For over 30 years I have been 'capturing' business processes in organisations in all types, sizes and geographies. As some have already pointed out the often overlooked ability to stop, look and listen are useful aids in making a successful capture. However processes can be tricky beasts; often hiding away in dark corners of the organisation, or camouflaging themselves as useful, productive work when they are really wasteful and unnecessary activities. When it comes to tracking the paths and vagaries of such processes, people working in its immediate locality almost always have a much better understanding than their chiefs.
When language differences become a barrier to shared understanding, then creating a diagram is the most immediate and effective solution. However, before creating such diagrams it is vital to first plan out a set of meaningful icons and representations so that diagrams created elsewhere, or by other members of your team, can be quickly and consistently understood. By collecting diagrams of all the processes and fitting them together, one can then create a 'map', thereby tracing the origin of each process through its various stages, to its conclusion and a hopefully useful outcome.
By examining this 'current state' map, one usually discovers some processes which meander endlessly through the organisation for weeks or months consuming resources along their way. Other processes might begin for no apparent purpose and end with no discernible outcome; a waste of time, money and effort for all concerned. Many improvements are blindingly obvious when viewed within the end-to-end map, generating 'quick wins' and saving for the organisation without any delay or significant effort.
The viewing of such a 'current state' map by chiefs and workers alike, often creates shared understanding for the first time. Floods of questions arise, such as 'Why do we do that?', Can we be more innovative with this?' If cannot innovate how do we avoid or improve this process? And, most importantly, "How can we optimise all of our core processes to deliver more value for our customers, our people and our stakeholders?"
The 'current state' map and its realignment with the goals and values of the organisation, can then be used as a solid platform on which to produce a 'future' or 'desired state' map. The future state map shows how the organisation will work in the future, how processes can travel far faster and deliver their value more effectively; and how new process superhighways will bypass the clogged and congested departmental backstreets of old.
Once again, the sharing of the future state map with all involved, creates a shared understanding of which processes are key to the organisation's future success, how they will work in the future and what new skills and capabilities will be required.
So why is visual diagrammatic mapping the best means of capturing business processes? There are many reasons but the four most important are: 1. The mapping process itself is inclusive and everyone participates. 2. The 'Current State' map identifies immediate savings which often outweigh the cost of producing it many times over. 3. The redesign and shared viewing of the 'Future State' map creates an understanding of the organisation's next destination and the reasons for making the journey. Finally, together the 'Current' and 'Future' maps and the work undertaken in creating them provide a solid foundation for the management of organisational change. But that is another story,
Ross Harling, Process Hunter, and originator of Atticus Enterprise Mapping.