Questions to elicit process pain points

Below is a list of questions that I use to help trigger discussion with your stakeholders to uncover issues and pain points, which in turns helps me elicit requirements.

I use these questions when I have a mapped the current process and have a fair understanding of the current state. As an outcome of identifying the pain points I then usually run a brainstorming session with my stakeholders to generate ideas to overcome those issues.

I base my questions on the 8 lean wastes: DOWNTIME.

Here is an explanation of DOWNTIME:

  • Defects: errors caused by rework, scrap, and incorrect information
  • Overproduction: production that is more than needed or before it is needed
  • Waiting: wasted time waiting for the next step in the process
  • Non-utilised talent: underutilising people’s talent, skills and knowledge
  • Transportation: unnecessary movements of products and materials
  • Inventory: excess products and materials not being processed
  • Motion: unnecessary movements by people
  • Extra-processing: more work or higher quality than is required by the customer.

And here are the types of questions I use based on DOWNTIME and some of my own thinking:

  • Are there any times where time or resources are wasted?
  • Are there any times when nothing is happening?
  • Are there any times when you are waiting for information?
  • Are there any times when delays create issues?
  • Are there any bottlenecks – where the volume of work is causing delays?
  • Is there anything that could be done earlier?
  • Are there any checking or review steps that are not clearly adding value?
  • Are there any unnecessary exchanges between people or parties that are not clearly adding
    value?
  • Are there any areas where activities are being duplicated?
  • Is there any unnecessary movement of information or files?
  • Are there any times where movement of people or resources is clearly a waste?
  • Can any steps be done in parallel instead of sequentially?
  • Is any step done (or something created) so early in the process that sometimes it may not
    ever be needed?
  • Are there any activities that produce errors (and rework) or something that would be
    deemed as unacceptable by any stakeholder?
  • Are there any issues that would affect the value or quality of your work?
  • Is there a risk of overburdening or stressing the people, equipment or system?
  • Is there a risk of disengagement of people? Where and when?
  • Are there any other issues?

You can use these questions after you have bedded down the current state.

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