November 9, 2018

The Advantages of Process Mapping

A process map allows us to see the flow of work and information through an organization. In office and service organizations it can be very difficult to see the process especially as work moves from department to department. Often, this visual representation creates “ah-ha” moments from staff, supervisors, and managers. You hear comments like, “I didn’t know it was that complex.” Or “Now I know what that other department does.”

The first map mirrors how work is currently done, and is called an “as is” map. The “as is” map can be analyzed from different perspectives, called “lenses of analysis.” The typical lenses are worker frustration, time, cost, and quality. Each lens reveals aspects of the process which are working or not. This visual representation of issues and problems allows everyone to come to a shared understanding and provides motivation to make improvements in the status quo.

Picking which lens to use on the map can be driven by customer complaints, staff frustrations, or management concerns. For instance, if the customers are complaining about how long something takes, then the time lens is used. Or if there are many mistakes, errors, and rework, then the quality lens makes sense. For each lens, there are robust process improvement methodologies. The methodology for the time lens is the Toyota Production System, which is called Lean in North America. The methodologies for quality are Six Sigma and Lean. The methodology for cost is Activity Based Costing. As you can see, there is a specific methodology that is applicable to the goal of the process improvement effort.

My favorite lens to begin a process improvement effort is the worker frustration lens. The advantages are:

  • Staff gets a chance to vent about their frustrations, which is cathartic.
  • The frustrations are often linked to quality and timeliness issues.
  • By coming up with quick wins, buy-in for process improvement soars.
  • Many of the frustrations are linked to process design principles, which are best practices from world-class organizations.
  • The design principles give us direction on creating a new process that is dramatically better than the current one.

Research has demonstrated that the bulk of organizational issues have their root cause in the process. If we are not attacking root cause, the problems are sure to resurface. A process managed organization can make remarkable progress in efficiency and effectiveness. In addition the work life of everyone improves because staff involvement in root cause analysis makes an engaging work place, which is much less stressful.

The journey on process management starts with process mapping, followed by process analysis, process improvement, process redesign, and finally continuous process improvement. Join us in this exciting journey in building organizations that are robust, efficient, happier, and more effective. Check out our Process Mapping and Process Improvement seminar here.