You should always plan to have a plan, especially when the stakes are high and the situation is complicated. Business leaders often face tough decisions regarding problems and solutions spread across their entire operational process. Process decision program charts (PDPCs) are a procedural outline that helps them gauge and assess potential problems with their proposed solutions.

Overview: What are process decision program charts (PDPC)?

These charts have two primary functions that are both essential to core six sigma practices: process documentation and impact analysis. PDPCs are organized as a tree diagram or similar hierarchical model with three distinct levels. High level shows the main objective, second level shows activities to accomplish the objective and the tertiary level shows the tasks needed to complete each activity.

After completing a thorough tree diagram of the process in question, analysts then consider each task of each activity. The main purpose is to think about what could go wrong with each item and what could be done to mitigate or prevent it. Brainstorming should also include likelihood and consequences of each potential failure to help prioritize crisis management efforts.

3 benefits of process decision program charts

Charts and analysis aren’t the most fun words in the lean management handbook, but they are very useful ones that successful business leaders need to know about.

1. Smoother implementation

The real value of a process decision program chart is in jump-starting a new solution past some of the initial hurdles and learning curve. Carefully anticipating and addressing potential problems means there will be less risks, hiccups and complications when rolling out the new system, technology or product. There will always be problems with new solutions, so it’s better to accept that fact and get ready for them.

2. Contingency and crisis planning

PDPCs are all about asking the “what if” questions that no one wants to think about. Adopting an analytical and risk-conscious mentality can be a good thing for contingency planning and preventative action. Don’t be afraid to cross some of these concerns and ideas over into a formal crisis plan.

3. Opening sessions for innovation

Outlining and organizing all of your key processes, tasks and activities creates a great opportunity for team collaboration and innovation. If possible, encourage participants to discuss these items, potential alternatives and options for working around potential hurdles.

Why are PDPCs important to understand?

Six sigma practitioners should learn more about these charts as part of implementing the program in their companies, but any business leader can benefit from the knowledge.

Garbage in, garbage out

This age-old adage is very appropriate when discussing any kind of statistical or analytical work. The most important thing to understand about your process chart is that it needs to be based on reality, not imagination or guesswork. Tracing and cataloging all the different tasks in some larger operations can be grueling, but it needs to be done right if you do it at all.

Controlling high risk situations

The reason businesses look at PDPCs is to control risks, which is why they are most often seen when there are high stakes linked to the proposed solution. These stakes could be the potential for lost investment if the solution fails or a potential consequence of a “what if” gone wrong, like someone suing the company for damages. In any case, these charts are important because the company’s life could be on the line.

Making final decisions

Business leaders should always be flexible and ready to change when needed, but they also need to be decisive sometimes. It’s easy to get caught up in endless hours of brainstorming and pondering over the same data without much development. Leaders need to sit down and absorb the information, then they need to choose and move forward without dwelling in doubt.

An industry example of a PDPC

A tech-oriented landscaping company wants to start offering robotic lawn-mowing services to their local customers. While the technology itself has been tested in a control environment, it has yet to be implemented in commercial applications. This means the landscaping company needs to plan for how they will implement this technology as part of their everyday business.

The highest first level of the process chart is the goal of cutting a customer’s grass with a certain degree of speed, safety and consistency. The second level includes all the activities, like getting the robot lawn mower to the location or loading it back up again. The third level are the tasks, which is where decisions are made. These tasks can include things like unlatching it from the truck, lowering it on the liftgate and turning it on to start the mow.

3 best practices when thinking about process decision program charts

Make your charting endeavors more effective by following a few of these basic best practices.

1. Pick your battles

Just because you recognize that something could go wrong with a particular task doesn’t mean you necessarily need to do something about it. Leaders also need to gauge the potential cost and consequence of this outcome. Sometimes, it’s better to just accept some faultiness in a particular process.

2. Make a task force

Bring team members onboard as part of the charting and brainstorming process. Even if they aren’t necessarily leaders or managers, experienced employees can offer valuable insight and make meaningful contributions.

3. Encourage creative thought

Encourage participants to express thoughts, ideas and concerns without reservation. Get ideas out into the room, then worry about refining, criticizing and improving them. Creative thought can be a powerful tool when asking the “what if” questions for each task.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about process decision program charts

How is a process decision program chart used?

These charts are used as analytical tools for making management decisions about processes or solutions currently under development.

How to organize and order processes in a decision program chart?

Processes follow a typical hierarchical tree diagram format, which could be described as a timeline with process pyramids beneath each major item. Processes are usually ordered according to the chronology of the process in question.

What is the purpose of a PDPC?

The purpose of a PDPC is to anticipate potential problems and develop countermeasures before implementing a new product or solutions.

Planning for failures

There are always a bunch of things that could go wrong and you can drive yourself crazy trying to think about all of them. Six sigma takes these concerns and puts them in the proper frame. Leaders should certainly set aside time for “what if” postulations, but they shouldn’t let it dominate their thinking all of the time. Failures are inevitable, which is why you should do your best to plan for them, avoid them and overcome them.

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