Function Analysis

A function Is one of several related outcomes contributing to a larger outcome. A function is usually a collection of required jobs or tasks necessary to achieve a specified objective or bring about a given product or outcome.
In the chapter on mission analysis, we stated that a mission objective specified the what that was to be accomplished. Referring to the definition of a function, one may see that analysis is the process used to determine what functions or jobs must be done to accomplish the mission objective. Functions, then, are things that have to be done to achieve a product or part of a total product. Some examples of functions as they might be stated in a function analysis are :

Perform function analysis.
Complete district budget.
Hire teachers.
Collect data.
Summarize data.

In performing a function analysis, the system planner is further extending the planning that began with the needs assessment, the mission objective, the performance requirements, and the mission profile. At the same time, he is deriving and identifying additional “whats” that have to he dealt with in order to assure the successful achievement of the mission objective and performance requirements. Notice that in this phase, as in all system analysis, the concern is only with the “whats” and not the “hows.” As with mission analysis, the analyst is identifying what has to done as well as the order in which the operations are to be performed.

Function analysis proceeds from the top-level (mission profile) functions, one at a time, in an orderly manner. The product of any function analysis is the identification of an array of functions and subfunctions (down to the lowest level of relevance), including the determination of the Interrelations required to achieve a mission. Examine the following hypothetical situation.

Need: Z percent of California school graduates earn F percent less than a subsistence wage, and this Z percent should earn a subsistence wage or better.

Problem: Provide for the Z percent so that 95 percent of these will earn at least a subsistence wage.

Solution: Improve reading skills by using the “X” method off reading content Improvement.

Critique: The solution is proposed before an analysis has been performed to determine requirements and functions. Problem solving jumped from the problem to “how” without determining the “whats.”

Function analysis proceeds from the results of the mission analysis to a precise statement naming the functions that must be performed in order to solve the problem.

Need: “Q percent” of third graders in the Wood School District read below “P” level, and this 0 percent should read at the “P” level or better.

Problem: By June 1, reading skills of third graders in the Wood School District will be at the “P” level or better.

Functions: Determine present reading skill and subskill areas; determine teaching/ reading training resources. etc.

Note that the function analysis process (1) analyzes what should be done and (2) gives the proper order of jobs, with the goal of achieving the mission objective (and thus solving the problem):

It analyzes.
It Identifies.
It orders.

Levels of Function Analysis

It was mentioned previously that functions and related subfunctions are identified through the process of function analysis. Recalling the definition of a function as one of a group of outcomes (or products) contributing to a larger action (or product), a key to the levels of function analysis may be found in the words ‘larger action” (or product). Larger products (or actions) may be referred to as higher level functions. The highest level function is the mission, and all other functions derive from that highest level or overall function.
One useful way of viewing the relation between mission analysis and function analysis Is in terms of a matrix. with the mission analysis forming the “top” of the matrix and the function analysis as the “depth” dimension. In performing a function analysis. we are filling in the “depth” or additional dimensions of the mission analysis. Greatly simplified, such a matrix would resemble Fig. 5.1. The function analysis Is a vertical expansion of the mission analysis-each element in the mission profile is composed of functions, and it is the role of the function analyst to identify, for each function named in the mission analysis and depicted in the mission profile, all the subfunctions and their interrelations. This vertical expansion might be further conceptualized by the model of Fig. 5.2.

The function analysis, then, is filling in the detail. including the specification of requirements and interrelations among the Identified subfunctions. for each element In the mission profile. As we note later In this chapter, there is an additional manner for the identification of the ways in which the subfunctions Interrelate with other subfunctions. When there are interrelations between different major functions Identified In the mission profile—or with their subfunctions, these interrelations are called Interactions. Because a successful system has many parts (or subsystems) which must work together, a critical part of system analysis is concerned with identifying Interactions and planning for successful meshing of parts.

“Smaller” contributing outcomes are called lower-level functions or subfunctions. The analyst looks at the higher-level functions (beginning with the functions identified in the mission profile) In much the same manner as he would use a microscope with varying degrees of magnification power to examine a natural phenomenon (Corrigan and Kaufman, 1966). A low magnification power would show a larger field, and a higher magnification power would show a small field but with more detail.
In using this analysis “microscope,” the planner attempts to keep the analysis at one particular level at any given time. He attends first to the identification of the overall functions (or higher-level functions), thereafter focusing at the same level of magnitude until all functions of equal magnitude have been identified. Since the mission profile represents the primary functions which, when accomplished, will yield the product specified in the mission objective, the mission profile level is called the top level. The planner then uses a “higher power of magnification” and analyzes each high-level function to identify the subfunctions which collectively would accomplish each top-level function. Only when he is satisfied that he has identified all the subfunctions and that they are Internally consistent with all the previous steps does he proceed to lower levels.

To understand levels of function analysis. consider a map of the United States, where the highest level to b e analyzed would be the whole country; the next level. the states; a still lower level. the counties; and perhaps the lowest level. the cities and towns. (if one required more detailed Information, the cities and towns could be further broken down Into districts, neighborhoods. blocks. residences, buildings, parking tots and parks, etc.) In performing a function analysis by levels, the analyst makes every attempt not to confuse counties with states, or cities with counties. States functions are kept at the “state” level of analysts, and counties functions are kept with “county” functions.
A function, as we know, Is something to be achieved or done. For example: Provide learners with function analysis skills. To identity the function as discrete, and to show Its relation to other functions that might be Identified, we put it in a numbered box:

We have derived “provide learners with function analysis skills” (or block 1.0) from a hypothetical needs assessment and mission analysis. It should be noted that it is the first of several prime functions in this hypothetical mission profile, so we call. Consider the two following examples:

Box A does not tell what is to be accomplished; it could be interpreted as “read about” or even “ignore” the stated function. Function shows a product (or subproduct) to be achieved and as such is really a “miniature” mission objective with the same properties and character tics. Box B, of course, Is a properly stated top-level function, revealing hat has to be done.

The next step in demonstrating this hypothetical function analysis is analyze the functions necessary to provide learners with function analysis skills. This requires the analyst to “drop” to a first level below the top or mission profile level) function; in other words perform a vertical expansion (see Fig. 5.3).

It is possible to keep analyzing “lower-level” functions that are necessary to perform higher-level functions until there are a number of “layers” or levels in the function analysis. Fig. 5.4 illustrates the numbering format only. In actual function analysis. each function block would contain the statement of the function and the appropriate reference number. Since the overall function is the mission diagram. It is called 0.0 in a flow diagram.

The Rules of Function Analysis

The rulers of function analysis are not designed to make the process difficult, but to :

1. Facilitate keeping track of where one is and show requirements for getting to where one should be.

2. Allow communication with others.

Rule 1: All blocks are square or rectangular.

Rule 2: Each block contains a verb.

Rule 3: Function blocks are consistently connected as in Fig. 5.5.

To see if it works, see Fig. 5.6.

Rule 4: A decimal system is used in numbering, and a decimal point and a number are added for each level analyzed (Fig. 5.7).

Rule 5: It a higher level function cannot be broken down into two or more functions, don’t break it down.

When you have done a function analysis, drawing function blocks and connecting them according to the rules, you have prepared a function flow block diagram.
A function flow block diagram graphically reveals the order, stages. and interrelationships of “what” has to be accomplished Do a function analysis wilt identify and display :

1. What has to be done?
2. In what order must it be done?
3. What component functions compose each higher-level function?
4. What are the relations between the functions?

A function analysis for performing a function analysis might be set up as Fig. 5.8.

Functions Are Outcomes, Not Processes or Means

When first performing a function analysis, one often lists means performing the function rather than showing the end product or result. For instance, an erroneous example might be:

Administer the
Jones Self-Concept

This example tells how to obtain self-concept information (use the Jones Self-Concept Instrument), not what the outcome should be. Throughout an analysis, when you find solutions “creeping In,” ask yourself, “What is it that this method or means will give me when I am through?” Or, “Why do I want to give that particular test?” By asking this type of question you will be able to determine the product or outcome that you are seeking, rather than locking yourself into a less-than-optimal process or solution. Thus a better function is:


One of the critical results of, performing a system analysis in general and a function analysis in particular is that we are seeking to free ourselves from the possible “strait-jackets” of the past with new and better ways of doing things.

Every Level of System Analysis is Related to Every Other Level

The process of system analysis really starts with the assessment of needs where discrepancies between “what is’ and “what is required” are identified. The latter dimension provides the basis (or core) for the mission objective, thus furnishing the connection or “bridge” between needs assessment and mission analysis:

what is

Mission Analysis

The mission analysis Identifies the mission objective, the performance requirements and the mission profile, and the levels of analysis are interrelated in a logical, internally consistent manner. The mission profile (the top level of function analysis) thus bridges mission analysis and function analysis:

what is

Mission Analysis

Mission Profile


A Few Tips on Conducting an Analysis

Analysis is the process of breaking things down into their component parts and noting the interrelations between the parts.

Analyzing a Problem

Try listing constituent components during analysis. For instance, in order to drive to work. you must eventually perform all the following activities:

Open garage.
Walk out door.
Start car.
Find car keys.
Drive car.

Now list the components in the order in which they would logically occur (find keys. walk out door, etc.). Scan your list critically, asking, “What have I missed?” (How about: back car out of garage, say goodbye to family, close garage door. get In car.)

Keep an open mind and be willing and ready to revise. Fig. 5.9 illustrates how the drive-to-work function may be diagrammed; note that two or more simultaneous functions may be shown in “parallel.”

Determining Analysis Levels

Keep the analysis within its own level. For example, not all the components listed below are true constituents of the go-to-work function:

Get dressed.
Shine shoes.
Brush teeth.
Eat breakfast.
Drive to work.

(Shining shoes and brushing teeth are components of “get dressed” and would be analyzed as being part of the “get dressed” level.)

In setting up practice function analyses, try to find one more component that may have been omitted. It is easy to complete Fig. 5.10. Keep drawing blocks for components-even it you don’t know what they will contain-surprisingly often you will think of something. Constantly ask yourself “why?” or “what else?” Question everything. If it isn’t right, make it right!

Performing a Function Analysis

The following procedure is suggested for performing a function analysis:

A. The function analysis proceeds from the mission analysis. Below is an example of a hypothetical mission analysis which is the starting point for the function analysis.3

Mission Objective:
Identify all the “creatively gifted” students in Carron High School by September 1, 1976, and increase their concept formation ability significantly (.05 level of confidence or better) as measured by the valid Rudolph Inquiry Inventory.

Performance Requirements
1. The identified students must meet the minimum standards set by the state for any program funding.
2. The name of each student identified must be accompanied by a written justification based on established criteria.
3. Project must be completed in one school year.
4. Budget is $8,000, excluding school personnel available.
5. Personnel available are:
a. one psychometrist (M.A.) in District employ.
b. one teacher in school writing master’s thesis on characteristics of creatively gifted children.
6. Total enrollment is 2000.
7. Access to cumulative records is available to authorized personnel only.
8. Maximum of three periods of class time interruption Is allow-able per student.
9. The Rudolph Instrument is available only to credentialed counselors or registered psychologists.

B. Begin with top level function 1.0 (see Fig. 5.11) and ask, ‘What steps must be taken (by someone or something) to accomplish 1.0?” Just as the functions to be performed in the mission profile were Identified, start by identifying the product or outcome for that function (i.e., 1.0) and then identity all functions required to achieve the function (see Fig. 5.12).
In preparing the function flow block diagrams, we use the concept of the discrepancy analysis once more. Each function Identified in the mission profile represents a subproduct to be achieved. In function analysis we determine exactly the subfunction (or sub-subproducts) required to accomplish that subfunction, and we have as this referent a discrepancy analysis of the difference between where we are now and what has to be done to eliminate that discrepancy. The process is like doing a “mini-mission analysis” at each level of the function analysis procedure. Each function has its own objective and its own performance requirements, and we can draw a mini-mission profile for accomplishing each function.

The processes utilized in the various levels of system analysis differ only in degree, not in kind-we repeat the same process over and over as we identify and define all the requirements for meeting the set need and selected problem. The elements. again, are:

1. Identify what is required for each function or subfunction.
2. Identity the status quo for each function and subfunction.
3. Identify functions or subfunctions necessary to meet the requirements for completion of that function (or subfunction) and additional performance requirements for the achievement of that function.

C. Proceed with function 2.0. then 3.0. and so on, until the top level analysis (mission profile) has been completed and any additional performance requirements have been listed by function number.

D. Check all the previous functions that have been “broken out” with the mission objective and performance requirements. This process represents a check for internal consistency a broad inquiry whether it is still feasible to continue. and an examination of the analysis to determine if more performance requirements exist. When the product is temporarily satisfactory, proceed to the first level of analysis.

E. In the. same manner as in step 6 (p. 89) attend to the break-out of functions necessary to accomplish function 1.1, then 1.2, etc. Fig. 5.13 shows the first-level analysis of function 1.2 into its lower-level functions. The following format is suggested for listing additional performance requirements uncovered during function analysis:

Function and Number Performance Requirements

1.2.1 Obtain established criteria from existing studies. a. Existing studies from district library and county library will be used exclusively.

1.2.2. Obtain criteria from other sources. a. “Other” sources will be approved by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.
b. Project must be completed by February.

1.2.3. List all criteria. a. Same as 1.2.1 and 1.2.2.

F. When the first level has been completed, check for internal consistency as in the top level.

G. Continue downward to the succeeding lower levels of analysis until the functions are finite enough to take on the appearance of individual units rather than sets or groups of actions. When this level of analysis has been reached, stop. It is now time to begin the task analysis (see Chapter 6). Check back and forth, upward and downward, continually asking, “can it realistically happen this way” and still meet the mission objective and its performance requirements? It must also be determined whether all the components (functions) interact properly. Does the mission and the analysis still make sense? Can it work? Fig. 5.14 displays the circular checking process.

H. Draw a summary flow diagram of functions at various levels, in the order in which the functions are performed, and showing critical feedback and Interaction pathways. (Be prepared to revise it.) List all additional performance requirements separately by function number. Often, in a large analysis, parts of the analysis at lower levels are performed separately and brought together. The success of the resulting mesh (or interface) depends, in part, on adequate review of the final flow diagram to make sure that all subsystems interact properly. Always be critical—question and require justification for everything. The flow charts at the end of this chapter (Fig;. 5.17 and 5.18) show the function “break-outs” for several selected examples. The mission profiles for these examples were presented in Chapter 4. These charts represent partial function analysis for some of the functions shown in the plans for the Mexican-American Project and the individualization of learning project mission profiles.

The function analysis shown in Fig. 5.17 derives from the mission profile presented in Chapter 4. It is but a partial analysis to show the method of function analysis and only some of the “break-outs” appear (functions 3.0, 4.0, 17.0 and 18.0 are thus only depicted here). In addition Fig. 5.17 shows lower-level function analysis for 18.0 to further indicate the fact that function analysis may go to several levels; for instance, function 18.0 is broken down to the fourth level (cf. as an example of this continuing analysis process. It should also be noted that in function analysis, as In all of the other system analysis phases, only what” Is to be done is indicated, not “how” to get it accomplished.

The function analysis shown in Fig. 5.18 is derived from the mission profile shown also in Chapter 4. In this case. as an example of function analysis, function number 12.0 is broken down into the first level of analysis, and functions 12.2 and 12.3 are broken down to the second level of analysis.

There is often the misconception that the “top level” analysis is mission analysis. the next level of analysis Is function analysis, and the next lower level is task analysis; this is not so! Function analysis continues until the resulting functions are no longer clusters of outcomes but are single units of performance. These single units of performance are arbitrarily called “tasks.” Therefore, function analysis usually has several levels of break-outs until task analysis is reached. Task analysis is covered in some detail in Chapter 6.

Summary and Review

Function analysis is the process of breaking each function into its component parts while identifying interactions. Function analysis really commences during the mission analysis when the mission profile Is derived. The mission profile is also known as the top level of function analysis.

Function analysis formally proceeds from the analysis of the functions identified in the mission profile. These functions come from the mission profile and may be called subfunctions, since they do derive from higher-level (or top) functions.

Function analysis continues until all the functions have been analyzed and identified for all the top-level (mission profile) functions. This tells what must be done to achieve each top-level function. All the functions, subfunctions, and so on are revealed until vertical expansion of the mission profile is complete. Then all the functions describing what has to be done to meet the mission objective and its performance requirements are identified.

Each time a function from the function analysis is identified, the performance requirements for it must be specified. That is. one must identify in precise. measurable terms what must be done to accomplish a given This performance requirement identification for each function resembles that which is accomplished In identifying the performance requirements for the mission except that It occurs at each lower-level function that is analyzed and named. There is a continuous process of determining what must be done, as well as the criteria for accomplishment and the kinds of lower-order “things” that constitute the function. This continuous, layer-by-layer determination may be shown diagrammatically (see Fig. 5.15). Each function, from the first level through the task analysis level (see Chapter 6) requires the identification and listing of performance requirements. One way to perceive function analysis is that, at each lower level, one is determining a mission profile for that function and deriving performance requirements for that “miniature mission!’ Viewed in this manner, each function shows a “mission” of its own, and each must have a precise definition of the performance requirements for Its successful completion. As the analysis moves down. each function or sub function becomes identified as a product or sub product, including performance requirements for each function or sub function.

The differences between analyses at the various levels are a matter of degree rather than kind; there really is no difference between a mission profile and the function analysis of any one of its functions. That is, the process is exactly the same, only the actual functions differ. Miniature or subordinate “missions” are identified each time a function is “broken out”. Performance requirements must be set for each function even if it Is the Very first one-performance requirements of the mission-or the very last function that can be broken out before deriving tasks.

In function analysis. as In mission analysis, the job is to identify the major milestones for achieving a function and to identify the criteria (the performance requirements) by which one knows when a function has been successfully performed or completed.

Function Analysis and Feasibility

A. Preview of Methods-Means Analysis

Each time a function (or a family of functions) and its performance requirements are identified, it becomes necessary to check the methods means “data bank” and determine whether a possible methods-means exists for achieving those requirements. (This subject is further detailed in Chapter 7 on methods means analysis.)

If there is one or more possible methods-means. then we may continue the function analysis to the next level. However, it there is not at least one possible methods-means, we have a constraint that must be reconciled before proceeding to the next level.

There is a requirement for constant checking back through previous steps and data and to the original needs statement to assure that the final identification of “whats” will be internally consistent and have external validity. That is. it must be determined that aft the functions are compatible with one another as well as with the need. the problem. and other functions at all levels. Fig. 5.16 summarizes both mission analysis and function analysis.


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