Communication 601: Process Mapping - Communicating Processes
You know there's a problem in your operations, you know it could be more efficient, but how to you communicate it? Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 words....
Effective communication in the workplace is the key to advancing, but how exactly do you do that? How can you actually improve workplace communication? Engineers, programmers, project managers and consultants all need some tools to help them "sell" ideas. One of the most useful - but underappreciated - is a multifunctional process map. The process map is mentioned and required in ISO 9000, Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, but you don't need those complex methodologies to take advantage of this useful tool.
We will demonstrate the swimlane processs map with a case study based on the instructor's work in management consulting. The case is an example of how you can use a process map to "sell your ideas." If you use this communication tool correctly, your "sale" should be much easier….and that's a great way to build a career.
Welcome. Please download the two PDF files. The first is the case study, the second is our completed process map. In this course we'll walk you through how we built it, and how it made communicating incredibly easy.
Many, if not most, communication courses teach you presentations skills such as "how to tell a story" or how to "captivate the room." While these skills are important, they alone are not sufficient. You also need tools. If you make good use of these tools, your "presentation" becomes a "discussion," and then selling your idea is quite easy. The case we use throughout this course is based on a real situation where I had to "sell" an idea to senior leaders. The management thought the problem was caused by employees, but I knew that wasn't the case. A clearly presented process map made my point abundantly clear. Please read through the case study, then we'll walk through the six main steps we used to create it.
Before you start, understand the big picture. I have often asked the people closest to the operation, "How do things work around here?" You need to understand the larger process conceptually, but not yet in great detail. Ask open ended questions such as "Can you give me a general idea of how this works?" Stay open-ended and stay general. You'll dig for more detail later.
Next, identify the start and end points. If you have a large process, break it into smaller, manageable pieces. Use the Start and End points as "bookends." As you dig deeper and go into more detail, you may have to move the bookends, and that's OK. Your goal here is to break your large process into manageable chuncks.
You will need some supplies:
Determine all the stakeholders, then find who's involved in the process.
Here's the fun part. This step is where you learn how things REALLY work. When you have the stakeholder (or better yet, the stakeholders) start mapping the process. You can start by saying, "Folks, tell me the first thing that happens." You will also hear yourself ask several times, "OK, what happens next?"
There are several best practices:
Validate, validate, validate. Verify, verify, verify. Most likely you won't get all the players together, so you'll have to validate your map with the other functions and stakeholders. Take your map to the people involved and have a discussion. Ask if it's accurate. Most likely they will learn something and be thankful that you discovered it.
Every business process – whether it's an "as-is" or a "to-be" process – has at least three versions:
In the example we're using for this class, we focus on the "What really happens." Typically, there will be disagreements or differing views on 10 – 15% of the map. That's good…it means you're on your way to uncovering the trouble spots.
You will find trouble areas, and the causes are usually not where you'd expect them to be. I've found that a root cause analysis works very well with a process map. The areas where you found disagreement are often the areas where you'll find probably where you'll find your problems.
Remember your task: You know that the employees are not the problem. You feel that Operations MUST fix the spare parts issue, and you must communicate this finding to the bosses. How can you "sell" this idea to the Depot Manager and the COO?
We used the "5 Whys" to dig a bit deeper, and found a reason that would cause a driver to get a late start. It happened quite frequently:
(*** Root Cause Analysis is a bit out of scope for this class, but we are considering creating a new Udemy course.)
Now the easy part… You don't need to be a phenomenal speaker if you're armed with a really good process map. Simply walk people through the map. Would you rather give a presentation or have a discussion? You're generally much more effective with the latter.
*** We'd love your feedback and also suggestions for new courses. We're considering a new Udemy course, "The 5 Whys Method for Root Cause Analysis." If you like this idea or have any others you like to share, please contact me at email@example.com.
Do you want to build a great career? You MUST be able to communicate!
When senior executives are asked what technical people can do to advance their careers, the answer is quite consistent: Improve communication skills. Effective communication skills in the workplace are essential for every engineer, programmer, developer, statistician or biochemst, microbiologist....
I come from a technical background, and in my 15 years of management consulting, I've had the privilege of managing large groups of technically brilliant people. I've seen the career challenges you're seeing both as a young "techie," and also as a consultant and project manager. Learn some "Tools for Techies," and you'll be on your way to success.
Please feel free to contact me if you'd like:
- to share an idea for a new communication course.
- a new course about consulting.
- information about Lean Six Sigma (I'm a Black Belt.)
- information about Project Management (I'm a PMP®.)