Tool - Critical Business Issue

The Critical Business Issue (CBI) is part of the Project Definition Worksheet. The CBI:

  • Is the business case for change that will be communicated to everyone involved in the project, and potentially the entire organization.
  • Is a threat or opportunity that is critical to the success of the organization and its strategy; it may represent:
    • A current gap between an organization's performance and a competitor's performance or customer expectations.
    • A potential gap between performance and expectations.
    • An opportunity to seize or widen a competitive edge.
  • Is visible at the Supersystem level, In other words, it impacts the organization's customers, shareholders or both.
  • Provides direction for improving performance and linking processes to the organization's strategy. An "organization" in this context does not necessarily mean the entire business.
  • Can be quantified as a measure and represented visually with an indicator. Typically measures at the CBI level include such thing as:
    • Market Share
    • Customer Satisfaction
    • Revenue
    • Profit
    • Operating Cost
    • Competitive Position
    • Scaleability of Services
    • Employee Retention

In each case, you should be able to clearly articulate why the measure impacts customers, shareholders or both. In other words, how could failure to address the CBI put you out of business?

When to Use

You should determine the CBI for your organization:

  • Any time a business situation needs to be understood
  • Any time strategy needs to be understood.
  • Any time you need to understand what is driving the need for performance improvement.

You will identify the CBI when you complete Step 4, Task 1 - Identify the Critical Business Issue.

How to Use
  1. Interview Executive Team members one-on-one to determine thier perceptions of the threats and opportunities facing your organization. Learning what each executive beleives the CBI is enables you to see divergent thinking among the Executive Team.
  2. You may want to do addtional research and analysis to determine threats and opportunities undetected by the Executed Team. Some suggested techniques are:
    • The Supersystem Map
    • Customer surveys, focus groups, complaint records and trends
    • Comptetitive benchmarking for performance in specific areas of competence such as marketing, customer service, order processing
    • The ability to meet financial, quality and efficiency standards
    • The desire to meet objectives in the business plan
  3. Develop your hypotheses or conclusions-these will be combined with other data you collect.
  4. Validate the CBI with the Executive Team
  5. Record the CBI in the PDW

Time Required

Because the CBI drives the analysis and design objectives, you should devote adequate time to this task. Ensure you understand each executive's perception of the threats and opportunities facing the organization. You will need to spend addtional time comparing notes and researching and establishing you hypotheses. The amount of time will depend on the situation.

  • When questioning an executive to gather CBI information, do not ask him or her "What are the Critical Business Issues facing your organization?" Ask the executive to describe the threats and opportunities to the organization that they see. Help them to keep thier perspective broad so that they are not simply restating a process problem they want to solve, but they are talking about why it is important to solve that problem. It is easy to talk about the need to reduce cycle time and improve quality in a process and misconstrue these as CBIs. Quantified, these are performance objectives for the process. The CBI is why doing this is important to the business.i.e. competitive advantage is threatened.
  • The following diagram depicts the role the CBI plays in determining the Process Improvement Project goal(s)