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Friday, March 22, 2013

BBC Horizon II: Processes - step this way ... safely

Following the BBC TV Horizon programme last night "How to Avoid Mistakes in Surgery" I came across the following list concerned with processes:

Sequential steps. Where one step follows another.

Alternative steps. Where conditional logic specifies which of several paths should be traversed.

Iterative steps. Where a single step is repeated multiple times.

Composite steps. Where steps are nested within other steps.

Optional steps. Where any one of a set of steps may be traversed, depending on the results of a boolean operation.

Checklist. Where all of a number of steps must be traversed, but in any order. p.126.
The list is related to software development and manufacturing as per the reference source below. Within informatics and project management I've noticed and written here about the emphasis placed on processes. Process, process and yet more - in one form or other. As A&E doctor Kevin Fong revealed people can get lost in a process (intubation), especially experts within organisational hierarchies - complex teams in urgent circumstances. In information system projects the need for a socio-technical perspective is essential, and is synonymous with due consideration of human factors. Processes are an essential ingredient to understanding the world and there's a huge literature on events, co-ordination, timing, logistics, value ... but as the Horizon programme pointed out there's also a need for reflection, stepping back, taking in or trying to grasp the big picture. Maintaining situation awareness is vital to assure safety and as the program showed in a crisis hindsight makes a blind spot visible. This is why process is one of four P's in Hodges model (the others - purpose, practice and policy). Processes count, but they are only part of the bigger picture.

The steps above are intended for software developers, but the descriptions throw up some points when subject to a more literal - human - interpretation (which might be a problem?).

The 'alternative' steps: could that mean skipping one in turn as in 'alternate'?

And crucially for the checklist are there any risks associated with its being completed in any order?

There is a world of difference between programming methods and logic on the one hand; and human language and dialogue on the other.

Fayad, M.E., Johnson, R.E. Domain-Specific Application Frameworks: Frameworks Experience by Industry.

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