If you want to understand how your organisation works or the impact of change in a concrete, clear, detailed way, process mapping is an essential tool.
First things first: what is process mapping?
Well, a process is a series of connected activities conducted in order to achieve a particular aim, like procurement or making a customer enquiry. A process map illustrates that process from start to finish (see the header image for an example). It clearly sets out a common understanding of what happens, when it happens, why it happens, and who is involved.
A current state process map illustrates processes as they are. People in different parts of an organisation tend to have differing ideas of how a process works, either based on a theoretical idea of how it should work or based on their perspective from one slice of the process. Capturing the true current state in one place allows you to see how the process works in practice, not in theory.
The vast majority of the time, there’s something that can be improved – usually lots of somethings. Perhaps the process:
- Has excessive hand offs, repetitions, or bottlenecks
- Doesn’t fit the organisational operating model or principles
- Doesn’t take advantage of technological capabilities
- Is convoluted
- Places a lot of stress on one or two employees
- Doesn’t take account of external customer or community perspectives
A future state process map brings together organisational principles, technological capabilities, known data (particularly volumetric data), and learnings from what does and doesn’t work in the current state in order to produce the best possible future state process.
Pulling together a future state process on this basis can start to provide significant change (including stress relief!) pretty quickly. However, in order to gain the full benefits, new processes should be designed on the basis of an explicitly articulated operating model. This includes any structural change that falls out of the new model, particularly where processes cut across multiple organisational service areas, directorates, or departments. Aligning your processes in this way means that they can work together as a whole, rather than acting as perfectly formed cogs that don’t fit into the machine.
So much for an overview of the technical side. What’s the point of process mapping?
One of my favourite parts of my role at LKS Quaero is process mapping. I go into organisations and both map current state processes and re-engineer them to produce the future state, whether within a particular service area or across several. A map can be simple or really complicated, with lots of variations.
The more process mapping I do, the more fully I appreciate the value it brings to organisations. Here’s why:
- Process mapping allows you to establish a single understood idea of what happens and when
- Often, even if they think otherwise, the leadership or people in one portion of a process don’t have an accurate idea of what others are doing
- Mapping fosters respect for individual contributions that otherwise go unrecognised
- It’s also good risk management, particularly when organisational knowledge has sat with one individual person for years – it’s no picnic trying to figure out “what’s supposed to happen” once that person has left
- It helps you to apply high level organisational philosophy in practical way
- Often, individuals in an organisation don’t adhere to the organisation’s philosophy, values, or ways of working because they don’t trust what they can’t see. Applying these concepts to processes takes them from being so many words to practical means of organising everyday work
- It’s easily tailored to your requirements
- It’s not one of those tools that you have to work around: it expands, contracts, or changes according to an organisation’s needs
- I’ve sat on high concept round tables with groups figuring out their ideal future state. I’ve also worked one on one to map current state processes with individuals who have detailed, singular knowledge of how things work
- Process mapping is also adaptable in form, for example, you can depict the process in strict linear form or use swimlanes to show responsibilities and simultaneous steps. You can make it highly visual and/or include detailed process text
- It provides you with evidence for how the organisation is really going
- It can help you to point to pressure in a particular area, see systemic issues, and get an overview of technical problems. Mapping gives you that overarching view you can’t get when you are at one part of a process or set of processes
- You can use this evidence to build a solid case for change
I get a kick out of process mapping because it allows me to work with people who might not otherwise get a look in to contribute to solutions that will make a difference to the whole organisation. There’s always that one person who has been around for years, quietly working away, with a unique and valuable perspective on how things really work and how they can work better. Technical solutions always fall over unless you have the people perspective firmly in mind.
At LKS Quaero, we help clients with effective current state reviews and organisational transformation. If you’d like to know more, visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.