Process Mapping – The Key is to Establish Principles

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Anyone who has participated in process mapping sessions will tell you how painful these events can be.  It is not uncommon to sequester folks for hundreds of hours and ask them to conduct intense discussions in order to capture the processes for carrying out work.  The author John Green said “The marks humans leave are too often scars.”  And scarring is exactly what many of us who have lived through process mapping sessions have plenty of!

However, does this activity need to be this painful?  Absolutely not!  And the key to making this a more effective and efficient process is to put a few core principles in place.  These rules help guide your mappers, stay on track and complete their work in an efficient manner:

·         Map the designated process only: It is easy to fall into scope creep and begin to discuss other processes which are of concern.  Once the team starts deliberating about procedures that are out of scope it is important for the facilitator to bring the group back to the task at hand.

·         Map current state only: It is also easy to start talking about what the future state process could look like.  Designing future state processes is the next step.  This is a non-value add activity at this point.  In fact, current state should provide a stake in the ground and by letting future state process ideas creep in only creates confusion.  If we don’t agree how the work gets done today, it is impossible for us to figure out how it needs to change in the future. 

·         Keep the process moving: It is common for teams to get bogged down.  This can happen as these teams talk through in detail how the process is carried out.  Establish time frames for how long it will take to map each process and help the team stick to that time frame.

The key to making sure these principles are followed is of course strong facilitation.  The facilitator is tasked with designing and running an effective session.  The facilitator is guiding the group where it needs to go via ensuring that processes are followed, asking probing questions and helping sum up the work being accomplished and capture it visually. 

Perhaps most important, the facilitator is cuts off conversation once the point has been made.  Asking someone to stop talking is key.  What could be considered rude behavior at a dinner party, is the most important role the facilitator plays during process mapping!

This blog does not reflect the view of my employer.

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A Quick Approach for Developing Impactful Business Processes

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Organizational fatigue has set in regarding launching large-scale re-engineering and process improvement efforts.  The time and resources it takes to carry out a major re-haul of processes is daunting. Besides, too many organizations have experienced too little benefit from these massive efforts.

The solution to this challenge, however, should not be inaction.  Crafting business processes which lead to effective and efficient operations is critical.  The key, for many organizations, is to launch a few short business process sessions in order to identify a critical few new or revised processes that will make a difference.

Below is an easy three step process for quickly putting business process wins in place:

Definition of Business Process

A business process is a series of actions or procedures designed to produce a product or service.  It is a general (high-level) approach to completing specific work activities.

Criteria for Quality Business Processes

Clear and consistent business processes should:

  • Encourage accountability at all levels.
  • Improve customer satisfaction through more efficient business practices.
  • Establish clear roles for employees to avoid confusion.
  • Reduce redundancy in work.
  • Customize solutions for different customers.
  • Improve communication between functions.

Steps for Establishing and Aligning Business Processes

  • Step One: Analyze
    • Identify the major strengths and weaknesses of the current processes
    • Objective: To utilize best practice and avoid pain points
  • Step Two: Brainstorm
    • Brainstorm options re: new and aligned processes
    • Objective: To ensure you dig deep and generate many ideas
  • Step Three: Select
    • Assess options against criteria and select the critical few new processes
    • Objective: To ensure that we are adopting useful processes

For example, I guided an operations team through this three step process.  As a result of three, half-day meetings we came up with a dozen new and revised processes that were designed to have a big impact on quality and speed.  The new processes addressed everything from how the team accessed resources, to how they interacted with internal customers.

They key to success was to avoid getting bogged down on details.  The team knew first-hand where the pain points lie and I simply helped them quickly identify fixes.

One might argue that a more in depth process re-engineering effort involving dozens of staff over a period of months would have resulted in larger wins.  Perhaps in theory it would have.  However, in reality that would have never happened. Leadership was not prepared to invest in a large scale process effort.  However, the entire organization was very happy with our quick wins…

General Questions to Consider When Identifying Business Process Changes

Finally, here are some to consider when identifying business process changes.  Answering these questions will help ensure that you establish business processes which are successful:

  • What tasks do employees perform today and what tasks do we want employees to perform in the future?
  • What observable behaviors will employees be expected to display?
  • How will interrelationships between your work group and other work groups change?
  • How will the timing and/or sequence of projects or tasks change?
  • What completion timelines need to be built into business processes?
Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not reflect the views of my employer.

 

Process Improvement: Let’s Understand the Basics Before Going to the Complex

Process Improvement  on Metal Gears.

Process Improvement on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

Process improvement professionals tend to do a deep dive into the methodology immediately after an introduction.  The conversation tends to go something along the lines of “Nice to meet you as well, do you use the DMAIC approach to get at root cause?”  While this is an important question, let’s consider a few fundamental questions which may be useful to understand before we debate methodology.

A Definition of Process improvement

Process improvement is essentially an exercise in problem solving.  One is typically trying to address an organizational problem or create an opportunity.

  • A problem is some unwanted state of a person, place, thing or operation.
  • Problem solving transforms the unwanted state into a wanted state—e.g., Customers who are complaining about poor quality are satisfied with your product.
  • The process consultant typically facilitates the organization to reach goals and create transformative change.

A Process Improvement Approach

The process improvement problem solving approach is typically carried out by considering the individual presenting symptoms (indicators of an issue) and extracting the root cause(s).  You then develop solutions for the root cause(s) to help ensure that you are solving for the key issues versus symptoms…

Process Improvement Outcomes

Process improvement can have a positive impact on a number of organizational areas

  • Build a sustainable, competitive advantage globally
    • Invest in process management to deliver meaningful results
    • Common to see a 2-3 times return on investment of your resources
  • Support organizational strategy, goals, and objectives
    • Sustain growth of the enterprise: Revenue and earnings
    • Accelerate, expand and improve what you are already doing
    • Build competencies globally
  • Build a culture for growth
    • Provide a common approach to process improvement
    • Develop transferrable leadership skills at all levels
    • Enable predictable processes, innovation, and growth

So let’s consider the definition, approach and outcomes of process improvement before we get into more heady discussions.  I find that when my clients understand these baseline concepts we have a much more useful discussion re: the more advanced topics.

What additional fundamental process improvement topics do you find are useful to discuss?

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not in any way reflect the views of my employer.

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