PMI-ACP Tools and Techniques: Process Improvement

PMI-ACP Exam: value stream analysis

[PMI-ACP® Exam Study Notes] Process Improvement is one of the ten Tools and Techniques for the PMI-ACP® exam. Process Improvement includes the following toolkits:

  • Kaizen
  • the Five WHYs
  • retrospectives, intraspectives
  • process tailoring/hybrid models
  • value stream mapping
  • control limits
  • pre-mortem (rule setting, failure analysis)
  • fishbone diagram analysis

PMI-ACP® Exam Importance: around 3-6 questions (~5% of all questions)

PMI-ACP® Tools and Techniques: Value Stream Analysis

Value is the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

  • objectives: to provide optimum value flow to customers through value creation processes by eliminating wastes in every process (e.g. design, build, maintenance)
  • mainly used for process improvements and root cause analysis
  • Value Stream Mapping
    • Agile principle: Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
    • Value stream mapping is a graphical tool for analyzing and improving the flow of material (in manufacturing) / information (in software development) take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer (as used in lean manufacturing)
    • involves the following steps:
      • understand the current state (value stream mapping of the current state)
      • analyze and modify (value stream mapping of the future state)
        • create a visual map of the value flow of the current state)
        • distinguish between value-adding processes and non-value-adding operations (including wastes)
        • find delays, wastes and constraints
        • create a new value stream map for the desired state with optimization for delays, wastes and constraints
      • communicate and carry out the improvements
        • make use all team members understanding the values and follow the improvements
        • develop a roadmap for implementing the actions to reach the desire state
      • verify and validate the improvements

PMI-ACP® Tools and Techniques: The Five WHYs

  • The Five WHYs
    • a systematic approach to analysing identifying the root cause of a problem / cause-and-effect for the problem or issue
    • perform by repeatedly asking the question “Why” for at least 5 times until the root cause has been identified
    • imaginary example: Looking for the root cause for failing the PMI-ACP® Exam
      1. Why did I fail the PMI-ACP® Exam?
        – Because I got a lower mark than the passing mark
      2. Why did I get a lower mark?
        – Because I was not sure about the answers to many questions.
      3. Why was I not sure about the answers to many questions?
        – Because I could not remember some facts for the exam.
      4. Why couldn’t I remember some facts for the exam?
        – Because I was not familiar with the PMI-ACP® Exam content.
      5. Why was I not familiar with the PMI-ACP® Exam content?
        – Because I did not spend enough time revising the PMI-ACP® Exam notes.

PMI-ACP® Tools and Techniques: Fishbone Diagram

  • Fishbone Diagram
    • another tool for carrying out cause and effect analysis to help discover the root cause of a problem or the bottle-necks of processes
    • aka cause and effect diagrams/Ishikawa diagrams
    • to use Fishbone diagram technique:
      1. write down the problem/issue as the “fish head” and draw a horizontal line as the “spine” of the fish
      2. think of major factors (at least four or above) involved in the problem/issue and draw line spinning off from the spine representing each factor
      3. identify possible causes and draw line spinning off the major factors (your diagram will look like a fishbone now)
      4. analyze the fishbone diagram to single out the most possible causes to carry out further investigation

PMI-ACP® Tools and Techniques: Process Tailoring

Process Tailoring

  • Agile framework or methodologies are not intended to be “one-size-fit-all”
  • the Agile methodology and processes can be altered according to different projects (e.g. in terms of team size, nature, resources, criticality, etc.)
    • the adaptation / process tailoring can be raised in the iteration retrospective to be carried out in the next iteration
  • Note: Kanban is very tailoring-friendly while Scrum / XP do not recommend tailoring
  • However, in the beginning of any projects, it is generally recommended to implement the Agile methodologies as it is for the first few iterations for assessment of the suitability before changes / process tailoring are introduced
    • to have better understanding of the values of standard Agile methods and the relationship between different processes of Agile methodologies as some processes are mutually dependent
  • It is recommended to follow the Shu-Ha-Ri model (by Alistar Cockburn) if you would like to make changes – Shu-Ha-Ri originates from masters of Japanese Noh theater
    1. Shu – Obeying the rules
    2. Ha – Consciously moving away from the rules
    3. Ri – Unconsciously finding an individual path

For an overview of retrospectives, intraspectives, pre-mortem, etc., please refer to this post.

Summary: Process Improvement

This PMI-ACP® Exam Study notes touches upon one of the many tools and techniques of the PMI-ACP® exam syllabus – Process Improvement. Process Improvement includes Kaizen, the Five WHYs, retrospectives, intraspectives, process tailoring/hybrid models, value stream mapping, control limits, pre-mortem (rule setting, failure analysis) and fishbone diagram analysis.


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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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