5th Edition PMBOK® Guide–Chapter 8: Process Decision Program Chart (PDPCs)


There are seven quality tools listed under the “tools & techniques” for process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance.   This post covers the 2nd of these seven tools, Process Decision Program Charts or PDPCs.  The idea of the tool is list those steps which are required to get towards a goal.   They are particularly useful in contingency planning because it aids in identifying intermediate steps which might derail the achievement of that goal.

In a way, a process decision program chart is similar to failure mode effects analysis in that it tries to map out the ways things can wrong, not with respect to the design, but with respect to the process itself. It is a way of mapping out countermeasures to those things that can go wrong, and so could be considered a tool of risk management.  Risk management is especially important when projects are complex and the schedule constraint is tight (i.e., no delays permissible).

Here’s the steps required to create a PDPC.   Please note that this tool may require the output of the fourth out of seven quality tools listed for this process, namely Tree Diagrams.

Step Description
1. Create Tree Diagram of Plan Take the high-level objective (first level), list the main activities required to reach that objective (second level), and then under each activity list the tasks required to accomplish those activities (third level).
2. Brainstorm Risks Brainstorm and figure out what could go wrong for each of the third-level tasks that could prevent them from being accomplished.
3. Rank Risks Rank the risks created in step 2 according to probability and impact. Eliminate those risks if the probability is low and the impact is negligible, or both. Therefore you are left with only those risks which medium to high probability and medium to high impact on the project.
4. List Risks List all remaining risks after step 3 under the tasks they are associated with, creating a fourth level on the tree diagram created in step 1.
5. Brainstorm Countermeasures Brainstorm and figure out for each risk what could be done to either a) prevent it from happening or b) remedy the situation if it does occur.
6 List Countermeasures List all countermeasures underneath the risks they are associated with, creating a fifth level on the tree diagram modified in step 4.
7. RankCountermeasures Rank the countermeasures created in step 5 according to their time, cost, and ease of implementation. After deciding the criteria, decide which countermeasures are practical and mark those with an O, and mark those that are impractical with an X.

Here’s an example taken from ASQ’s Learn About Quality feature regarding this tool. This is taken as an example of a medical group that is trying to improve the patient care for those patients that have chronic illnesses like diabetes.

How are the six steps from the above list used in the creation of the PDPC above?

1.  Create Tree Diagram of Plan

Take the high-level objective (first level), list the main activities required to reach that objective (second level), and then under each activity list the tasks required to accomplish those activities (third level).

The high-level objective is the first level:  in this case, it is to create an effective Chronic Illness Management Program.  The main activities to reach that objective are in the second level:  to support patient self-management, to support decisions, to have an effective information system, and to redesign the delivery system.   The tasks required to accomplish those activities are listed in the third level.

2.  Brainstorm risks

Brainstorm and figure out what could go wrong for each of the third-level tasks that could prevent them from being accomplished.

For the third level tasks, you need to brainstorm to think of what could go wrong that could prevent them from being accomplished.   These represents the risks.    In the above diagram, as an example, there are two tasks, Patient Goal-Setting and Practice Teams, that have risks associated with them that might prevent those tasks from being accomplished.

3.  Rank risks

Rank the risks created in step 2 according to probability and impact. Eliminate those risks if the probability is low and the impact is negligible, or both. Therefore you are left with only those risks which medium to high probability and medium to high impact on the project.

This step is omitted in the diagram.

4.  List Risks

List all remaining risks after step 3 under the tasks they are associated with, creating a fourth level on the tree diagram created in step 1.

Let’s assume that the risks which low probability and/or impact on the project have been eliminated, and the risks that are left, Inappropriate Goals and Backsliding (for Patient Goal-Setting), or Staff Resistance to Role Changes and Patients Want to See MD (for Practice Teams), are assumed to have medium to high probability and/or impact on the project.   Then these are listed underneath the tasks that they belong to, creating a fourth level on the tree diagram.

5.  Brainstorm countermeasures

Brainstorm and figure out for each risk what could be done to either a) prevent it from happening or b) remedy the situation if it does occur.

The results of this brainstorm are then made into a list (see next step).

6.  List countermeasures

List all countermeasures underneath the risks they are associated with, creating a fifth level on the tree diagram modified in step 4.

The fifth level has countermeasures listed to prevent each risk in the fourth level from occurring.   For example, to prevent the risk of Inappropriate Goals from occurring, the countermeasures of Nurse Guidance and Approval and Checklist of Possible Goals are listed.

7.  Rank countermeasures

Rank the countermeasures created in step 5 according to their time, cost, and ease of implementation. After deciding the criteria, decide which countermeasures are practical and mark those with an O, and mark those that are impractical with an X.

You can see that the countermeasures in the fifth level that are impractical are marked with an X, such as Replace Resistant Staff (one of the possible countermeasures to the risk “Staff resistant to role changes”).

I hope you can see from this example not only how the Process Decision Program Chart can be used to identify risks and countermeasures, but also to rank them so that only the most relevant risks are handled, and only the most feasible of countermeasures are used to counteract those risks.

The next post will cover tool #3, Interrelationship Digraphs.

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