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Step 2: Simplification (Reengineering I)


Arthur M. Schneiderman

The rapid rise (and some would say equally rapid fall) of process reengineering has tended to merge two very different process management activities.  The first is process simplification: the relentless effort to identify and eliminate non-value adding activities in a process.  What constitutes a non-value adding step?  I like Rath & Strong's definition of a value adding process step:

the "thing" flowing through the process undergoes a physical change.  Here a "thing" can be either a physical product such as a TV set or an automobile, or a service product such as a phone call to a customer service call center or a mortgage application,


the customer is willing to pay for that change, and


the activity is not to correct an upstream error.

This distinction is more easily made in theory than in practice.  I find it useful to differentiate between two levels of non-value adding activities:

bulletcurrently non-value adding and
bulletpotentially non-value adding.

For example, most inspection steps are potentially non-value adding.  But don't try eliminating them when your process is out-of-control (see Step 4) or produces an unacceptable number of outcomes outside of the customer's requirement. 

But not all non-value adding activities started life more productively.  Many are the result of poor "improvement processes" that encourage changes that in fact have no positive effect on the very problem they were supposed to mitigate.  This process clutter is symptomatic of improvement processes that leap from problem to solution without root cause identification or fail to have a verification step to assure that the solution has the desired effect.  Many suggestion systems that I've observed suffer from this weakness.

The second, very different reengineering activity is process redesign as described in Step 7.

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Last modified: August 13, 2006