This article was based on episode 104 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the episode guide and video tutorial when you become a member at themodernmanager.co/join. Purchase a full episode guides at mamieks.com/store. Get the free episode miniguide at themodernmanager.co/miniguides.
Have you ever played those puzzles where you need to move the blocks around, but if you do it in the wrong order, you can’t get the main block to the goal location? I love these games because they’re all about figuring out the right order to move each piece.
Process or workflow mapping is our office place version of these games. Often we’re so busy doing the work that we never stop to reflect on whether we’re doing it in the optimal order. Or, whether we even all agree on the steps that need to be done and decisions that need to be made and by whom. Instead, we assume that redoing working, revisiting decisions, and general confusion or frustration are just how things are around here.
When you map a process or workflow, everyone gains clarity and alignment. This enables work to move faster, with less duplicative effort and fewer frustrations. The style of process mapping that I use with my clients is not the official, technical version of process mapping you might learn elsewhere. Instead, my approach is designed to be easy for anyone to do while focusing on what matters most: clarity and usability.
BRAINSTORM THE ELEMENTS OF PROCESS MAPPING
To map your workflow, begin by brainstorming the various steps, decisions and tools needed for this process. Don’t worry about getting it in the right order the first time through. Use a digital tool or sticky notes to make it easy to rearrange the order later.
Identify the following:
Rectangle: An action or step to be completed. Identify any actions that need to be done. Include who will do this and by when / on what timeline.
Diamond: A yes/no question or decision-point. Identify any decisions that need to be made. Consider using a decision-making tool like RAPIDS to indicate who will be involved in the decision and what role they will play.
Double Rectangle: Tools, resources, templates, and supplies required. For each step, identify anything that the person completing the action will need. Consider if new tools, checklists, templates, etc could be created to streamline the work.
Circle: The end of the process. Acknowledge when a process is complete or signal the person must begin a different process on a different map.
Arrow: Shows directional movement between actions and decisions. Indicate the flow between steps and after decisions.
Once you’ve put your thoughts on paper, organize them into a flow that makes sense to you. If you haven't yet considered what triggers this workflow (Is it an event, a date, some other action?) be sure to include that at the top of the map as well. Once your draft is done, it’s time to get enrichment from others.
INCLUDE THE PERSPECTIVE OF OTHERS TO ENRICH THE MAP
Even if you’re the process owner, it’s useful to get the perspective of others to enhance your map. Is this how they understood the process? What is missing from their vantage point? Are the task owners correct? Are the decision roles accurate? How about the tools and resources?
Through these conversations, you’ll identify which steps need to be re-ordered, what steps were missing, etc. Just as importantly, you’ll align collectively on the process. This shared understanding will instantly reduce frustrations and make the work flow smoother.
USE YOUR MAP
Whether you only pull it out when you hit a bump, or you post it on your wall for daily viewing, your map is intended to make work easier. However you decide to use it, be sure to refer to the map when a friction arises. If the friction was due to a missed step, remind yourself and others of the agreed upon flow. If the friction is new, update the map with your learning.
For a more detailed overview and examples of this simplified version of process mapping, check out the episode guide. See below for details.
Get the episode guide and video tutorial when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.co/join. Or, purchase the guide at mamieks.com/store. Get the free episode miniguide at themodernmanager.co/miniguides
This article was based on episode 104 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.