The need to probe for operational lumps

An often-unrecognized factor that effects operational efficiency is a characteristic called process fragmentation. It reflects a lack of functional consolidation between roles within the overall organization structure. Fragmented processes are characterized by frequent transfers of accountability and information between roles and departments. Transfers generally add unnecessary wait and slack times to overall process throughput, and often increase the risk of errors, defects and ‘unhappy’ flows that require rework. Therefore, a basic guideline of process optimization would be to reduce the number of transfers needed to conduct the process as much as possible. Ideally, the ultimate scenario would be to have one role handle all tasks without need for any transfers, but realistically that would rarely be possible.

Processes are initially designed and implemented to ensure smooth, unimpeded transitions between tasks and those that support them. However, fragments develop as responsibilities are reassigned, organization structures evolve, and functions are automated. As a result, the flow of work becomes disjointed and prolonged by transfers, increased correspondence and distributed information. This breakdown of efficiency and integration increases the time needed to complete the process (throughput) along with the risk of errors and defects.

A relatively easy way to determine the degree of process fragmentation and its impact on operations is to map role assignments, task-by-task, against the firm’s organization chart; mapping both sequence and the number of tasks supported by each role. The results quickly reveal the distribution and density of assigned roles supporting the process. In our practice, we’ve found that process efficiency and productivity deteriorate significantly when the ratio of transfers to tasks is greater than 30%.

If fragmentation is evident, Business Analysts need to review the relationship between functions and the supporting organization. Their experience needs to then determine whether to adjust the process to consolidate functions within the organization or restructure the organization to consolidate roles supporting those functions. In the end, the test is whether the process functions measurably better with fewer transfers. That said, the consolidation of roles or functions can be extremely disruptive to both morale and productivity, and ideally should only be approached by experienced process analysts and management after careful consideration of associated change management issues.

Partisan Consulting is committed to providing an unparalleled level of tactical consulting services in operations management. Our proprietary tools, methods and decades of field experience allow us to quickly establish a detailed, holistic understanding of each client. We have resources available on a project or retained outsourced basis.

TOPO is a software-as-a-service, business analysis engine developed by Partisan Consulting, Ltd. Users are given the means to fully interact, understand and work within a touch-enabled environment of 3D process models, integrated operational data, facilitated analysis and auto-generated standard operating procedures. To learn more, please visit our website at, or the TOPO Business Analysis Engine page on Facebook.

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