Tag Archive: process

The Structure That Lets You Be Flexible

structure

Last week I had a consultation meeting with a potential new client. They are a digital marketing agency, and are the epitome of funky, professional, fun, and creative. I very much enjoyed my conversation with them, as I always do when learning about a new (to me) industry.

Consultation discussions always start out casually with the usual small talk and commentary on what is going on around us (this group works in a shared creative work space, and the energy is palpable). As often happens with people who are interesting and interested, the conversation morphed naturally into questions and answers about what they do and where they want to grow and how Whiteboard can help.

This client came to us via a referral from a previous client. As such, they already knew a bit about what we do, and yet they still weren’t sure what we could or would do for them. They just knew they needed us. Why? Because they wanted to build the processes they needed before they needed them.

I thought this was genius, and through the course of our conversation a phrase came up that I’ve already reused a half dozen times since then. “We want to have fun,” they said. “Our clients have to see us having fun. So I guess we are afraid that processes will limit our ability to be flexible and have fun.” I responded, “so what you want is the structure that will let you have the fun.”

“YES!” they replied, smiling as if to say, “By George, I think she’s got it!”

This idea of flexible structure is an important one for all businesses of all sizes, and particularly those that are on the tipping point of growing to a new level.

What’s a Process Again?

First let’s revisit the concept of a business process. Essentially, everything that you do with some repeatability is a process. At a high level it may involve things like this:

  • Sales
  • Developing a quote or proposal
  • Establishing scope or business requirements
  • Project management
  • Customer service
  • Invoicing

You may not think you have a process. Perhaps you are a small or medium organization for which things happen organically. Maybe everyone does everything and does it their own way, and it’s working out just fine, thank you very much. But guess what? There is a process. There are many processes, and they are all different and they all accomplish the same thing slightly differently.

This is usually just fine for a while. Because it’s a small team, you can roll back your chair and shout down the hallway to your partner and solve issues easily. Customers know you all by name, and although things go wrong once in a while it’s no big deal because someone is always able to fix it.

But here’s the thing. Before you know it, this will NOT be ok. You will hit a tipping point in your growth, and suddenly things will be confusing and chaotic and you’ll be stepping on each other’s toes. You won’t be able to outsource anything because the roles and responsibilities you have defined (or not defined) are unclear and difficult to chunk out into trainable units. You won’t have clear expectations for outcomes, customers will start getting annoyed, and you will be limited in how fast you can grow because you simply can’t handle everything on your own anymore.

This is when the structure becomes important.

By taking the time before you hit that tipping point, you will set yourself up with just the right amount of structure to ensure you present yourself as clear and capable, while remaining flexible enough to grow, change your minds, and yes, have fun.

How to Define Your Structure

The structure I’m talking about does not involve your org chart, and does not require a huge amount of work. Rather, it involves three things:

  1. Goals and priorities: Take the time to define your Mission & Vision statements, and settle on your goals for the coming period. You may have this locked down in your own mind, and it’s just as important to ensure it’s documented and visible for others so they know what they are trying to impact.
  2. Roles & responsibilities: Document the various roles in your organization. This doesn’t mean write down what everyone does (e.g. Ruth handles the sales process). Rather, it means document the person-agnostic roles that are required to run the business well. (e.g. Business Development, Outside Sales, Project Manager, Customer Service) One person can of course do more than one role, but the roles must be distinct.
  3. Key Corporate Processes: Note the key processes that your organization needs, and that must be done in a certain way in order to achieve a quality outcome? This definition allows you to outsource and train new people to a given standard. It also allows you to modify and be flexible as needs require – a process is just written on paper. It can always be changed!

Once you’ve set out your goals, roles and process expectations, you’re ready to grow. Everyone knows what needs to happen and (perhaps more importantly) HOW it needs to happen. Standards are clear and timelines are defined. You have structure, and you also have the option of changing that structure as required. Why? Because good processes are flexible.

Until next time,

Ruth.

3 Steps to Keeping your 2015 New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2015! Hope you all had a restful and enjoyable season.  Now comes January.  The month of overflowing gyms, vegan cleanses (hey I’m on one too….I don’t judge), new organizational goals,and new ways of doing things.

Ruth and I have those annoying type-A and process based personalities that are ripe for habits and accountability.  Look at our blog for example, we’ve been consistently blogging every Friday for almost 4 years. Every Friday no matter what. Literally EVERY Friday. Every single one. Wait…wasn’t our last post a really long time ago? Well…..okay the last couple of months has been a little off. Why? We’ve been busy, but no busier than usual and not “crazy busy” (my pet peeve when people say this).  So what happened?

habitWe lost our trigger….

Of course we had reminders to do the blog! Little miss task list Ruth has us on quite the regimen! We have a recurring appointment in iCal that alternates between “Ruth Blog” and “Nicole Blog”. It was error proof! But occasionally we switched blogging dates. Sometimes the calendar had two different versions and I wasn’t sure if it was my blog day, or Ruth’s. One day one of us just forgot to do it, and then it happened again….and again.

We stopped doing the task….

This is just the actual act of writing the blog.  When we were in the “habit” of blogging it meant me knowing it was my blog week, thinking of potential topics, and making a mental note of what might be interesting that week.  Just the sheer act of getting prepared and starting to write it started a habit.  But as soon as I missed a blog or two, the task just kind of disappeared.

We stopped tracking….

When we were in the habit, one of us would usually ask the other : “Oh have you posted the blog yet?” or “Oh, its Friday, did we forget to post the blog?”, or “Can I help you with the blog this week?”. It was our way of keeping each other accountable (in a kind and curious way of course).  What happened instead was we said to one another: “Oh don’t worry about it, we’ll do it next week!, or “Oh you’ve been sick that’s okay.”, “Or, it’s the holidays, who has time to read our little blog”.  We were making it okay to not keep our habit! Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

aristotle-quote-habitWhat about MY new habits?

So if you’ve made some new year’s resolutions like reducing your email inbox from 10,000 to 100, or meeting with your team members more regularly, or *gasp* implementing a new process -you need to make it a habit.  Use T3!

1. Trigger: Set a calendar reminder, use Siri,  put a post-it note on your monitor. Whatever works. Do it.  Do it in multiple ways.

2. Task: Do the task.  Do it the first time. Do it the second time.  Do it even if you get behind schedule do it anyways. Even if it is late or seems futile. Do it.

3. Tracking: Find someone to keep you accountable. Ask them to follow up with you.  Ask them to be your accountability partner.  Make a chart in your office that everyone can see. Find someone/something to cheer you on when you did it and call you out when you didn’t do it.

Let us know how these help you keep a habit on your new years goals!  Keep us posted on Twitter @whiteboardcons!

Until Next Time,

Nicole

After Leading Process Change….

Did you miss us?  Ruth and I were saying that this is probably the longest we haven’t blogged. Don’t worry, we are back and in full force now!

In today’s blog I wanted to share some highlights of our 2-day course, “Leading Process Change,” which we delivered on November 5 & 6. We had a a great diverse group of participants, from the Ontario Government, Telus, Blackberry, and two web development firms, just to name a few.  It was a total blast.  We shared our experiences in change and leadership and learned basic process improvement skills too.

Day 1

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 9.03.23 AM

On day 1 we whizzed through the Whiteboard Way. It was a lot of material to cover, and using a business case, we helped our team of participants to:

1. Define It – Define a specific problem in an organization, without assumptions, without solutions, and using specific data to isolate the issue.

2. Draw It – Use basic process mapping techniques to visually represent a process clearly.

3. Analyze It – Look for opportunities to improve (like bottlenecks, duplication, and roles & responsibility conflicts).

4. Imagine It – Imagine a future state using brainstorming techniques.

5. Prove It – Use data to ensure that the new process performs better than the original process.

6. Sell It – Use excellent communications and stakeholder engagement skills to ensure that the process change is communicated effectively.

 

Day 2

On day 2 we covered a wide range of leadership topics to help participants learn how to guide a change – from embedding process improvement within strategic plans, to using emotional intelligence to increase people’s buy-in, and even how public relations plays a role (care of our excellent guest speakers)! And as well we covered basic communication, relationship building, and change management skills too!

We were really pleased to get some great feedback from participants:

“Love it. I will definitely bring the knowledge back.”

“Great back and forth engagement.”

“Great idea to combine change (of any kind!) with leadership —> practical tools & advice in simple, accessible language. Love it.”

Now it’s on to new and exciting projects to come….what do you want to learn next?

Let us know on Twitter @whiteboardcons!

*Special thanks to our awesome photographer Sara Beasley @Sarabeesphotography, www.sarabeesphotography.com

Until Next Time,

Nicole

 

 

 

 

Business Process What Now?

process3Picture a business networking dinner, wherein each participant gives an overview of their business, including target market, main products/services, and current concerns. You’ve been listening to some of the dozen or so professionals give concise overviews, and are taking notes – keenly interested in connecting with one or two (using Nicole’s Networking Advice), and thinking you might have some good feedback for a few others. Then it’s your turn, and you stand and give the “elevator pitch” you’ve honed to a thing of beauty. And… people look at you like you have two heads.

That has happened to both Nicole and me in recent weeks, and we were quite taken off guard! We thought we had worked hard to describe what we do (business process improvement) in a way that is easy to “get.” And we have, for the most part – just not in the elevator pitch (2-3 sentences) format that is crucial in networking events and casual conversation.

Clearly it’s something we need to work on.

One of the things that is so interesting to us, and has been since we started this business, is the varying degree of understanding (or lack thereof) of what “business process improvement” is. Being a process geek myself, I assume everyone is constantly thinking how they would improve things, and therefore inherently “gets” what business process improvement is. Not so!

Let’s start by defining a couple of terms:

process1A process can be defined as a series of actions or steps that are undertaken in order to achieve a particular outcome. Some common examples that may resonate with you – think of the steps that are involved in each:

  • going through security screening at the airport
  • filling out your year-end tax forms
  • getting ready to leave the house each morning
  • making a martini or a latte
  • grocery shopping

When we say “business” process, we are referring to processes that happen every day at work in order to achieve a specific outcome. Do these sound familiar?

  • recruitmentprocess 2
  • performance evaluations
  • business expense claims
  • invoicing
  • customer service
  • production
  • strategic planning
  • approvals
  • scheduling

Each of these (and dozens of others) happens every single day in most businesses, and if you’re lucky, they are smooth and efficient and wonderful and everything goes well all of the time and all your employees and customers are happy with them.

No? Well then.

If one of your business processes is somewhat less than perfect and causes you grief, if you go home on Friday night and think, “if only we didn’t have to do THAT thing,” if you get feedback from your customers that they are sick of having to do the same thing over and over with the same (unsatisfactory) results – well then my friend, you have a business process problem that needs improving.

Or, if you have an outcome or metric that is not performing as well as it should be, most likely there is a broken business process in there somewhere, and you need to figure out which one it is, uncover it, and fix it without adversely affecting any of the other processes that it impacts.

There are many ways to approach business process improvement – ours is one that focuses on engagement and leadership skills as a means of making improvements “stick.” It’s different than other more rigid methodologies, yet it uses elements from several of the most popular, including Six Sigma, Lean, Appreciative Inquiry, and Methods Time Measurement. We like to be professional and fun at the same time, and show people what business process improvement is, how it works, and how it can make their organizations better, faster, and cheaper.

Got it? Excellent. Now we just need to get that into an elevator pitch. Any suggestions? Tell us in the comments below!

Until next time,

Ruth.

You Should Come to This Course. Yes, You.

Leading-Process-Change

Our regular readers will know by now that Nicole and I are upbeat, positive people and we get excited about a lot of things. So, when I tell you that we are SUPER EXCITED about our upcoming course in November, please trust that it is not hyperbole.

Why are we so over-the-top and ridiculously excited?

Well, because we believe this course is innovative, and innovation is a good, positive, wonderful thing.

You’ve heard us talk about The Whiteboard Way© before (click here or here). We believe that our method of Process Improvement is what organizations need in order to take the first step into a Process Improvement culture. Often organizations hear about the buzz words – continuous improvement, process improvement, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, TQM, etc – and they go bananas implementing a new program.

And so many of them fail. I’ve seen it happen in three major organizations in both the private and the public sectors.

They fail because they haven’t set themselves up to succeed – they have not considered the importance of change management, culture shift, and stakeholder engagement. It’s as bad as if someone all of a sudden decided they want to be a farmer, and so they bought a big field and started sticking seeds in the ground, without tilling the soil, removing rocks, adding fertilizer, and ensuring the earth is rich and ready to receive the seeds.

Enough of the analogy. You get what I’m saying, and hopefully many of you are nodding your heads and saying, “yup – been there, done that.”

Our new course, Leading Process Change, offered Nov 5 & 6 in Toronto, examines the intersection of Process Improvement and Leadership Principles and enables the learner to influence change and develop a process-based culture. Everyone can benefit from this course, especially if they are responsible for, or thinking about, process improvement in their organization. (Click to Tweet)

You need to come to this course. Yes, you.

What? You don’t think you’re at the right level in your organization to attend? To that I say, pfftrespectfully, PFFT.

Whether you are an employee on a team in an organization who wishes you knew how to influence change so people would listen to your ideas, or a VP trying to figure out why you can’t make process improvements stick, (or somewhere in between), this course is for you.

We have designed the course in two modules, so that people can come to one or both.

  • Module 1 – is all about The Whiteboard Way©, and focuses on the basics of Process Improvement without getting all fancy shmancy and needing expensive software or textbooks.
  • Module 2 – examines essential skills in making sure that change sticks. We have expert speakers on how to communicate & promote your change initiative, how to work process improvement into your strategic planning, and how to be aware of your own emotional intelligence and its impacts on others.

More information is here in this link. I encourage you to read it, and then sign up and bring anyone else who needs to be there (which is everyone, so…). We have discounts for Earlybirds (before October 18th), former students, members of BNI or Verity, and employees of the OPS. And discounts can be combined!

I hope to see you at our course. I promise it will be fun – our past students have rated our training consistently in the top box! (Oh, and the lunch will be fantastic!)

Ruth.

PS – if you have any questions, just shoot us an email at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Getting to the Root of It

root causeNicole and I have stumbled into a bit of a theme these days, talking about the basic activities involved in Process Improvement and sharing with you some user-friendly and simple templates. First, we wrote about how to actually map a process, and next we covered how to look at that process map and assess which steps are a waste of effort – i.e., they add no value. Both those blog posts include handy templates which you can edit and manipulate to suit your needs.

So now what?

In Nicole’s example, we learned that External Failures were taking 56% of the total time involved in completing a process. Since External Failures are clearly non-value-add steps, that is where we will focus. It may seem obvious, but often it’s over-looked so I’ll say it again: start your process improvement work on the steps that offer the most efficiency opportunities.

The next step then, is to look closely at the External Failures and think about what might be some root causes for them. By reducing or eliminating them, not only will we reduce the chance of upsetting a customer, but we will reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the overall time to do the process.

Root What Now?

Root cause. The main thing that is causing a process to fail. Here’s an example: a customer’s dessert arrives and it is burnt. What might the root cause be for that? There may be a few of them, so let’s brainstorm. The customer received the burnt cake because:

  • the server wasn’t paying attention
  • the oven was too hot
  • the recipe was wrong
  • the chef wasn’t watching the oven
  • the oven timer was broken

There are a few examples of why the cake might be burnt. Are they root causes? Nope. They are sub-causes. Let’s dig deeper:

  • the server wasn’t paying attention because:
    • he/she was rushing
  • the oven was too hot because:
    • the thermostat was broken
  • the recipe was wrong because:
    • the chef made it from memory
  • the chef wasn’t watching the oven because:
    • he/she was receiving an order of fresh vegetables during dinner service
  • the oven timer was broken because:
    • it hasn’t had any maintenance in 5 years

So are those root causes? Maybe. Let’s take a look:

  • the server wasn’t paying attention because:
    • he/she was rushing because:
      • three servers called in sick and there was no backup plan
  • the oven was too hot because:
    • the thermostat was broken
  • the recipe was wrong because:
    • the chef made it from memory because:
      • he/she learned it from someone else who didn’t write it down
  • the chef wasn’t watching the oven because:
    • he/she was receiving an order of fresh vegetables during dinner service because
      • the delivery truck was late
  • the oven timer was broken because:
    • it hasn’t had any maintenance in 5 years

Brainstorming with Fish

We’re getting closer. We have a few root causes in there now, and a couple of others might even be able to go further. A great way to do brainstorming like this is to think in terms of categories of what could possibly go wrong. You can use whatever categories will work for you or your business, but some common ones include:

  1. Equipment
  2. Process
  3. People
  4. Materials
  5. Environment
  6. Management

fishbone
A tool we love to use originated in Japan in the ’60s. Known by several names (Ishikawa diagram, Cause-and-Effect diagram, and Herringbone diagram, to name a few), we use the most common title – the Fishbone Diagram. This diagram is nothing more than a brainstorming tool that helps groups think about potential root causes of a problem or issue. Lucky for you, click on this Fishbone Template for you to use in your next brainstorming session. It will download automatically.

Here are the steps in using it:

  1. At the “head” of the fish, write the problem you want to address.
  2. At the end of each of the “bones” of the fish, write the categories you’d like to use. (Whichever ones will stimulate the best discussion.)
  3. You can start brainstorming sessions several ways. One we like to use is to give everyone a stack of sticky notes and a pen. Ask them to look at the categories and write down as many potential causes as they can – one per sticky note. Now have everyone put their sticky notes on the wall, clustered in the six categories. Discuss and add more (because people always think of more). Remove duplicates.
  4. Draw a line towards each “bone” and write the potential cause on it.
  5. Ask if there are any further “bones” that might go off of the one you just wrote. If there are, then draw a line connected to that line.
  6. Keep going until you’ve written down all the ideas, and then ask if there are any more.
  7. Done!

Now you have a big list of ideas, and the trick is to figure out which one of those is the most impactful. How do you know which one(s) to fix first? Well, Nicole will tell you that next week… so stay tuned!

Until next week,

Ruth

PS – details on our new course, Leading Process Change, are coming within the next few days. Stay tuned to our Twitter (@whiteboardcons) and Facebook feeds, not to mention our website.

Two Things I Learned This Week From Students

teacherThis week I taught a two-day course on behalf of the Centre for Leadership and Learning in the Ontario Public Service (OPS). It’s called “Management Essentials,” and is for non-managers who want to either learn more about how management is expected to perform within the values and objectives of the OPS, or to understand what it takes to become a manager – thus being able to assess their own skills gaps and build them up accordingly.

This is a great course, and I enjoy teaching it so much not only because the materials are current and relevant, but because the people who attend generally WANT to be there (vs. being “told” to take a course in presentation skills, or “how to write a briefing note”). Teachers reading this will agree that when people attend because they want to, they are generally much more engaged and the class has more energy.

This was true this week – a great class filled with 35 interesting people from many different areas of the OPS, with differing levels of experience and terrific stories to bring life to the material.

As I drove home I reflected on a couple of standout things that I learned from the class, and thought I’d share them with you in this week’s blog:

One: We need to remind people, over and over again, that THEY are responsible for their careers and their professional development.

Situational Leadership Model

One of the conversations we had (a couple of times) relates to the last blog post I wrote (Does Your Manager Like People). We had just finished discussion on the Situational Leadership model of applying directive vs. supportive leadership techniques. This tool is a BIG hit with people – while complex at first, it is extremely helpful for new managers when they need to accept and learn that their natural, or comfortable, style of learning may not be appropriate in all situations. It helps them assess, adapt, and communicate in a more effective way.

A student approached me at the break and said, “this is AMAZING. I think my manager missed this subject when she was promoted and attended manager training.”

“Ah, bless your heart,” I thought.

I made sure to share with the class that in most organizations, there is no training to become a manager. (As an aside, I may enjoy a little too much dropping those bombs and watching the reactions.) The conversation that followed was an important one, as people realized that it is up to them to learn how to be a good leader.

A great manager should be encouraging their teams to learn and grow, develop career goals and job shadow, take courses, or broaden their perspectives. In the absence of a great manager, many people flounder and future talent may be lost.

Two: There are employees out there who want to innovate, change, and improve, and we need to find and harness that energy more effectively.

After the “manager training is up to you” conversation, there was a slight shift in energy, with more questions aimed at the application of the course material in a practical way to help people apply for and win new jobs.

One question came from a young man who likes his job very much, has been with the OPS for about five or six years with no complaints, and who is starting to feel frustrated. “I’m naturally inquisitive and process-oriented. I see people do the same things over and over with the same results, but no one takes the time to stop and fix the process so that things improve. Where are all the process jobs???”

Not an easy question to answer. Of course there are process jobs out there, and within the Ontario Government there are specific areas that are more process-focused than others. The trick is in finding those job descriptions and being able to read between the lines and know that certain phrases indicate a culture of process improvement more than others.

The real key is meeting the right people. This student was taking control and doing the right things – taking courses, asking questions, discussing his goals and dream job criteria with people, and being open to new opportunities. By doing so, he was exposing himself to more people who might be able to point him in the right direction.

I’d love to see the process-focused culture shift happen more quickly – not only in the OPS but in other private-sector organizations as well. Imagine if more job descriptions included a requirement for some type of Innovation Thinking, or the ability to demonstrate a process-improvement focus as part of regular job functions.

I may be biased, but I think that a process focus culture is the next big thing required in business today. If we could find these naturally process-oriented people and maximize their energy, we could shift our thinking from “process improvement or day job” to “day job through process improvement.” (Click to Tweet)

I teach again in a couple of weeks… can’t wait to see what my students teach me then!!

Until next time,

Ruth.

(Process) Rules Are Made to Be Broken

rules

It’s true. Rules are made to be broken. Even in the world of Process Improvement.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “But Ruth, process improvement is all about rules and statistics and doing things the same way every time, yada yada yada. You’re contradicting the very foundation of what Whiteboard teaches!”

Ah, nothing is so black and white, grasshopper. Hear me out.

Process Improvement is Changing

In my process career I have witnessed and/or been part of many process improvement initiatives – big, small, fully funded and supported, done “off the corner of a desk”, successful, and unsuccessful.

The two things that made the difference between success and failure – in addition to the usuals of effective communication, engagement, and senior management commitment – were:

  1. Early evidence that the new methods work and are worth the effort, and
  2. The ability to be flexible and change your mind.

And this last one, flexibility, seems to be growing in importance. In fact, it also influences the first one – “evidence of success.”flexible

Traditional and, dare I say it, soon to become “old school” methodologies like Six Sigma and to some extent Lean, are based on strict methodologies that work really well in some organizations – usually those in a manufacturing or highly repetitive/operational industry. In other industries, particularly serviced-based, these methods have a more difficult time taking root. It’s not impossible, and there are many very successful examples – but it is harder.

It’s OK to Change Your Mind – Just Don’t Squirrel

When Nicole and I teach The Whiteboard Way©  to aspiring process-improvement practitioners, we are careful to point out the need to be flexible, and to change things along the way if they aren’t working. The ability to do this is refreshing to people who are often nervous about adopting a new method, or taking on “this process stuff.”

I recently did some strategic planning with a client – he was a little nervous about planning tactics for goals that were 12-24 months out. “Things can change, Ruth,” he said. And he was right. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a process, and then if (when) things change you can make intentional decisions to veer away from or modify the plan. But – the modification is then intentional, not just because you saw a fun-looking squirrel and decided to run after it like the dog in the movie Up (love this clip: click here). Some people do this so frequently, that Nicole and I actually use “squirrelling” as a verb.

In the Four Disciplines of Execution, Sean Covey stresses the importance of using and tracking lead measures – those which you can influence and which drive the progress towards a goal – in the execution of a goal or strategy. His theory is that a “cadence of accountability” ensures that people develop the habit of reviewing their commitments and assessing whether those tactics (or lead measures) are making the progress they expected. If they’re not, then they change the tactics and the things they measure until it has the desired result. (Click to Tweet)

In the The Whiteboard Way© we teach the same principles. We combine traditional process improvement tools with modern theories about being flexible yet accountable, and we show how this approach generates increased engagement and better results.

Have you had success doing process improvement this way? Tell us about it!

Until next time,

Ruth.

The 3 habits of “Process People”

Ruth and I can see them instantly in a room full of people. A little like an oasis in the middle of a desert. The way they talk about problems. The way they describe a process. The way they doodle in their meeting notebook trying to talk about their pain point at work.  I’m pretty certain there is even a special twinkle in their eye. It is thrilling and exciting.  Total #MCM (Man Crush Monday) or #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) when I meet someone with process aptitude.

Want to be our #MCM or #WCW?

Learn and use the 3 habits of “Process People”

#MCM for process

#MCM for process people

1. Be a doodler:

Process people get the concept of visually representing a process. People process visual information much faster, and processes can be complex and difficult to explain with words. Getting to the root of an issue by quickly doodling that part of the process is a great way to start articulating the problem. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t even have to use the right shapes, just get your view of the process out on paper while you are chatting with someone. Process people’s meeting notebooks are filled with diagrams and scribbles – all a way to distill information to someone else who might not be as close to the process as they are.

2. Talk Data:

Process people understand the importance of data to baseline the performance of an existing process so that you can compare it o the new process. Make sure that you understand the impacts and details of the current process problem, and can you set targets for your future state.  What are you trying to improve, reduce, or eliminate? Improve turnaround time? Reduce change requests? Eliminate errors? Where do you want to get to?  By when?

3. Know the Players:

Process people understand that people have a huge impact on a process.  Understand all the touch points, people, positions, roles, or departments touch a process.  Then you can use our free process mapping template to take your doodles and take them one step further by using the swimlanes.

Just bringing these habits into your every day life can make you someone with “process aptitude” and that’s a great thing!

Tell us about your process #MCM’s and #WCW’s on Twitter @whiteboardcons.

Until next time,

Nicole

How to Process Map When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging: Peacocks and ProcessesThis week a friend emailed me to ask for some process improvement advice. He has been thinking about a business process in his office, and knows something isn’t working the way it should, but isn’t quite sure what it is.

In fact, he wasn’t even sure how to articulate what he was looking for.

“This is probably the kind of thing that you guys could do for me, but I don’t even know what I want yet. Do you have anything like a template or a document that lists your process for drawing out how a process is working?”

Funnily enough, we don’t. When Nicole and I facilitate process improvement sessions it comes to us naturally, based on a few key questions:

  1. What is the “pain point” that you want to fix? Or, what is that “one thing” that drives you bananas when you drive home on Friday evenings, thinking “if only we didn’t have to deal with “this thing”, everything would be better?
  2. What kicks off your process? What’s the first step? You might think this is an easy question, but we once spent 45 minutes with a client helping them answer it.
  3. When is your process finished? What’s the last step? Is it when something is produced? Or when the customer recieves it? Or when the cheque comes in?

And that’s enough to get us started. From there we interview the key people involved in a process, draw it on huge Post-It paper on the wall, and then review it with people to ensure it’s accurate.

At that point the opportunities to improve pretty much jump off the page.

My Response to Him

Assuming you know nothing about a process map (forgive me if you do):

  • square shapes represent a step in the process
  • circles/ovals are beginning and end points
  • diamonds are decision points
  • arrows direct the flow from one step to another
  • the rows, or swimlanes, represent each person or group or organization who “touch” the process
  • A completed process map a beginning and end (duh), has all the process steps in the appropriate row depending on who completes the step, has decision points where ever an approval is needed (e.g. Approved? Y/N) and then appropriate steps for both Yes and No possibilities, has numbered steps (makes it easier to refer to specific steps later if you’re talking to someone about it).

You can use a pencil to document your process directly on the page, or you can have a big piece of paper on the wall and use sticky-notes (one for each step). This makes it easy to move them around if you need to. Use the attached template to help you out. (Click here for the process map template: WBC Process Map Template.)

  1. Determine the swimlanes – who has some involvement (no matter if it’s only one step) in any aspect of the process?
  2. Determine the trigger point – what kicks the process off?
  3. Consider the end point – how will you know when the process is done?
  4. Put a circle shape in the swimlane for the person/group that starts things off. Write the word “START” in it.
  5. Put a square shape next to the circle and label it #1, and write the step.
  6. Proceed with each consecutive step.
  7. Add the arrows last (you almost always have to change them as you go).
  8. When you reach the end point, put a circle with the word “END” in it.

His Response to Me

Ever the clown, my friend responded with, “do you realize how ironic it is that you don’t have a process document for your process mapping process?”

Isn’t it though. So ironic. See if I help HIM out again… sheesh…

Until next time,

Ruth.

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