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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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 Making the Most of Your Plan Productivity

Most people are familiar with a “Disaster Recovery Plan.” The idea has been around for awhile and usually refers to the contingency planning in data processing that is necessary to minimize damage caused by unexpected and undesirable events affecting information processing.

The trend now is to look at a “Business Disruption Plan.” Although it seems like a play on words, it addresses two additional areas:

1. How best to deal with the non-automated areas of the organization, such as labor intensive functions.

2. How best to deal with the situation of natural calamities such as hurricanes, snow storms, etc., that may or may not create damage, but affect resources such as employees, environment, etc., disrupting the normal business activities.

In short, the emphasis is now on keeping the business running, not just the computer. Most data processing professionals have realized, however, that one of the biggest challenges lies in getting the user to commit the resources required to plan, document, and test their plan.

Not enough professionals within the disaster recovery industry successfully address the “user” or labor intensive side of Business Disruption Planning. The purpose of this article is to provide useful information to the professional who has already embraced the need for contingency planning, yet is always looking for additional tools to involve more people and expand the corporate contingency plan until all aspects are covered.

The relationship between Business Disruption Planning and Productivity Improvement Programs will be outlined with examples provided.

Last March at the Disaster Recovery Symposium, I met many people who were interested in our work in the area of labor intensive Business Disruption Planning.

One particularly interesting conversation focused on the need for this activity and the difficulty in getting resources to do the work.

Even more interesting, this company had a very active industrial engineering department that was charged with work flow analysis and productivity improvement programs.

Imagine their surprise when I told them that fifty percent of the components of a very practical Business Disruption Plan probably existed in the industrial engineering department files and that a complete plan for a user department could be assembled in approximately five weeks.

Many speakers on the subject of Total Contingency Planning allude to the basic method and procedure improvements that occur when the disaster recovery planning process is conducted properly.

The remainder of this article will demonstrate the relationship of Business Disruption Planning to Productivity Improvement Programs based on work flow analysis and work simplification.

The following hypotheses are stated here so that the rest of the article can be devoted to exploring the facts to show the relationship.

- When a Productivity Improvement Program using sound work flow analysis techniques is carried out, a Business Disruption Plan can result as a natural by-product.

- When a Business Disruption Plan for the user is developed and documented properly, a Productivity Improvement Product can be a by-product.

I will examine the two more common tools that both processes use.

One is the Work Distribution Chart, and the other is the Conceptual Flow Chart.

The following definitions are used in a Productivity Improvement Program.


A basic tool for identifying work content is the work distribution chart illustrated in Figure (1).
This chart is used to determine and record the approximate time spent on the processes handled by an organizational unit.

By highlighting the relative importance of each process, it shows which processes require the greatest resources.

These would have the highest potential payback if improvement could be made. This is where time would be spent on detailed analysis.

Usually it develops that 50% of the processes account for 90% of the effort. The chart may in itself be productive in identifying improvements.


The conceptual flow chart identifies the major operations within a process, indicated by the sequence in which they take place.

It also denotes the work positions involved. The conceptual flow chart is illustrated in Figure (2). The operations to be charted are those highlighted by the work distribution chart as being relatively important. When the chart is complete, look for the following opportunities:

- Bottlenecks or excessive delays
- Excessive complexity
- Duplication or redundancy

In the Business Disruption Planning process, the work distribution chart serves several purposes.
First, 100% of the work done within an organizational unit is defined. One of the greatest deficiencies in contingency planning is the sin of omission.

Second, as each operation is evaluated, its critical factor can be classified more easily and consistently. These factors are usually as follows:

- Not necessary
- Low priority
- Desirable
- Critical

During the Business Disruption Planning process, the conceptual flow chart is particularly useful where more than one department is involved.

The flow of information from one department to another poses the opportunity for “Murphy’s Law” to operate at the time of crossing the organizational boundary.

Contingency plans must be coordinated between departments. The ability to define who does the work up to a point and then who picks up the duties from there is very important.

If it can be defined as it is being done now, it is relatively simple to define what would be done under emergency preparedness conditions or recovery conditions.

In both Business Disruption Planning and Productivity Improvement Programs, the first step is to determine what is going on now.

The best thing to do is to “document” what is happening. Both the work distribution chart and the conceptual flow chart are excellent tools to do this taskThe Business Disruption Planning process includes a risk assessment in the next step. Knowing that all of the functions of a department are included and that relative estimates of time spent are valuable results of using the work distribution chart.

The next step in Productivity Improvement Programs is to challenge each major procedure to find candidates for improvement. Estimates of time spent are an indicator of where the greatest opportunities might occur and guide the analyst where more detailed effort might be best spent.

Business Disruption Planning requires determining alternative operating procedures that will apply under “recovery conditions.”

The conceptual flow chart can be used as a reference in analyzing how a particular procedure will take place under different conditions.

In Productivity Improvement Programs, the analyst and team work to brainstorm and look at alternative ideas as the “one best way” is sought out.

The conceptual flow chart allows the analyst to make mistakes on paper instead of trial and error. It also allows the analyst to communicate ideas to other people and receive suggestions from others.

In both situations, one of the more important conditions that must occur is the communication of the result to management.

The more completely we can describe our new “plan” or “idea” in a documented manner, the more successful we will be in getting the approval that is needed.

In summary, the two areas of Business Disruption Planning and Productivity Improvement Programs share similar steps in the process.

Therefore, it seems logical that the same tools of documentation would be of value to each process.

There are many such tools. This article has explored only two such techniques.

More in-depth information can be found in books related to work flow analysis, work management, and work simplification.

Ed Ginn is the President of Resources Management Associates in Plantation, FL. Prior to forming his own firm, he was responsible for planning and consulting for Landmark Banking Corporation.

This article adapted from Vol. 3 No. 4, p. 11.