What is a process mapping project and how do you make it successful?

We were recently asked a series of questions around process and thought it would be great to share.

post-it notes on a wall

How would you define process?

Put simply, we would define process as your working practices. 

These would be the high-level steps to produce an output. Taking this one step further, its not only the output of what you do but something that external customers would value. Typically this would be a product or service. You should also not lose sight of the fact that customers can be internal too. In this case providing an output to an internal customer will allow them to add value to the next step e.g. a signed order from a customer that the next team turn into a sales order.

The purpose of process however is to understand what you do (but not how you do it). It can also help reduce unnecessary steps to produce the desired outcome in the most efficient way possible. Moreover, it’s all about delivering and adding value.

Office building

What shape are an organisations processes in?

The answer to this can be as broad as they are wide. It depends on how you perceive process. Is it the accepted working practices that stakeholders know and love and are thoroughly understood but not documented? 

Is it about optimising process to reduce waste and rework that will provide a better-quality output?

There are a number of different frameworks that can be used, from the EFQM excellence model  to Target operating models, but a good place to start is with the American Process Quality Center (APQC) model. Whilst the APQC model is more orientated around manufacturing, it does give a good indication of the processes an organisation should have.

If you are not sure if you have a problem with process, another assessment tool from AddVantage is the Process Assessor. This will score core business areas and produce a table of results so you can focus your attention in these areas first. Used in conjunction with their Scale up Assessor you can start to get a good well-rounded picture of the state of your business.

Documents

Can I just start creating processes using any format or media?

In short, the answer to this is yes, but you shouldn’t. What’s the value of a process that one department created in one format and a completely different format somewhere else?

There are various ways to document process. the old way is to create lengthy word documents that get dusted off one in a blue moon. If you are creating process maps you can use BPMN or Business Process Management Notation. This is well suited to Business Analysts, but can prove overly complicated to the average end user.

We endorse a methodology called Noun -Verb. This method forces you to document an output of an activity. This requires you to identify the purpose of doing the task. The purpose is to identify it’s value and crucially where that input or output comes from or goes to next. There is no value in activities – they attract cost and are the necessary vehicle to produce the output. It is these outputs that add the value.

We believe a good process should hardly be noticed What we mean by that is that you can get the information you need quickly without too much effort.

think about how how you will be facilitating a process mapping session and capturing the content. You can use anything from brown paper process mapping workshops to capturing in a specialist tool.

process

What outcomes can an organisation expect to see after starting to map their processes?

One of the biggest things to come out of process discovery workshops is the demystification of what really happens. This is not what you think happens but what people are actually doing and getting a common understanding. If nothing else, this is a major win.
With a process mapped out, it can help you with:

  • Risk identification
  • Bottlenecks
  • Single points of failure

By having your working practices documented, you can start the journey of standardisation allowing for the business to scale. 

With processes and documentation in a standard format in a central repository, users will get accessibility to information that they have not had before.

Barrier

What are the common barriers to engagement to process mapping?

There are a host of reasons that stakeholders are resistant to engaging in a process mapping project. Firstly, there is fear. This may stem from:

  • Job protection
  • resistance to change
  • Familiarity with the status quo
  • Having change imposed on them without listening to their viewpoint first.

Secondly it may be change fatigue. We often hear “It’s always changing”  and “We haven’t settled down from the last time yet”. the worst of all is that participants say we have done this all before nothing changed then, so  what makes this different? Listening and reassuring stakeholders and getting them onside BEFORE you do any work is essential to ensure it is as much their project as it is yours. If you are going to ask for feedback make sure it is acknowledged and responses given back to the originator. this is important even if it is not feasible to fulfil their request now. There is nothing worse than thinking you are talking into the darkness and nobody is there.

Change

Embedding changes what is the secret?

Saving this little nugget for last, unfortunately I am not going to give you the silver bullet to save you. 

Firstly, what we find works is to consult regularly. Nobody should be blindsided by a change they did not know was coming or was not involved with. Secondly, avoid death by a thousand changes. Make your changes in one swoop and have a transition and education plan if the changes are major. You then leave them alone for a good six months. We would only recommend changing them if there are legal or regulatory requirements that you cannot avoid. Provide feedback to the next teams which are going through the cycle of what has worked and what hasn’t and what to expect.

If all of this sees a little daunting, we are available to help. Libreea are specialists in nothing but business process management consulting. We have seen most issues before and can provide help and guidance or even run the projects for you. If you would like to know more, please get in touch today.