Design for Exceptions (DfX)

Exceptions are 20% of the transactions BUT 80% of the cost.  When re-engineering a business process, design for the process exceptions (not the norms).

Here’s a step-by-step roadmap on how you can #DfX:

“We may be very busy, we may be very ‘efficient’, but we will also be truly ‘effective’ only when we begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey

  • workingbloggerWalk in their shoes for 1 day.  From rise and shine to bedtime.  All of it!  not just your slice of it.

  • fishbone-diagramKeep asking yourself and others this simple question “Why?” “Why are they late?”  “Why Monday morning?” Document this using a cause and effect diagram (aka fishbone diagram).  one diagram per question.  You are searching for “root causes”.  We want ROOT causes.

  • Explore your triggers.  Write them down when you spot one.  A trigger is “something” that

    Courtesy of IBM Corporation.
    Courtesy of IBM Corporation.

    sets off a chain of events.   When you see or hear or possibly even taste your trigger you will know it.  Write it down.  Try to identify the emitter and receiver and document those as well.

  • Ask Question to Approved - New PageDiagram your “exceptional” processes.  Be diligent!

  • business plan on wallWrite your root causes, triggers and diagrams on 4X6 colored index cards.  Spread those cards all over a king size bed or conference room table.  Try to match different colors together (exceptional process is yellow, Triggers are green and root causes are red).  Now try to ELIMINATE as many cards as you can.  I find trying to eliminate a root cause first helps.  BTW!  A root cause cannot be eliminated, BUT TRY!  You can test a causality as well as discover it’s true nature by trying to eliminate it.  While designing for exceptions, always try to work around the system. This is typically where the treasure is buried.   In other words, this exceptional process may be automatically initiated by a different  “trigger” than the one you are using now.  You can find the optimal triggers by working backwards and inventing triggers when and where YOU want them.  

  • Never solve a problem that you can eliminate.  Now that you have properly pruned your “To-Be” (2B) process design, have fun with it!  Play with it.  Get weird.  Think “What if”.  DOCUMENT YOUR DESIGNS!  Very important!

  • IdempotentRetry

    Research your options.  Social process implementations have the unusual luxury of being both low cost and significantly beneficial. They are low cost because everyone already has the hardware (smart phone), the software is typically free (Facebook) and many of the labor-based services required can be “in-sourced” to existing employees.  Typical breakeven should be less than 6 months.

  • Rapid prototype your 2B social design. Role play. See my article called “Role-Based Templates” before you role play.  Test your prototype.  Put it through the ringer.

    • First test is always? . . . Do I really need this???  If not, eliminate it!

    • Second test is how quickly can I transform energy WITH history.  In other words, your business process should be consistent regardless of which employee or subcontractor is providing the service.  In other words, you should be able to hire / fire at will.  Rapid on-boarding and rapid transfer of knowledge should be a natural by-product. 

If you need help, all you need to do is ask.  Here’s my CONTACT INFO.

Be creative. Be brave. Be bold. Be ready for the exceptions in your business. They are more normal than you think.

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