Visual Process Innovation: Phase 1 – Current State
Mapping the current state of a process can be the start and end of a project. Sometimes simply articulating how a process works today is all that is needed.
Treatment without diagnosis is malpractice. This is especially true of process.
Mapping the current state of a process can be the start and end of a project. Sometimes simply articulating how a process works today is all that is needed. However, more frequently mapping the current state serves as a foundation for creating a new or improved process.
What is Current State Mapping?
Current State mapping is just what it sounds like–mapping out how a process works today.
We do this by bringing together stakeholders and subject matter experts to visualize the current process, working together on the walls in a co-creative, workshop environment. The idea is to bring the people who know the process together in one room to have one conversation at the same time.
This is far more effective than the commonly used business analyst approach, which then requires the analyst to piece together their own understanding of the process followed by socializing, validating, and refining it before they even start on improvement. It’s much better to have that group of people work together to map it and then walk out of the room saying, “That is the process as we all understand it today.”
Why is Current State Mapping Important?
Taking the time to map the current state of a process is important for several reasons:
First, it enables a thorough examination and documentation of the process, as it exists today. This always reveals exceptions and variations in the process where people are compensating for gaps with workarounds that meet their needs. These are the first possible improvement opportunities.
Second, doing the current state legwork acts as a primer for the stakeholders and subject matter experts–they become engaged in the overall effort creating a sense of ownership and support that will help sustain the effort and embed the results once complete.
And finally, having a visual map–a physical artifact–provides a common building point for the team, enabling them to maintain alignment as they work across time and space for the remainder of the effort.
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
Scope & Altitude: Mapping a process with a group first requires getting alignment on the scope and altitude, so they are all focused on the same things. Scope is simply the start and end points, and altitude is the level of detail to which we need to describe the process. This provides essential parameters for process planning and keeps the team aligned throughout development.
Process Blocking: With the scope and altitude clear, we break down a process into phases and possibly sub-phases and steps in an exercise called Process Blocking. This creates a simpler framework for the group to complete a clear picture of the current process.
Walk the Process: Using the current state map, the stakeholders “walk” the actual process to validate the map, updating it with workarounds, extra steps, or short cuts that take place in most mature processes. This makes sure the current state reflects what’s actually happening rather than what the handbook says.
Dave King is the Vice President of Client Services at XPLANE in Amsterdam.