Method Study and Critical Examination
Method study is a practice of examining methods of doing work: work-flows, processes, etc. The key component of method study is ‘critical examination.’ Author Michael Armstrong describes critical examination in his ‘Handbook of Management Techniques.’
Critical examination uses the questioning approach to find out what, how, when, where and, most importantly, why and activity is carried out, and who does it. From this analysis, two fundamental questions are posed: (1) Does the activity need to be done at all? If so, (2) Are there any better ways of doing it?
The questioning approach for critical examination is described in the following chart. This chart is also available as a hand-out (PDF download) for quick reference.
Call for Action
A great degree of professional work–in engineering, management, finances, and other functions of the modern corporation–involves analysis of products, procedures and systems. Here, thought-processes involve asking, and seeking answers to, a series of questions.
In my role as an engineer and manager, I carry the above chart of questions to meetings and brainstorming sessions. The chart helps me ask the right questions on the intent of a process or system and gain a big-picture perspective for my work or task at hand.
Download the critical examination handout, post it at your cubicle and refer to the chart for help on asking the right questions.