According to the British Standards Institute BS3138, 1992, Glossary of terms used in Management Services, Term 11007, method study is “The systematic recording and critical examination of ways of doing things in order to make improvements.” Its “Method Study Sequence” diagram is a useful illustration of the procedures.
The aim of method study is to analyse a situation, examine the objectives of the situation and then to synthesize an improved, more efficient and effective method or system.
The basic procedure was first developed and articulated by Russell Currie at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and consists of six steps (SREDIM):
The problem with expressing the procedure in such a simple manner is that undertaking a method study appears to be a simple, linear and mechanistic process. This description in six steps does however serve to show the underlying simplicity of the concept of method study. In practice, the procedure consists of a cyclical or iterative process in which each step may be revisited according to the findings of subsequent steps. For example, collecting data about a current situation often enables us to discover the reality behind our first perceptions and thus to refine our selection of what we are addressing. Similarly, when we start to examine data, we sometimes become aware that data are missing or incomplete and we need to go back and collect (record) additional data. This cyclic process often begins with a rough first pass, in which preliminary data are collected and examined, and progresses to a more detailed and thorough pass which results in the collection of more detailed and more complete data which is the subject of a more rigorous scrutiny. The method study procedure is thus a convenient representation of what may be a complex process.