How to Improve the Process?

BPM starts with grasping improvement of workflow (Workflow App). Please benefit from the following story about Workflow improvement activity.

Episode 1: How to draw a Business Flow Diagram

I wonder what “Business Flow Diagrams” refers to…

“Translation task” is a typical human-related workflow. Even though computer-“assisted” cases increases, (I think) humans are likely to keep on participating in this task in the foreseeable future.

Well, if I am asked to “draw a Business Flow Diagram for a Japanese/English article writing Process,” what sort of diagram would come to my mind? I wonder. I might be hesitated because the diagram is as simple as the Diagram below.

Figure 1

But, also you can tell just by thinking for a while, I haven’t taken into consideration “sending back” to “W1: Write Document” Task in this Diagram. In other words, this Diagram is based on the assumption that “there is no mistake in the draft in Japanese.” Let me see… Well, I wonder what I need to do to illustrate it more accurately.

Incidentally, if someone says, “Nay! Sending back is implicitly included.” I wouldn’t refute it strongly. Yet, I just want to promote awareness of the fact that there is no way to define such a “Workflow with no sending-back.”

For your information, work units such as T1 or W1 are often called either “Activity” or “Task” according to definitions by an International Standards Body (OMG). A “Task” is defined as an “Activity that cannot be divided further,” and so W1 and T1 in the Diagram above should be called Tasks.

To go back or forward; “Decision”

When if I were a translator, I can’t help accumulating frustrations in thinking, “This original draft in Japanese must be rewritten.” Uncompleted sentences, too poor to read… “I can’t stand this!” I might be on the point of leaving in saying so in disgust. (Really?) In fact, “I can’t translate such sentences. So, I’ve ignored them…” If possible, I hope to avoid such a cold scene, but this type of conversations may happen thousands of times everyday anywhere in the world (no data, though).

Now, as a rule of business, I’m going to draw a “Workflow in which a translator is authorized to make a decision for sending back.”

Figure 2

I see. By getting a translator authorized, fruitless stagnation can be avoided. Well, now we carry out our work according to this rule, and a question strikes me, “why in the world is a translator checking original drafts in Japanese?”

Of course, even without any rule concerning authority, there might be a case in which “aura of fury” forces the author of the original draft in Japanese to submit it again. And yet, if the author is absent or at a remote location, the aura doesn’t reach. (Nay, it just might arrive.)

Better leave it to a specialist

Necessary abilities are different between “writers in Japanese” and “translators.” If there are 10 “writers in Japanese,” they should inspire each other to improve their ability to make Japanese drafts.

So now I examine a case in which “another writer” of drafts in Japanese reviews a draft.

Figure 3

Hm. Quality of drafts in Japanese has improved dramatically. I can concentrate on my translation though I need to confirm the meaning of some sentences just sometimes. I don’t have to shake with rage any more.

However, on a peaceful day, an accident happens. Contents of one of our press releases written in Japanese are evidently untrue to the facts. “I translated the most this month among 3 translators. So I just ignore…,” I am tempted by an evil spirit for an instant. But, my sense of justice comes out of hibernation, and I can’t help unlocking it.

Tons of Loops

Now, I want to examine modification into a “Workflow in which the original draft in Japanese can be rewritten if necessary.” Should I send back the draft to the author or via the reviewer? This decision is unexpectedly quite difficult.

Figure 4
Figure 5

The reviewer may feel obligated to know the reasons why the draft is sent back. This is a rare case in the first place. After considering it very carefully, I concluded that the best is a rule which obligates to send back to the author by agreement with the reviewer although it takes time.

After many twists and turns…

The reasoning for “quality improvement of drafts in Japanese” would work out for quality of “translation drafts.” Half a year later, I came to the following Business Process.

Figure 6

Both 10 members in charge of “Japanese version” and 3 translators try to upgrade their skills by learning from others. The quantity of drafts made per week tends to incline! Quality must be improved, too. However, this team still has a challenge…

Want to refer to previous data

“I translated a similar draft, but…,” a translator murmurs. Last month, her favorite PC departed, and she is chagrined at being unable to refer to previous deliverables. Great sorrow, comfortable memories. So now, I’m concentrating on centralized control of data that the team produces.

Groupware handling this sort of thing is likely to be called “BPM software” or “BPM Suite.” If I fix a format called “Process Data” in addition to “Business Flow Diagram (Business Process Diagram),” I seem to be able to manage deliverables. In addition, the current stagnation seems to become visible. By turning tears into courage, I decided to introduce it.(!?) When I think about it now, some translators had attached word processor data to e-mail, while some others had pasted text data on e-mail body. It was, in fact, inefficient.

Task operation control by BPM software

fixed “Process Data” and input/output settings as follows.

Table 1

I minimized required(*) fields in consideration of secretive people who would want to send each other e-mail as they used to do. I ran the software, and it automatically recorded date and time of task completion…Fantastic! I won’t shed a tear anymore!! And, I realized that one of the leader’s tasks “task counting” had come to be unnecessary to do.

In addition, after that…

Translators sometimes get busy. That is when they receive drafts in special fields that they have never treated. They need to accumulate know-how for translation techniques. In contrast, writers in Japanese don’t appear to drop their pace even when they handle different fields. So, I decided to hire home-based part-timers to allocate easy tasks. Of course, I ask them to use BPM software. Regular employees produce finished versions from drafts that part-timers make. Translators have to take longer time to deliver translation, so I have the client (writers in Japanese) determine whether we allocate some parts to part-timers. Incidentally, I make a change for having the leader, who takes care of less work, check and approve all deliverables. These improvement results are as Image 7. Additional improvements will come soon. A draft in Japanese sometimes has some parts with immediate importance and some others with less importance. Consequently, a new idea strikes me. That is “Process Division.” This enables “multiple-division high-speed production.” Days of Kaizen (improvement) never end…. (The End)

Figure 7
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Figure 8b
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