into an “as-is” (or current state) process map, which represents the design layer of the process. In order to design a process that is not currently being enabled by workflow (the “to-be”, or future state) and thus is not observable, you have to use your imagination. The resulting map represents your intent for resources and technology to be reconfigured to bring that design to life in the workflow environment.

In practice, this mostly means moving around boxes and roles on the as-is map into a new configuration which removes any identified waste, allowing for more energy to flow through the value-creating parts of the process.

The following example illustrates how this might look in a very simplified form:

Process design after analysis:


Process design after re-design:


With the to-be design above, you are saving (in theory) 4 hours worth of labor cost in the process. This new design serves as the plan to guide how that would happen in the workflow layer (i.e. the person performing those waste-adding tasks now stops doing that part of the process entirely).

As simple as this may seem, you can’t just move things around on paper with wild abandon and expect successful implementation. There are additional considerations to take into account in order to make sure your new design is realistic, achievable, and scalable.

Firstly,  anything you change must fit within identified real-world constraints. Secondly, each step you change must be consistent with process improvement principles to ensure that your overall design is cohesive; basically, that one change doesn’t counteract the benefits of another. Anyone can design new processes, but becoming consistently good at it takes a lot of practice.

The more you work with process design, the more you can see the patterns at the core of good process, and similarly the patterns of waste that appear universally as obstacles to flow. For our purposes today, I’ll provide a high-level overview of the major design considerations, and you can use that as a launching point for further study.

The first consideration is around working with constraints. Constraints are the boundaries of your design puzzle. If we could design a new process without constraints, every process design would match the value chain exactly and staff would create value and nothing else. What prevents this from being the case are the constraints which cannot be removed from a particular work environment.

Constraints can be categorized with the four “P’s”:

    • Physical: physical constraints represent the laws of nature.
      • e.g. water can’t boil at 40°F
    • Policy: policy constraints come in the form of unchangeable internal or external facing rules.
      • e.g. government regulation, or internal strategic direction
    • People: people constraints represent the limits on human resources to meet process requirements
      • e.g. I need five staff to do a process step that all have five years of experience and in the current environment I only have three staff with four years of experience each
    • Project: project constraints represent the cost, schedule, and scope that your design must fit into.  

For a given project, you should identify and list all constraints using this “4 Ps” framework, figure out which ones cannot be controlled, and ensure that any design decisions fit within the unremovable constraints that are left.

As for the second consideration, that of overarching design principles, the Cavi Method focuses on two dimensions to increase energy flow: process transparency and process continuity. With every change, consider whether it supports increasing either transparency or continuity in the process.

Transparency is the idea that every resource involved in the process can see and be aware of as much of the process as possible. This can typically be improved through better communications, better access to data, dynamic reports or data visualizations, etc. Increasing transparency always improves flow and helps processes become more effective and more naturally self-optimizing. Before recommending any change, you must first consider whether you thereby increase or restrict the ability for information to flow through the process to all components of the workflow layer.

Continuity is increased when we physically remove obstacles to flow (thus making the process more continuous). It is achieved through removing the waste you identified during analysis. There are a lot of ways to remove waste, but high-level continuity strategies you should always check against include:

  • Creating net positive removal of waste: you don’t accidentally produce more waste elsewhere by changing the target step;
  • Supporting a scalable operating model: energy is flowing in greater volume to lower cost resources, be it people or technology
  • Creating a process design based on work functions and not job roles: standardization over specialization

If you make sure any changes you make don’t violate those three design principles, you can be confident that you are moving in the right direction to improve process continuity.

The work of analyzing and designing processes is easy to jump into, but difficult to master. A good design is one that is successfully implemented, because without design enablement in the workflow layer, the value of the best process improvement ideas will never yield any real-world benefit. Therefore, including constraints and cohesive design principles in your design process will help ensure that your process redesign is viable and will yield worthwhile change. The hardest part about process redesign is not just creating something with good process sense, but creating something that has a high chance of successful adoption. We will discuss the topic of implementation and enablement more when we arrive at the last step of the Cavi Method: Process Enablement, which will be the topic of our next post.  

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