Recently, while having dinner with some friends, I was intrigued with one of the discussion topics that was raised by one of the young adults at the dinner table. Apparently, he just started a new position with a state agency. The position is new, the business unit is new, and the overall division was relatively young as well. He was telling us that because the position and the business unit were new, all of the recent hires, including himself, were trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. There are no guidelines or operation manuals for the work. He indicated that they were doing their best to try to get the work completed based on what little information they had.
I immediately voiced “What a fantastic opportunity!” I went on to explain that he had been presented with an opportunity to put his thumbprint on this new business unit. He and his colleagues could work on identifying the best approach in getting the work completed, document how the work was completed, and then have a discussion within the business unit on how to either improve upon that process or solidify the process for a new operation manual.
To illustrate my point, I grabbed a pencil and a blank piece of paper and began asking questions about what he does at work. I quickly pulled together a process map with decision points, process steps, handoffs and owners of the various tasks that are taking place in the business unit. I then showed him the process map that I sketched out based on his answers. He could not believe how quickly I pulled together a visual representation of his daily work effort.
There are many benefits to documenting a process:
- Use the process map for training and other onboarding activities
- Identifying gaps in the process that were not identified earlier
- Learning from the process to determine if a more efficient approach is possible
- Determining ownership of the various tasks based on the work efforts and skills needed.
- Increasing the level of understanding by the task owners with respect to their tasks and any dependencies associated with their work
- Having a visual representation of the process increases the ability of individuals to translate the process based on how they contribute to the work effort.
Capturing your business processes in a visual format is one of the easiest ways to document your work efforts. Collaborating with the team to document these processes can be very effective when trying to initiate an internal discussion about the workflow, how decisions are made, when decisions are made, and how the tasks are divided between members of the team.
I often use process maps to illustrate various project activities and how they intersect throughout the project lifecycle. There are also many dependencies that can be highlighted in the process map by the use of colors or handoff tasks.
An image can be a very powerful tool in helping to solidify the understanding of how work is completed. One of your 2020 projects should be to visually document your processes for all of the reasons stated above.
You won’t regret it!