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Fail Early

Order knock-outs by least effort and highest termination probability first.

Prioritize checking conditions that balance high termination probability and low effort to minimize cost and maintain efficiency.

Reijers, H., & Liman Mansar, S. (2005). Best practices in business process redesign: an overview and qualitative evaluation of successful redesign heuristics. Omega, 33(4)


The knock-out pattern is a strategic and practical approach to improving operational efficiency. At the core of a typical business process are numerous conditions that must be met to achieve a desired outcome. However, if any of these conditions fail, it could lead to a premature termination of the process segment, termed a 'knock-out'.

This pattern works by analyzing and sequencing the order in which these conditions are checked. The flexibility in this ordering allows for a smart strategy where the conditions with the most favorable balance of high termination probability and low effort are checked first, followed by the second most favorable, and so on.

In other words, we aim to verify the conditions most likely to fail and least costly to check before the others. This methodical ordering minimizes the overall cost and effort of executing the business process by terminating any potentially unsuccessful paths at the earliest stage.

It's important to note that implementing the knock-out pattern requires a level of autonomy in the ability to order these checks. Also, while this approach generally leads to cost-efficient processes, it might potentially increase the total time taken to complete the process compared to simultaneous verification of all conditions. This is a factor to consider based on the specific needs and constraints of your business process.

Key Takeaways

Try to fail cheap and early Sequential checking of conditions, prioritizing those with higher knockout probability and lower checking effort, often leads to cost-efficient business processes.
Flexibility required Application might be limited in scenarios where the conditions' verification order cannot be freely modified.
Cost vs. Time While this approach optimizes cost, it might extend the total process duration compared to a parallel verification of all conditions.

Performance considerations

Adopting this sequential checking strategy usually leads to the most cost-effective operation of a business process on average. While there isn't any clear downside to this approach, its application might be limited in scenarios where the order of checks can't be freely adjusted. Furthermore, while this method optimizes cost, it may prolong the total processing time in some parts of the workflow, compared to a scenario where all conditions are verified simultaneously.

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