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Four Fields Mapping (FFM)

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 57: Four Fields Mapping (FFM)


In traditional project planning, the standard approach is that the project manager takes is typically:

·         Break down the work to be done using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

·         Connect up the dependent tasks into a PERT Chart

·         Map it onto a Gantt Chart

·         Allocate tasks to individuals

·         Reshuffle the above to account for holidays, resource limitations, and so on.


Although the traditional approach has much to commend it, the overall focus of this is on the work and the questions of who works on it comes a distant second. Any question of quality is even more removed and, if it is lucky, will have its own project Quality Plan. It is perhaps not surprising that more than a few projects have run into significant problems around people and quality.


Four-Field Mapping is a Japanese variant on project management that is deliberately designed to put greater emphasis on teamwork and quality, whilst retaining useful aspects of traditional planning.


The four fields are:

·         Team members who will work on the project

·         Phases of activity that give shape to the overall project

·         Tasks which are to be done to complete the project

·         Standards by which task completion are to be evaluated


The four-field approach uses a simple mapping system as shown below to help connect these four fields.


The overall approach is then as follows:


First to identify the cross-functional team and then to closely involve them all in subsequent planning. Involvement of people at all stages may slow the project a little at the beginning, but it will speed it at the end.


The project is then given an overall structure by breaking it down into a number of phases of activity. Each phase has carefully defined entry and exit criteria to enable decisions as to when this set of work may be started and is agreed as complete. A leader is then assigned to each phase – in this way the leadership of the project may change during its lifetime, with at any one time the most appropriate person leading the phase. The focus is thus on the team and the project, not the overall project manager.


The phases are then broken down further in the traditional way into sub-tasks. These tasks, however are closely defined, with entry and exit criteria as well as having work and completion standards associated with them. These are then plotted on the chart to indicate the team of people who will be working on each task. ‘Tasks’ may also include milestones at which decision meetings take place to review whether criteria and standards are satisfactory and different shaped boxes may be used, as in the standard flowcharting method.


Finally, where appropriate, standards are applied to each task. This ensures that quality aspects are considered right from the early stages of the project and sets the tone of the project.



Next time: Kobayashi’s 20 Keys


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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