And then the magic happens…

Process improvement always starts with process mapping. Honestly, it amazes me the number of times I start working with a process that has a problem and the first thing is either it’s not mapped, the current map is horribly out of date, the map they have is wrong, the map isn’t followed, or (and sometimes and) the map isn’t mapped low enough.

If you haven’t written down the step-by-step of how you do something, you are bound to have a “magic happens” moment in your process.

I don’t care what it is–even if you only do it a few times a year, you need to write down your steps.

I do a lot of strategic planning for my clients and even I have a three-step model, which in reality are three phases. Within each of the phases I have a list of steps and deliverables and for each item I have a process. And this is a very fluid type process.

If I didn’t write Dow. The phases and steps to a level of detail, I would probably forget key pieces of the strategic planning process until it was too late. You can’t be standing before the senior leadership facilitating and discover that you forgot to conduct that assessment you need.

Even one-time processes I write down the steps to a pretty significant level of detail–this is called a project waterfall.

When you have a process that hasn’t been mapped sufficiently and isn’t used and referred to regularly, then their are parts of your process between the start and stop where the magic simply happens.

I don’t really care to hear about how difficult or how little you understand about mapping, this should be a skill everyone should have.

Come on, it is really simple–write down every single step of your process on a lines piece of paper. You will be amazed at what it actually takes to get the job done. You will probably need to use more than one price of paper.

Make sure, if you are using a computer that you write down everything to include what directories you open, the web addresses you go to, and the files or programs you open.

Simply saying, “Run an Operations Report,” is too little of information. The box on a process map might be that simple, but the steps should be step-by-step. Using screen shots can certainly help.

“I don’t have time to map my process to that level of detail.” Really, you didn’t just say that to me did you? If you ever use this excuse, you should be fired! That’s like saying, “I’m too busy to ensure I do my job right every time.” I really don’t see how anyone would accept an answer like this. Honestly, you just don’t have the time not to take the time to get it right the first time and every time–there, now you have too much time on your hands!

Leaders…if I hear one of you say, “We don’t need to map our processes to that level,” I’m going to vomit! Do you know why we invented “levels” of mapping detail? It was for leaders. This way consultants could scope out process mapping work to a level of detail that the leader will pay for. Hey person in charge, if your people who are doing the process don’t know how they do it step-by-step, what are you paying for. Oh wait, I know–Magic!

Ok Harry Potter, how do you ensure more than one person does the job the same? How do you train new people? Seat of your pants operations. There is a place waiting for you in the Knowledge Management Blunders Hall of Fame.

To summarize, map your processes people–know what you do and how you do it. You might just learn something about what you do every day.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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