Graham🐝 Edwards in Leadership, Directors and Executives, Entrepreneurs Consulting Principal • GPEStratagem Sep 9, 2016 · 2 min read · +700

The fun you can have with Process Mapping...

I had promised I would talk about the fun you can have with Process Mapping and the best segue into this would be to start with "Meeting attendance auto-Pilot" (or for those who love acronyms, MaaP*)... 

A lifetime ago, I found myself in a meeting listening to a marketing manager review a promotional initiative that was "in pilot phase"; it was here that I slipped into MaaP. 

MaaP is the ability to be aware of everything happening in a meeting while mentally tending to the many other things you would be doing if not for the meeting. 

I should point out this is not an aspect of disrespect but more a necessity for survival in some companies (I suspect it's comparable to an out of body experience). 

As the meeting was progressing all of a sudden my MaaP drops out of "warp drive" and I find myself saying, "Run that by me again?" It is here that I'm retold how the promotional fulfillment component of the "cool smartphone app promotion" is fulfilled automatically... except in some instances where it needs to be done through the sales force. 

There is some discussion with regard to using the sales force for promotional fulfillment and how it is a bad idea... it distracts the sales force and increases the exposure to having a disappointed customer. The marketing manager points out that it is a "very cool app" and there were few examples of needing the sales force in the pilot. To that it was pointed out that the pilot would not scale in its current form. 

The meeting continued, and I think I may have slipped back into MaaP.

Fast forward three months after my MaaP experience... 

The "app promotion" had rolled out into the market and my role had changed where I was now much closer to the impending shit storm of "a pissed off sales force and disgruntled customers". As I got into the situation, it became clear few people were aware of (or even understood) the impending "problem". 

It was time to develop a process map as to how this promotion worked - Not a bad segue eh?**.

So what is a Process Map?

A process map is essentially a breakdown of a process to determine how it works, how it flows and ultimately how effective it is. Process mapping also looks closely at elements such as the structure of a system and the flow of communication within the system. It consists of circles, boxes, diamonds and arrows representing the flow. (see diagram)

The fun you can have with Process Mapping...

  • The circle (oval, or rounded box) represents the start or end of the process
  • The square represents a specific activity as part of the process
  • The diamond represents a decision making point (yes or no)
  • The arrow represents the flow and the connectors from activity to activity through the decision points.

Here is why I like the process map: 

1) It forces you to understand your process and how you do what you do, 

2) It is a visual representative, so you can literally see what you are working and makes communication easier, 

3) It makes it much easier to identify problems and gaps in your process,

4) It helps determine optimization, correction and execution.

Back to the process map I made of the promotion that started this... it was so complicated it looked like a "circuit board"; so much so, when I was reviewing it with someone they simply looked at me and said, "you've got to be kidding"

In the end, this process map made it easier to communicate the situation and illustrate its impact on the customer, as well as internal impact. It ultimately led to process improvement that although not perfect, alleviated the immediate issues.

As I look back at this situation and what came out of it, a few things resonate with me still... 
  • Development of a process map in the beginning (as well as a better understanding of the systems that people work with***) probably would have driven better execution.
  • Smartphone Apps are not a silver bullet.
  • No matter how much someone tries to convince themselves that there is not a problem, there is.

There is a great science to process mapping and I have learned over the years that is it is an excellent tool to help you optimize all things involved with optimizing execution.

Enjoy the fun that can be had with Process Maps.


* I will be the first to admit that this could just be me, as at the end of the day I have the attention span of a small insect.

** Remember I am Canadian.

*** Understanding the systems that you have available is imperative for optimized execution. It makes me nuts when people try to work outside the functionality of the system they have to work with and then blame the system for any shortcoming. I wish I had a "matter transfer device" to get around but I don't, so until then I will work with the airline industry. 

Renée 🐝 Cormier Sep 9, 2016 · #1

Nice post, @Graham Edwards. I get the concept and yes, I agree process maps can really help you refine a convoluted process (an affliction many corporations suffer from). I have to admit, though, that my natural pragmatic disposition forces me to simplify everything because even looking at those things, makes me want to pull the blankets over my head for a week. :)

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