Inverted KPI: minimize process exceptions (Addendum)

Stop exceptions

While talking to people about the blog on minimizing process exceptions, there was a general recognition of the usefulness of this approach. Examples of process exceptions and their impact on the business were easy enough understood. But one additional element was touched that needs to be discussed separately: the analysis of false positives.

When scanning for process exceptions, the tendency is to look for the top 5% of exceptions that have either the biggest impact on the performance, involve the largest potential risk or resulting in non-compliance. And I would certainly advocate to focus on and resolve these first. But there is another category that deserves attention of its own: the unnecessary activities. When monitoring for exceptions, inevitably one discovers positives with non or a relatively small impact but with a high frequency or at least a repetitive character. Think of examples like changing an amount with just one cent or a pattern of changing values back and forth. We tend to qualify these as false positives and not interesting enough for further analysis. 

There are three possible types of reasons behind this behavior:

Missing the system

  • not understanding the right way to use a system or apply a procedure
  • example: not using templates or defaults
  • indicating the need for training

Mending the system

  • bypassing flaws and omission in the system or procedure
  • example: default values which can only be changed afterwards
  • indicating the need for system maintenance

Nuking the system

  • using system design to bypass procedures
  • example: prevent items from showing up in signal lists
  • indicating at least improper behavior

All types have in common that they waist productivity and thus have an impact on resource capacity. Important enough to act upon? Maybe. Even when the time needed to make a logically unnecessary change is only 1 minute, when occurring 50 times a day, every day, it counts up. Of course the third one adds an even more serious element to that.

In summary: patterns of repeating small process exceptions may have an aggregated impact to act upon them with equal importance as the more obvious big impact exceptions.

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