Optimizing Processes: Four Fields Mapping

What Is the Tool? Four-Fields Process Map Originated in Japan, the Four-Fields Map is a graphical technique most commonly applied to cross-functional processes. Unlike more traditional project planning methods that apply work breakdown structures and critical path analysis, the Four-Fields Map emphasizes the elements of tasks, teamwork, and quality.

The tool describes the execution of a process across four areas:

1)     Phases: discrete states over time that define where in the process the team is executing.

2)     Tasks: significant deliverables within the flow of the process.

3)     People: the functions or individual(s) responsible for delivering the task within the phase. Typically, as the work flows through the process, the individual(s) assigned to the task will be the lead of the process for the duration of that task.

4)     Standards: the deliverables, documents, or specifications by which you will judge the quality of the tasks of the process.

You can construct a Four-Fields Map using the following steps:

  1. Identify a target process and define the process objective(s).
  2. Identify a flowchart of significant tasks and decisions points.
  3. Map the tasks and decision points in a matrix of the product development phases against the team members responsible for their delivery. The tasks are connected to indicate the process flow over time.
  4. For each task, record the elapsed time (in days) and the level of effort (in person days) required to complete it.
  5. For significant tasks, record the documented standard by which you can determine their quality (in the right-hand column).

What Are the Benefits?

  • When you apply the Four-Fields Map to a new process, it provides you with the best chance of getting the process right the first time. Many times when teams need to create new processes, they do it in an ad-hoc and non-holistic manner. This tool supports you in creating a process (with key tasks, ownership, and standards) from start to finish.
  • When you apply this tool to sub-optimal processes, it drives process improvement. This tool allows you to examine existing processes to ensure that you have identified all key tasks and that resources are in place to execute at the right time in the process.
  • By measuring the quality of critical tasks against standards, you will have a consistent approach for executing the process. Incorporating this tool into key processes ensures that stakeholders know ahead of time how you will measure the success of the task.

Which Business Problems Do We Solve?

The Four-Fields Map provides a clear line of sight for team members and their management for implementing new processes and offers a graphical representation of the deliverables throughout the defined process. In a single view, decision makers and contributors can see the critical tasks of a process, the responsible individuals, and the criteria by which they will measure the successful outcome of a task.

What Are some Considerations?

  • The Four-Fields Map is a snapshot in time. As changes occur, you should update the tool to reflect the latest process information.
  • Because the tool is focused on tasks, people, and standards, it does not include some of the elements of more traditional project management, including work breakdown structures, identification of the critical path, key dependencies, and oversight by the program manager.
  • While the process measures critical tasks against a standard, it does not ensure the quality of the standard.

Case Study

NetCo is ramping up a new project with a significant amount of supplier risk. Their primary concerns are twofold: 1) many critical components are from a sole source, and 2) the product requires a new technology, and the primary supplier does not have high yields, indicating a quality problem. To mitigate the risk, they need to develop a cross-functional process to ensure clear communication of the risk profile and procurement plan and then execute the process to make sure they are well informed of the procurement risk.

Bruce, the new product operations (NPO) manager, creates with the cross-functional team a Four-Fields Map to clearly identify the key stakeholders, their tasks throughout the phases of the process, and the standards by which they will evaluate the quality of the tasks. The end result is a risk assessment plan with a recommendation for procurement authorization from Tom, the VP of manufacturing operations.