Peacocks and Processes

We have a saying around the Whiteboard office: “It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process! It’s NOT a peacock!” Click to Tweet

Weird, right?

What we are trying to say is, don’t be overwhelmed by process design or process improvement. It doesn’t have to be fancy or showy – simple is definitely better in the process improvement world.

But I don’t have any processes…

Ah, we hear that a lot. And to that we say, in the nicest possible way: sure you do!

EVERYTHING is a process. Grilling the perfect steak (season, marinate, sear, flip, grill, serve), getting ready for work in the morning (turn off alarm, shower, dress, breakfast, coffee, car), checking your eMail (sort, read, respond, file).

Let’s look at that last one a little closer.

Do you follow the four eMail steps mentioned above? Or, are you like most people in that eMail causes you untold anxiety every single day? Is your Inbox full of unread eMails? Do you try to keep up, but never quite get there, and then get more emails from people wondering why you haven’t responded?

Guess what? You have an eMail process. It may be ineffective, but you have one! And improving it doesn’t have to be hard.

If your boss told you to fix your eMail process, what would you do? Would you buy expensive process mapping software and hire a consultant to see what the problem is, and then take a training course in how to handle your eMail effectively?

I sure hope not, because you don’t want to turn this into a big showy fancy peacock! Even worse, you don’t want to avoid fixing it by just spending more time at your computer until your Inbox is empty. (Because you know it will fill up again tomorrow.)

I hope you would get a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a really simple process map and really think about all the steps that you take to handle your Inbox. If you do it right, the problem would jump off the page at you! Easy peasy.

It’s Not What You Think

So what is your process for handling eMails? Let’s say you just got back from vacation to find 480 unread emails. What do you do? Perhaps you sit down and draw this process map: Peacocks and Processes

Simple. Straight forward. But no problem appears to jump off the page. Well, again, with respect, we say: “I don’t think so.” It probably looks more like this: Peacocks and Processes

That’s the difference between what we call a “Thought to Be” process map and an “As Is” process map. When you dig into it, the“As Is” really tells the story. In this example you’re wasting time and energy by handling each eMail one at a time, whether they are “info only”, “action required”, “urgent request”, or “meeting requests”. Now the problem jumps off the page – it’s actually a loop with no defined ending!

What if you looked at your Inbox as a pile of tasks, and organized them just as you do your daily To Do list? Then your process map might look like this (we call it the “Should Be” process map). Peacocks and Processes


Suddenly there’s nothing in your Inbox but prioritized action items. Your new efficient process has saved you time and energy, and your customers (and your boss!) are happier with your response time.

Give it a shot and let us know how it works, would you?

Until next week,

PS – Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!