How to Avoid Process Mapping Mistakes

Process mapping is one of the most powerful tools for problem solving, investigation and generally improving businesses. However, many of us still make simple Process Mapping mistakes. It is for this reason that stakeholders and subject matter experts can sometimes be resistant to take part or support you.

To make things as easy as possible, do your best to avoid these most common mistakes when process mapping.

1. Using the wrong approach

There are many different ways to process map from basic flowcharting, Universal Process Notation (UPN) or even Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN). They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so make sure you have chosen the right one.

If you’re working with a technical audience, mapping processes that require technical data, then BPMN might be a suitable solution. But imagine if you are working with busy, non-technical business stakeholders. They will not have much patience for processes using a complex array of shapes and symbols that they don’t understand. A common process mapping mistake is to assume that everyone understands the same things that you do.

With this sort of audience you’re going to want to use something much simpler. Something they will find easy to read with very little to no training.

You should also consider how you are going to use technology to map the process. Are you going to map the processes straight into a software tool and share them at the end of the workshop? If that’s the case then an approach like UPN is going to be much more effective.

UPN is so simple you can use it to map the process directly into your software in a real conversation. And you can do this without interrupting the flow of thought. At the same time it is rigorous enough to capture all the details required for virtually any project.

If you are working with lots of different stakeholders, from different teams, then it’s best to choose just one approach. This should be whatever suits the least technical person in the room.

Skore has been designed to map processes at the speed of conversation in live and remote workshops – take a free trial and try it out today today >>

2. Not being clear about the purpose and benefits

To get your stakeholders to take part you need to give them a good reason to do so. You might be able to get people to agree to a short meeting without any reason but if you’re asking them to give up several hours they need to understand the concrete benefits. Many people make the process mapping mistake of not being clear enough from the very beginning.

You normally map processes as part of a wider change initiative, project or programme. We recommend therefore that you start with the objective and benefits of that project. The chances are the stakeholder has already heard about it but there’s no harm in repeating and aligning yourself to it.

Next be clear about why process mapping is needed and why these stakeholders input in particular is required. For example – is it because you are trying to uncover the existing pains in the process? Trying to build a business case for changes? Or identifying the key requirements for a new system?

Finally, share with them any benefits that will directly impact them. Are you removing problems that directly affect them or making some part of their role easier in the future?

Stakeholders are much more likely to engage if they can see a clear benefit that directly affects them.

Check out our guide for preparing and running process workshops >>

3. Not agreeing the title and scope up front

Once your stakeholders are aware of why you’re mapping their process it’s time to be clear about exactly what you will be mapping. Take your time to consider the following – which process are you asking them to tell you about? Is it something high level such as the sales or marketing process? Or is it going to be something more detailed like completing an order?

The scope of the process tells everyone where it starts, i.e. what triggers it to begin, and where it ends. Start mapping without a scope defined is a guaranteed process mapping mistake. Firstly you’ll waste a lot of precious time at the beginning of the workshop discussing this. Secondly, you will find the conversation going way outside the scope of the process again which can frustrate and disengage your participants.

You don’t need to agree on the perfect scope up front because you’re unlikely to know what that is until you’ve mapped the process. However you do want to start with something that helps focus everyone on this process and not to go off in different directions.

This simple How To guide introduces the basics of mapping processes >>

4. Not involving the right stakeholders

Without the various stakeholders and subject matter experts there would be no process to map. In addition we would suggest identifying and involving the right stakeholders in the first place is as important as knowing which process to map.

Having identified the process, the objectives, benefits and scope you’ll probably have a good idea about who the first people to invite are. They’ll be the real experts and people with the knowledge of how things actually get done. But don’t make the process mapping mistakes of not considering who is missing.

Having the experts in the room is great, but having someone that actually feels the pain of the process will be invaluable. Whether it’s someone doing the process, or someone on the receiving end, they will be able to articulate the issues from a personal level. This will help with how you communicate that to others in a recognisable and human way.

Another type of stakeholder that’s worth involving are those that are influential within the teams. They might not be very senior but they are the sort of people that others will listen to. Finding and involving these people will help you understand how they are likely to influence colleagues. Getting them onboard with any change will reduce the chance of any resistance as the project progresses.

5. Taking too long

Everyone’s time is precious and if you’ve put all the effort in to get everything else right you definitely don’t want to squander it by wasting people’s time. To make things even harder you have a very narrow window in which to keep people engaged. 

As soon as everyone leaves the room after a workshop they will be focused back on their day jobs and all the useful discussion around the process will quickly fade away. If you need to follow up with additional questions or require further feedback from the participants you need to do it quickly.

If you plan to capture the discussion as notes and then write the process up afterwards be sure to start immediately after the workshop has finished. You want to get the process map out to the participants within hours of finishing while it’s still fresh in their minds.

Ideally you capture the process with them live during the workshop and straight into a tool so that the maps can be shared straight away at the end. But here too you need to be careful not to waste time. Avoid the situation where the participants are waiting around for you to put boxes on the screen and move them around. They will quickly lose interest and engagement.

Either have someone else in the room mapping the process in another tool, so that it can be shared at the end. Or, use a UPN based software such as Skore that can be used to map the process at the speed of conversation. This ensures that the discussions flow easily, everyone can immediately see the process represented and can access it the minute the workshop is finished.

Want to learn more about how to use Skore to capture and analyse processes live in a workshop? Why not take a free trial>>

Avoiding Common Process Mapping Mistakes – remember this!

The most important thing to remember, when embarking on a process mapping exercise, is that your stakeholders and subject matter experts are the most important piece of the puzzle. Without them you cannot get an accurate picture of the process.

Not only that but if you don’t get them on board with what you’re doing they will be resistant to any change that results from the work you are doing – and that is one of the biggest process mapping mistakes to make! It’s essential to put them first and think about how you can make their lives as easy as possible. The more you make it easier for them the more they will make it easier for you.

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