An Approach, Insights and Methodology for Performance Improvement through Process Activity Management

Year: 2007
Author: Haffey, Mark K D
Supervisor: Duffy, Alex H. B.
Institution: Department of Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management University of Strathclyde Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Page(s): 579


The design development process is of strategic importance to an organisation. Its role within a product development process is significant, not only in performing efficiently and effectively while supporting the exploitation of the competencies and capabilities available, but also in producing a product that will contribute to the realisation of desired organisational success. The management and improvement of design activities, within the context of a development process and organisational system, provides particular challenges in supporting designers understanding their role and fit within the evolving and dynamic environment that is product development. The research presented in this thesis explored the nature of organisational systems concerned with the development of products and the manner in which process activities can be managed and their performance improved, based upon a more considered understanding of their role and fit within a process and organisational context. Issues associated with the planning, control and improvement of process activities are identified, in addition to issues associated with attaining organisational coherence and identifying and managing the influences upon activity performance. Current support in relation to these issues, within the domains of project management and performance measurement and management, is presented. Specific deficiencies and limitations are identified in relation to supporting: the identification and utility of multi-variable relationships; the determination of the manner in which performance can be affected; the prediction of attainable performance and the impacts and influences that can be encountered throughout an organisation; the consideration, management and improvement of process activity performance within an organisational context; the coherency of business and product development goals; the recognition of the degree of contribution and behavioural
coherence; the ability to determine degrees of coherence; and, the identification and management of the range of influences that can affect activity level performance. Requirements associated with addressing the issues recognised and overcoming the limitations identified are established, delineating the degree of support that an approach to performance improvement through process activity management should realise. A novel approach to performance improvement, through process activity management, is established that utilises Knowledge from Data Discovery techniques to explicate and formalise performance behavioural models (multi-variable relationships) identified from past projects. In order to support organisations in attaining coherence within and between departmental functions and activities, insights are presented that highlight the organisational factors that can influence the degree of coherence attained within the business management and product development processes. Factors identified in relation to organisational coherence are: the goals defined, considering goal variables and goal targets; the contributions realised; the behaviours exhibited; and, the components associated with the measurement of performance. A means by which the degree of coherence may be determined is formalised and presented. With respect to the influences upon activity performance, an existing performance model (E2) is extended to consider the impact of activity inputs upon activity performance. The relationship between activity inputs and activity goals is formalised through the AE2 process performance model, outlining six conditions (6C’s) of input appropriateness: compatibility; completeness; complexity; consistency; co-ordination; and, correctness of an input state. An insight is presented in relation to supporting the management of process activities through the distinction between the boundary of control and the boundary of responsibility. A range of activity level influences that may impact activity performance are presented, delineating various states associated with: activity goals (their inter-relationships, the targets defined, the existence of irrelevant and omitted goals, and goal priorities); tasks (predicted, encountered and enacted); resources (capability, competencies, capacity, combination and exploitation); and, subactivities (composition, sequence, timing and performance of sub-activities). A methodology associated with the implementation of the approach developed is outlined, detailing the activities associated with the explication of performance behaviour models and the activities associated with the utilisation of performance behaviour models within current projects.
The approach, insights and methodology are evaluated based upon assessments carried out by two industrial partners, highlighting how the research addresses the requirements identified and overcomes the issues recognised in relation to improving performance through process activity management. Identified strengths and weaknesses associated with the approach and insights are presented and areas for future work are proposed in relation to: further implementations of the approach; overcoming the issue of ‘islands of information’; the utility of explicated relationships within the Design Structure Matrix tool; the inclusion and incorporation of the decisions taken, assumptions made, resources utilised and the environment realised/encountered; the inclusion of decisions within coherence assessments; the assessment of the AE2 model within collaborative, competitive and co-operative environments, and their comparison; the dispositions of resources and their suitability, and allocation, within differing contexts; a more formalised understanding of the boundary of responsibility considering both direct and indirect impacts throughout a process; and, the manner in which capability, competency and capacity of resources may provide support in the determination of design resource productivity. The ability to identify the existence of variable relationships was not realised as a result of a potential range of constraints encountered during the research. Such constraints pertain to the inability to source and analyse data from multiple projects and the lack of traceability maintained between departmental data repositories.

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