Tag Archive: process mapping

Process Mapping? I’d rather be Napping.

So I’ve heard a lot of people say they are so fascinated by what I do in the process improvement world, and how great they think it is , but how “it’s not for them”.  Using my coaching skills, I usually say something like, “Oh yeah?  Tell me about why it isn’t for you”.

Here are some of the responses I get:images

“Snore.  Processes are super boring. My company is really intuitive, and we just know exactly what to do and we fix it.” – my super annoying friend

“Processes, who needs it? I already know my team is garbage and as soon as I can replace them, things will turn around”. – a client who later realized her team was great because process mapping revealed a culture issue

“Ugh.  Sounds bureaucratic. I’m an entrepreneur.  There is nothing corporate about he way I run my business, and to be honest we don’t need it.” – my sister-in-law

PROCESS MAPPING3 Signs You Need Process Mapping STAT!

  1. Something is wrong and you “think” know exactly how to fix it.  How do you know what’s wrong?  What leads you to believe that?  What is the expected outcome if you make the change? You might be right. Intuition is super important.  Why not validate those gut feelings with some evidence in a process map? It’s a great way to get buy in from your stakeholders and employees!
  2. You “think” your employees are the problem. They suck.  While this is the first place many people look for solutions, it’s usually something else.  Why do you think they suck?  What tells you that? What could be inhibiting them? Have you asked them? Research shows that if you take great people and put them in a bad process, the process will win every time. Process mapping sometimes uncovers secrets that are hiding within a bad process.
  3. You “think” process is too rigorous.  Well, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be.  The right people, the right style, and the right moment can take you from being a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants entrepreneur to a being a strategic one.  Why not set the stage so you can pass the tasks that aren’t worth your time (or you aren’t great at) to someone who can actually add value (so you can go and be amazing). Process mapping identifies those tasks and lets you properly divide them up.

If you’re not a “process person,” or even if you are but don’t have a lot of time, we can help you. We are expert at coming in, talking with you and your team, and uncovering the hidden opportunities to improve your business.

Even better – why not build process improvement and process mapping capacity on your team? We offer public workshops that are fun, interactive, and relevant. Check them out by clicking here, and contact us if you want to know more.

#whiteboardworskhops #theyredifferent

Until Next Time,


Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.09.44 PM

Whiteboard Workshop: Introduction to Process Mapping

pmProcess Mapping is awesome and fun and helpful and easy and so amazing, right?

No? If you disagree, you’re not alone. We did a quick Twitter poll and asked people what their thoughts are about Process Mapping. Here are some of the replies:

  • Process mapping? More like process napping! (Click to Tweet!)
  • Process mapping is critical, in that if you don’t do it, you can save the rain forest, your time, and your sanity.
  • Who needs sleeping pills when you could participate in a process mapping session?
  • Process mapping is the paleo of the workplace. (Click to Tweet!)

So yeah. We get it. There are a LOT of people who don’t like process maps.

At least they think they don’t – they just haven’t met us yet.

But I “Need” to Do Process Mapping

Despite how people may feel about process mapping, they still need to use them. Either they have to design them on their own, or read some that have been designed by someone else. Some people know the “why” behind process mapping but still haven’t quite mastered it, and others have no idea what they are doing or why, only that “they have to do this for audit purposes.”

The truth is that process maps are necessary and critical in so many situations:

  • Training new people,
  • Documenting processes for audits,
  • Understanding the flow of information in an organization,
  • Having a picture of how customers are impacted by business processes,
  • Identifying areas to improve,
  • Identifying areas that are excelling (and should be modelled), and
  • Imagining a future state organizational structure.

So if you, or someone you know needs to do any of these things (or is responsible for others who are), then our latest workshop is for you. Read on.

1Whiteboard Workshop: Introduction to Process Mapping

If you have been reading our blogs for a while, then you know we love to make processes better, and we loathe things that are over-complicated. It follows then, that we don’t do process mapping (or training, for that matter), like most organizations do.

Our latest workshop, Introduction to Process Mapping, was first delivered on May 26th, and was a great success. Some testimonials:

  • I have done process mapping in the past, but it has been a long time since I’ve been able to utilize those skills. I was so happy to attend and receive a great refresher. Thank you!
  • There was a wide variety of different folks with different backgrounds, and you did great to keep all levels engaged and interested.
  • This course came at the perfect time! Something I really liked was the actual process mapping we did as individuals – it helped me demonstrate what I learned from the course.
  • I loved your banter – so funny and yet still professional. (This was our favourite, because we think we are very funny.)

We have two more dates set this fall. Both are Thursdays, and both will be in downtown Toronto (location TBD based on the group).

People who attend this course will be able to

  1. Understand the basics of process mapping theory and activities,
  2. Articulate the value of process consistency and when it can be “too much” (too rigorous),
  3. Demonstrate the ability to facilitate and develop a process map, and use appropriate levels, tools, and concepts (incl basics of Visio), and
  4. Analyze process maps to identify improvement opportunities.

You should come. You really should. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. And if you have any questions, shoot us a note or Tweet us @whiteboardcons #ILOVEPM.

See you soon,




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

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,


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.

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,


Processes Can Set You Free!

Oh I know what you’re probably thinking – “Ruth, who are you kidding? Processes are simply more bureaucracy. I get that they can make things more consistent and reduce errors, but they’re also a real pain.”

Fair enough. Let me rephrase then.

Good Processes Can Set You Free!

Better? Of course better! But why is that better?

One of my pet peeves is the notion that processes simply need to be documented (written down, mapped, whatever the format) in order for an organization to say, “we’ve done process improvement.” This is the very notion of poor process culture, and gives good process culture a bad rep. You can very easily map a bad, inefficient, bureaucratic process, and doing so does not make you a process improvement compliant organization or individual. (Click to Tweet)

Did that sound like a rant? Sorry. What I mean is, please don’t judge your processes at work by the mere fact that they’ve been documented.

Good Bad

How Can You Make Sure You Have Good Processes?

Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Are our business processes documented and available for people to look at and refer to?
  2. Have our business processes been reviewed in the last 12 months?
  3. Do our business processes show roles & responsibilities (via swimlanes, for instance)?
  4. Do our business processes reflect reality? Or, if asked, would employees who are doing the work say “we haven’t done it that way for years”?
  5. Do our employees roll their eyes when they have to follow our business processes? Do they feel the processes are a waste of time and bureaucratic?
  6. Are there people in our organization who are negatively impacted by our business processes?

If you said “no” to any of these, then you have some work to do. Contact us. We’ll help set you free.

Until next time,



Oh for Process Sake!

One of the things that Nicole and I hear a lot is that people don’t like processes that are just put in place for process’ sake.


Well neither do we.

There is nothing less motivating than having to document in gory detail every step of a business process, just because someone says it’s a good idea. Ok, maybe one thing is less motivating, and that’s having someone hand you a process map and tell you to “follow this” when you’ve had no engagement in its development. You feel like you’re handcuffed by more red tape, and you become frustrated.

Process for process’ sake is bureaucratic, restrictive, and demotivating. Click to Tweet.

And, it Gives Good Processes a Bad Name

I admit it, I’m a little sensitive about the barely concealed eye-roll and sympathetic smile that I often see when I tell people what I do for a living.

“A process consultant! Oh! That sounds… interesting.” And then, “isn’t that just a lot of  maps and stuff? I have binders of those in my office and use them every day.” <insert good-natured-but-annoying hardy har hars here>

You can’t really blame the organization. With the rise in popularity of process improvement methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma, ISO, and others, there’s also an increased desire to jump on the band wagon, get certified, and advertise the fact that you are now a high-quality organization.

Well the fact of the matter is that process maps do not a high quality process make. You can map bad processes too! And, you can map good ones poorly. And, worst of all, you can map things that don’t need to be mapped.

Three Ways to Give Your Process Credibility

  1. Give your process a purpose, and let people know what that purpose is. Why are you insisting that people follow a specific process? Make sure there’s a good reason (e.g. audits, financial controls, quality impacts, budgetary impacts, efficiency impacts), otherwise it’s best to let people have control over how they achieve their objectives.
  2. process3Engage people in the development of the process. We love it when we meet with managers who tell us how a process works, and then talk to the people who actually do the work. Usually managers  have no idea what really happens. A great way to increase employee engagement is to ask the process users to be part of the documentation and improvement effort. It will make them feel part of the organization, and even address some of the “what’s in it for me” feeling that is deep inside everyone’s work persona.
  3. Hold people accountable. Launching a process, engaging people, communicating – that’s all very nice. And in six months no one will remember anything about it, unless you hold people accountable for sticking to the  steps. Make it part of your coaching conversations. Model the behaviour you want to see by following processes yourself. Reward people who both stick to them, and consistently strive to make them better.

You don’t have to do process for process’ sake. In fact, we hope you don’t. Help give good processes the recognition they deserve! (And positively transform your organization at the same time.)

Until next time (and Happy New Year, by the way),


Process Improvement via The Whiteboard Way© – Step Three

This week we continue our series on The Whiteboard Way© by taking you through what just might be the “favourite” phase in the process improvement journey – “Imagine It!”

Why is it the favourite phase? Well, it’s because most people have a solution in mind when they start this journey, and up until now we haven’t allowed them to even suggest it. We were all about  problem definition in Step One (remember, no solutions) and then the visual representation by drawing the current state in Step Two. In the third phase, we finally get down to business and talk about some possible ways to fix the problem.

Finally! I Can Just Implement My Idea, Right?

Um, no. Sorry. There are a few things we need to do to make sure that your idea not only will fix the problem, but that it’s also the best place to start. Sometimes great ideas are trumped by new ideas that we find in the first few steps of Step Three. If you can hang in a little longer, what we want to do next is brainstorm all the possible causes for the problem you designed in Step One, and drew in Step Two.

We’ve been looking at three different problem statements in this series:

  •  In the last 3 months we have had to fix this issue 6 times for four customers, causing dissatisfaction for our customers and wasted processing time for our staff.
  •  Each month we are 5-7 days late completing this process, impacting other departments and generating late fees for the company.
  •  This piece of work costs the organization $5,000 per month. Best practices in similar companies is half that amount.

Let’s take a closer look at the first example. It seems that we’ve sent the wrong thing to our customers 3 times in 6 months. Our shipping manager is pretty sure that it’s because we hired 4 new people in the warehouse, and they’re just not using the shipping system properly. He’d like to do some training for them – it will cost $1,500 a person to attend a two day course, and will require hiring temps to backfill while they’re off at training.

In “Imagine It”, the first thing we have to do is think of all the potential reasons for the mis-shipped products. We love to use a tool called a Fishbone Diagram to help people come up with “root causes” for the problem. This diagram is best drawn on a big whiteboard or brown roll-paper on the wall. At the head of the fishbone you put the problem “Mis-shipped products”. Each of the bones in the spine represents a common category of root causes. These categories are designed to trigger thoughts while brainstorming – participants use them to think of all the things in that category that could possibly impact the outcome.

A completed Fishbone Diagram for this issue might look like this.

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 6.32.38 PM

Actually, it would probably look much messier and with dozens more ideas. But let’s run with this one.

Our shipping manager’s idea of training being the big concern is right there on the fishbone, under the “People” category. But during the brainstorming session, someone pointed out that there have been a few power outages recently and that all the picking had to be done manually. Also that the website had been updated, and that customers in Vancouver had called in with issues using the online order forms.

Suddenly, the training idea has taken a back burner until the other ideas are investigated. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, or even the wrong idea – it’s just that a little more investigation is needed first.

In this case, it turns out that the power outage was the root cause – each mis-shipment was linked directly to times when the picking process had to be done manually.

Now What?

A few things. First, you might want to investigate why you’re having so many power outages! Is it a freak of nature or do you have electrical issues? Second, how can you improve the manual picking process? Use your new process mapping skills to look at the current process and see where there might be room for improvement and ways to prevent mistakes from happening (the Japanese term for this is Poke Yoke – error proofing).

You might want to prove that the new process will work too. That’s the topic for next week.

Until then, please leave a comment – anything! Process questions, ideas for an upcoming blog, your thoughts on the Maple Leaf’s’ chances this year. Whatever!


Process Improvement via The Whiteboard Way© – Step Two

Last week Ruth started a series on The Whiteboard Way©, our very own process improvement methodology (this proved to be advantageous for me, as I was at a creative standstill with blog ideas. Thanks Ruth!)

First, a Little Background

A little recap – last week Ruth talked about the most critical step in The Whiteboard Way© – Define it! By removing assumptions and pre-conceived ideas about the solution, it allows you to be unbiased and creative in the possible solution.Today I’m going to delve into my love-hate relationship with process mapping.

Why do we process map?

Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners and people process visual information much faster.  Visually representing a process allows you to see things that may not necessarily jump out at you when you read a procedures document or when you just “imagine” the process in your head. Here are some things that jump out at you when  you process map:

  1. Touch points. How many people, teams, departments must a product or service pass through to reach the customer? The higher the number of touch points in the process the longer the process will take, and the higher likelihood that a defect (or error) will occur.
  2. Duplication. Process maps are great at visually highlighting work that is duplicated across the company by different teams. With our clients, we usually see a map highlight, for example, people that enter the same data into different databases, or forms in different areas of the organization.
  3. Bottlenecks. Bottlenecks occur when there is a blockage in the flow of information or work. For example, when a busy executive is holding an approval at their desk for days upon end.

So Ruth helped you develop your problem here. Some examples of  “Good” Problem Definitions are below:

  •  In the last 3 months we have had to fix this issue 6 times for four customers, causing dissatisfaction for our customers and wasted processing time for our staff.
  •  Each month we are 5-7 days late completing this process, impacting other departments and generating late fees for the company.
  •  This piece of work costs the organization $5,000 per month. Best practices in similar companies is half that amount.


Step Two: Draw It!

So now, take your “good” problem definition from last week , and think about the process(es) that contribute to it. There are many types of process maps out there, each serving a different purpose. We like to use the swim lane process map because it allows you to identify the ‘hand offs’ or touch points in the process. At this point you are mapping the As-is current state process, not the Should-be (in an ideal world), or Thought-to-be (what we think it looks like).  Get everyone in the room who touches that process and talk about what “ACTUALLY” happens.

There are four steps you need to remember when mapping a process.


  1. Determine level of detail. A high level view of your process will require 3- 5 process steps, while a more detailed view can have up to 20 process steps.
  2. Lay out your swim lanes. Identify how many people, positions, teams or departments are involved in the process (keep in mind the level of detail you have chosen to map it) . Create a swim lane for each. Your process should flow from the top to the bottom, left to right. So if your administrative assistant or your client starts off the process, their lane should be placed at the top. The same, if your shipping department is the last to finish the process, their lane should be placed at the bottom.
    whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging: Peacocks and Processes
  3. Use your Shapes. The are 4 key shapes to use when mapping. The oval represents the start and the end of your process. The rectangle represents your process step. The diamond represents your decision point. The arrows represent direction and connection. The diamond is the fork in the process and therefore will always two arrows, a Yes and No.
  4.  Number your Steps. Although the arrows help with direction, sometimes with complicated processes, you lose track of the flow, especially if there are a lot of decision point. For this reason it is important to number your process steps.


So get out your whiteboards, sticky notes, and markers, and start to Draw It! Let us know what you find out!

Leave us a comment below!


Until next week,