Process Mapping Lessons (Continued)
BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE TAIL CHASE – I worked on a project several years ago about evaluating and streamlining the mobile check deposit process. During my early investigation, I needed to know how many physical letters were sent through this entire process and at what times. I initially had my core mobile check deposit group involved and no one knew the answer. Yes, some in the group were able to provide fragmented information about the letter process but not from entire end-to-end perspective. We kept searching to make that determination. We had to bring in other experts on various parts of this process to try to assist and sometimes it was of value and sometimes their input meant we had to reach out to several more in retail banking and technology to help us piece things together. If a similar situation occurs, it might be useful to stop the running around and bring the core group together for some serious thought and planning. Many involved will only see things from their perspective so it’s important for the project manager and key lead subject matter experts (SMEs), when possible, to drive this point across. Key players need to work together as this project unfolds to chime in to help better outline the process to ensure all questions about various tasks and work streams are addressed ASAP.
UTILIZE WHITE BOARDING – Often, process-mapping meeting involve participants at various locations across the U.S. if not beyond. So the conference call may suffice for audio, for video, WebEx can be utilized to display video or screen sharing. Based on what I find works best, outlining and taking notes via WebEx’s white boarding process quite useful. The school of hard knocks has taught me that some SMEs in the business world are not always skilled at explaining how their process works at a basic level for all to comprehend. They may know the details of what they do or how the product or technology works but it’s important to understand things at a much higher level and be able to connect the dots before delving into the details. Sometimes, key contributors will think of things after all the key processes are mapped out in Visio. White boarding in WebEx is helpful to keep everyone on the same task — especially early on as the outline is being developed (so all contributors can see and understand the key items being outlined). Marking up this white board visually also help when placing all the process steps together. As all viewers can see, they can suggest changing the order of things or better defining certain steps. Towards the end of the process and as the process maps are almost complete, viewing the maps visually together as a team helps call out the current controls that exist. It helps to see where there are gaps in the process that need controls or where certain controls need to be tweaked so the control is more robust and effective. I’ve also had a few contributors for whatever reason reach out directly to me after the meeting to add their input. After chewing on the discussion being displayed, they later provided insight which was added to the notes and outline.
COMMON TAXONOMY – Early on in the project, the project lead/process mapper sets the tone with effective communication. Because different group members come from different areas, all contributors need to be cognizant of the language, terminology and acronym’s used when discussing the subject. If necessary, the project manager needs to remind all about clear and common language and bypassing as many short cuts or acronym use as possible. As the leader of this group, there may be situations where some participants are quiet and may not be fully engaged. This may or may not be related to the language used during the meetings. If it is, the project manager needs to assert him/her self to ensure all participants are represented and feel comfortable about contributing.
UNCLEAR FOCUS ON PROCESS MAPPING OBJECTIVE – The focus is very important to outline and emphasize in the first few meetings as a larger group to ensure all group members understand what’s being mapped and why. The project manager/process mapper must regularly validate the work being done and validate the project remains on schedule. Of course, the content is critically important to capture and map out but continuing to stay on point can be just as critical. I’ve had situations where contributors and SMEs get too lost in the details or a part of the process and may lose focus on the objectives. Often, a list of goals or reminders the project manager reviews daily about the exercise helps to keep the group focused on the business objective.
SENSE OF URGENCY – Invariably, you’ll have some delays or unexpected challenges, which may delay the deliverable date. Therefore, it’s crucial to have that sense of urgency and push the project forward as much as possible. This may mean working on it every day and doing all you can now as you continue to map out the rest of the project.
BE FLEXIBLE – During the project, even with schedule meetings for the next week or two, don’t be reluctant to cancel or shorten meetings – always aware of the group’s time. If a meeting is cancelled, it’s useful to keep them informed on the progress of the project.
NOSEY AND PUSHY PEOPLE NEED APPLY – It’s critical to leverage your assertiveness during this entire process. It’s critical to continuously drive the project forward as you are not only mapping several processes as well as leading the project. Sometimes, you need answers to key pieces of the process before you have the necessary information for the next meeting. Your commitment as project manager means you regularly have a list of things that need to be done that day, that week and beyond. Reviewing the material once or twice a day to know the project is on track and moving forward. In small or larger meetings, you may need to utilize the 5 Whys. Keep asking questions through meetings or during informal huddle periods. As you continue to peel the onion to get clarity and determine the status of the process. Is it a solid process? Does it need tweaking? Are there many gaps that need to be addressed? Are all current controls in place sufficient or could they be tweaked?
From Wikipedia: 5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each question forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem.