Process mapping versus documentation

What is Process Mapping?

Early on in my career as a consultant I remember explaining my new role to my Brother. “Process Mapping?” he replied, “I’ve had that done to me!”

He worked in the finance industry and told me that someone in the compliance team had called him. “We’ll be mapping your processes over the next month.” He was told.

“Six weeks later I received another call to tell me it had all been mapped!”

While this is, perhaps, an extreme case it demonstrates the lack of engagement typically found in process mapping exercises. Why is this important?

A lack of engagement is a symptom that demonstrates a lack on understanding as to what process mapping actually is. The term process mapping is often used to describe to act of documenting a process. However, here we argue that process documentation is only ONE of the outputs of a process mapping exercise. So what is Process Mapping?

Documenting versus mapping

I think of documenting a process as simply capturing what’s in front of you. You’re just documenting what you see. This is typically what happens when processes are captured through one-to-one interviews. The interviewee is explaining what they do and the analyst captures it. It’s one dimensional.

Mapping a process is more like mapping the landscape. You can see what’s in front of you but you can’t see what’s behind that distant hill. You don’t know if there’s a village, or a lake behind it. Mapping requires you to take many different perspectives to build up a model that describes the landscape.

In the same way process mapping is as much about documenting what isn’t obvious, or clear, to each person involved.

It could be argued that running process interviews with different stakeholders will give these perspectives. The problem is that there is little opportunity to challenge different perspectives. It’s left to the analyst to interpret conflicting views without understanding why they happen.

Process workshops

It’s for this reason we recommend live process mapping workshop as the best way to map a process. Participants can describe how things work together. Differences can be discussed and the reasons for these differences ascertained.

Differences in how work gets done typically develops organically and leads to duplication and loss of standardisation. Sometimes these differences are completely valid. It is very difficult for the analyst to identify which is which without the necessary debate generated in a workshop.

Of course one or two workshops won’t completely map the process. An ongoing engagement with the team is required to ensure process maps are kept up to date and relevant.

Keeping the process relevant

A recent customer explained how they use process maps at their weekly team meetings. “We always open the process and have it displayed on the screen while we talk about the week ahead.” She explained. “We are in a heavily regulated industry and operate across more than 100 countries. We have to fit new regulations into our ways of working on a weekly basis.”

“The process maps help us stick to a common language when we discuss the impact of each new regulation. It speeds up the implementation and reduces misunderstanding. It keeps us all on the same page during constant change.”

Processes are rarely changed but the maps ensure the team focus on the relevant area and are aligned on what to do.

Saving time

A further advantage of the process workshop approach is the time it saves. While each person in the room still needs to be taken out of the business the analyst mapping the process only needs to be there once.

When interviewing the analyst spends time with each participant individually. Then they must analyse the output of each interview and understand the differences, often getting agreement through additional meetings later.

Using Skore app further speeds things up as, unlike using sticky notes and whiteboards, processes can be mapped directly into the tool and shared at the end of the workshop. Therefore there’s no need to spend time mapping the process into a tool afterwards.

Process mapping is more than simply documenting a process in front of you. It’s about understanding the different perspectives that make up how that processes is run in a given organisation. It’s about understanding what isn’t obvious and why it happens. A good process map will be accepted by the roles it describes and will be used to continuously improve.

Contact us to learn more about how Skore app accelerates and improves process mapping.

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