Process Decision Program Charts

Managing Risk Methodically

Process Decision Program Charts - Managing Risk Methodically

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Identify the hidden risks in your process or project.

Kharina heads up a large electronics company, and has just received a message from a national newspaper's "consumer champion." The reporter asks her how she plans to deal with the current crisis, and why the company doesn't put its customers first.

Kharina didn't realize that there was a problem, so she schedules an emergency meeting with her head of distribution, Max, to find out what's gone wrong.

Closer investigation reveals that the organization's name is trending on social media… for all the wrong reasons. There have been many customer complaints about missed, late or incorrect deliveries, damaged packages, and a lack of action from the company's complaints team.

Kharina is disappointed to discover that Max hasn't done anything about these problems – he needs to improve process management in his department, and fast. So, Kharina asks him to create a process decision program chart for the distribution team, so that they can identify where the problems are happening and address them effectively.

In this article, we'll explore how you can use a process decision program chart (PDPC) to improve process management, process flow, process risk management, and contingency planning.


See our article on flow charts for a more in-depth understanding of how to think about and communicate workflows or processes. Swim Lane Diagrams are also useful for projects or processes that involve several people or teams, and you could use storyboards to illustrate the steps in a process.

Understanding Process Decision Program Charts

A PDPC (see Figure 1, below, for a snapshot) is similar to a flow chart in many ways. For example, it's a diagram that illustrates a process from start to finish, showing how different elements fit together. However, PDPCs are particularly helpful for identifying risks, and outlining how to mitigate them by developing and planning countermeasures.

Figure 1 – Snapshot of a PDPC

Process Decision Program Charts


PDPCs were developed in the second half of the 20th century by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers. They formed part of a set of tools intended to solve qualitative problems, such as identifying and resolving issues and dealing with customer complaints.

How to Create a Process Decision Program Chart

PDPCs are easy to create and use. They help you to consider risks methodically at the planning or review stage of a project or process, so that you don't overlook anything, and they make it easy to communicate about this with your team members.

Follow these four steps to create a PDPC:

1. Break Your Tasks Down, and Put Them in Sequence

To use a PDPC, you start by breaking your process down into its individual tasks. These might be the steps of a manufacturing process or a routine business workflow (such as regular order fulfilment, in our example).

Take a sheet of landscape letter-format paper, and write each task or element of the process in a separate box, spaced out down its left-hand side. You can see the tasks for our order fulfilment example in Figure 2, below.

Figure 2 – Tasks for Max's Order Fulfilment Process

Process Decision Program Charts


2. Identify Potential Risks

Next, you extend the chart to identify risks for the tasks you've mapped out. Draw branches off each task, and add the risks in rounded boxes at the ends of them (see Figure 3, below).


Read our article on Risk Analysis for more on identifying possible risks.

Figure 3 – Potential Risks

Process Decision Program Charts


3. Identify Possible Countermeasures or Contingencies

Unless the solution is immediately obvious, you'll likely need to brainstorm the most effective countermeasures for each risk. Draw branches off each risk, and add your countermeasures in wavy boxes (called "clouds"). (See Figure 4, below, for a complete PDPC for our example.)

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Figure 4 – Complete PDPC

Process Decision Program Charts


This PDPC gives Max and Kharina a clear set of actions to take to investigate and solve the problem, and it helps them think about how they can monitor these regularly to ensure that customers are satisfied.

4. Review the Process

This process should provide you with clear solutions to the potential problems or risks that you've identified. However, it's important to review your PDPC regularly, and make changes where appropriate.


A PDPC is one of several tools that you can use to identify potential risks and possible countermeasures. You could also use Risk Analysis to identify and manage risks that could undermine key business initiatives. This is particularly useful when you're planning a project, and when you need to make go/no-go decisions.

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) encourages you to analyze everything that could possibly go wrong during an existing or proposed project's design phase, and it helps you to identify, rank and prioritize your most serious threats.

And, Cause and Effect Analysis helps you identify all possible causes of a problem, not just the most obvious or serious ones. Here, you identify the root causes of a problem, uncover any bottlenecks, and pinpoint where and why a process isn't working.

Key Points

A process decision program chart is a simple, easy-to-use tool that allows you to monitor and manage processes more efficiently, and then to identify risks and brainstorm, develop and plan ways to mitigate them.

To draw up a PDPC, you break a process down into individual tasks, and write these in boxes down the side of a piece of paper. Next, you identify the potential risks that could occur at each stage and add these. Finally, you brainstorm possible countermeasures and add these.

A PDPC allows you to think about, plan for, and solve problems in a methodical way at the planning stage of a process, and to monitor your subsequent progress.