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3 Extraordinary Tips for Process Mapping

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Value Stream Mapping is an effective tool to understand the current state of a process prior to moving into requirements or user story definition. There are plenty of resources available online for creating process maps and value streams. In this Blog, I'll provide some lesser known tips for creating a value stream map.

#1: Pay attention to body language and emotions! Often the most important dialog is the one that goes unsaid. Body language and emotional responses often provide clues when words are missing; they complete the story.

  • Negative Emotions - while conducting the value stream or process maps, make note of any negative emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, etc. When an opportunity presents itself, such as a review of the overall process map, ask probing questions to understand the negative emotion further. If possible, ask for a demonstration of the process step and use empathy to understand why the person feels that way. Often there is a clue of a hidden waste like an unnecessary step or rework.

  • Pride - pay attention when a quiet person speaks up to describe a step in detail, or defends the step if challenged. Sometimes the non-value add work is the tasks that a person is the most proud of. Their self worth is connected to those tasks, so it is important to be extra engaging and sensitive when discussing changes to those tasks.

  • Ah-ha moments, light bulbs, and sudden excitement - even in the most structured value stream mapping exercises, people have ideas appear. Document these ideas, who said it and any extra details in the moment. Do not discount the idea because it is not the right time, otherwise, the person may not share ideas later. However, jumping into brainstorming while conducting a value stream map can make the process veer off course, so document the idea to lock the passion in a box and move onto the planned discussion. Make sure to revisit the idea later.

#2: Collect artifacts during the value stream map. The artifacts are the records taken throughout a process, such as an email or spreadsheet. For example, a purchasing process begins with a list of parts to buy distributed by a report on a Monday. The buyer reviews the lists and decides which parts to send for quotation. The buyer emails the suppliers of choice and places a PO for the best supplier. The artifacts in this case include the demand report, the email to the potential suppliers, their response and the PO. Remember that the purpose of the value stream map is to understand the current state of a process to evaluate it for improvement, with the intent of implementing software to speed it up. Much of the data needed in the application can be found in the artifacts of the current state process. It is much easier to collect what you are looking for while you are discussing it vs asking for it later. Chances are, the team won't remember what you mean.

#3: Create a RASCI in addition to identifying the process step owner during the value stream map. A RASCI chart identifies all relevant stakeholders of a process. RASCI = Responsible, Approver, Supporter, Consultant, and Informed. For each step of the process, identify which function or group of people serve in these other roles. When the workflow solution is created later, the RASCI chart can be used to identify notifications and approval steps. The RASCI chart can be used to decide who needs edit and read only access to records as well. For example, a Supporter will likely need edit access, where as an Informed person will only require read only.

Listening to the unsaid words, collecting all recorded data and understanding the roles people play in the process aside from execution help transition IT projects from requirements gathering into designing the workflow. These tips are a result of several years of developing workflows for different stakeholders and reflecting deeply on how to improve. I am hopeful that by sharing them, you're able to save some rework, headaches and delays in getting your new software workflow off the ground.

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