The three pages that changed process management in Finland

Work does not work out without common rules

One of the features of a well-functioning organization is that things are documented in such a way that they can be repeated over time in accordance with quality requirements and agreed goals. Another feature is that the described work chains can more easily be improved and the people working in them can be trained to work properly and safely much easier. Functioning is always easier, if it is possible to check what has been agreed upon or what is meant to be done.

Software-based ways to describe processes began to develop in the late 1990s. Until then, this was done with kraft paper and sticky notes. Processes were almost invariably drawn as process flows and working instructions as Word-documents. Thus, the software developed to describe processes also followed this logic. Because the description logic was a bit too simple, the descriptions usually ended up as jumbles of arrows and the updated versions of the instructions were stored on the author’s computer.

Thinking ahead of time

At the same time, the idea of developing the logic of the whole process description was awakened elsewhere, that is, in the discussions of two Finnish auditors. What they thought, was to better bring up the key elements of the process, summarize the diagrams in a clear and simple manner, and allow the linking and storing of other key information to its own tab. This way, when naming the processes, it would not be necessary to push all the information into the image.

But even that was not enough for them. The process map, which is a set of processes, should be able to be viewed in a hierarchical way to better visualize the interaction of processes. The idea came from the JHS 152 guidelines and led to a 3-page technique, which I once thought was a legacy of some of the books by Deming, Juran or other quality guru. However, this is not the case. The 3-page technique is an innovation developed by Jussi Moisio and Ossi Ritola. The IMS software, in turn, began to form both from this innovative idea and the developing demands of quality management.

The 3-page technique is still changing the process culture

In a time when the number one mantra is to renew and come up with something new, it is great to also see long-lasting tools like the 3-page technique that have stuck in time. Although IMS no longer meets the most demanding requirements for document management, its process section is hard to tackle with any other software. This I have been able to witness many, many times in customer projects even before started to work here in Arter. Most organizations use 3-page technique to describe their processes or to support their process training even without software, since it is a down-to-earth method that is practical and suitable for describing all kind of processes.

Don’t try to stick it to that picture, it’s much easier to put it in the phase description tab.

Hearing this sentence from a client makes me happy every time. I know that my customers have caught up with the thinking and can handle any process with the logic that the 3-page technique teaches.

I have also been able to witness the following comments from clients about 3-page technique:

We thought we weren’t able to get a consensus on this metrics, but then time after time we returned to the summary tab to think if we had defined the process goal correctly.

We’ve got rid of those jumbles of arrows and found a common language for these processes.

The auditors have thanked us for our process descriptions, saying that they are extremely clear because they have been described with the 3-page technology and the documents are linked to the descriptions of the phases.


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