“Gaining Perspective and Control in a Fast Moving World”
There you are – driving alone along the 101 Freeway wondering if you should head South on the 405 or take the 134 East to the 5 South. The e-mail printout in your lap says to meet them in front of the Sunglass Hut in the South Coast Plaza Mall down in Costa Mesa. A frantic hand under the front seat rewards you with a couple of old Starbuck’s cups instead of your LA/Orange County Thomas Brothers Map Book. You’re not panicking yet because the map book is probably in the trunk. A quick stop in the parking lot of what looks to be the scariest McDonald’s you’ve ever seen makes it worth it because you’ve spotted that elusive map book under a wet suit you haven’t used in 5 summers. Closer scrutiny of the map book reveals that it’s the 1988 edition and a third of the pages have fallen out. Time to stop at a few gas stations. You finally make it to the mall and you’re only 15 minutes late – there’s still time. While running through the doors, you blindly race by the prominent mall kiosk because you distinctly remember that the Sunglass Hut is next to J.C. Penney on the second floor. Wrong again. Your frustration reaches new heights as you stomp out of The Disney Store mumbling how you can’t believe sales people don’t know where anything is. 15 minutes tardiness has now grown to half an hour – it’s not looking good. In a symbolic show of surrender, you throw the now useless e-mail in a nearby trash receptacle and head for the closest exit. After working your way through the department store maze, you finally reach sunlight only to ask yourself, “Where did I park my car?”
This may seem like a funny way to start a serious business paper about process modeling and mapping – but it’s a good example of what really can happen when outdated information and tools are used to attempt winning results. Sure, this little story is comical, but when customers and employees encounter these kinds of events in your place of business – it’s no longer a laughing matter.
Staying on top of the details of how your business achieves its’ objectives can seem like an impossibility – especially during an age when technology redefines itself daily and readily available information becomes more and more overwhelming. The business leaders of yesteryear were the ones on top of the organizational chart; today, business leaders are those who can “see” how the business works, who’s making it happen and what systems are used – despite the fast moving world of technology and information and regardless of their positions on the organizational chart. How do they keep track of it all? They use one of the oldest tools known to man – a map – more commonly referred to amongst corporate types as a “business process map.”
Business process maps are analogous to photographs in that they can provide immediate insight into any current situation – valuable information if you’re trying to invoke change within your organization. But just like any map, if the business process map is outdated, confusing, or missing pertinent information, you will dismiss the map as useless or requiring too much work to learn how to read it. However, if the map is obviously current, complete, comprehensive and easy to digest, then you’ll probably find yourself referring to it for a number of reasons – making the map one of your top resources.
Successful business process maps should also be comprehensible to all readers. What good is a map if only a few people can decipher it? Besides addressing how a business process works, who’s making it happen and what systems are used, successful maps do not overlook the importance of large-scale depiction, simple language, uncomplicated symbology, meaningful color schemes, thoughtful use of “white space” and associated models. Business drivers may give the map a beginning, and process objectives may offer the map’s ending; but natural laws and business rules dictate the shape and contours of the business process map.
Whereas capturing and depicting key process information is the primary focus of the Business Process Mapping Methodology (BPMM), supporting change leaders is the role of the BPMM. It’s true that good and bad ideas, if passionately presented by someone with a solid reputation, can receive managements’ blessing – but is this the way you want to run your business – on personal conviction and performance history alone? The BPMM seeks to provide change leaders, process owners, system owners, and project managers with a tool that significantly increases the probability of implementing successful change. The BPMM does this by mining the right information from the right process experts and presenting it within the framework of a business model and corresponding process maps and conceptual diagrams. By handing this work over to those responsible for process improvement or process reengineering, the BPMM can support many different types of initiatives and activities such as systems architecture analysis, software upgrades, project prioritization, activity based costing, cycle time reduction, document usage analysis, training and job description reviews – just to name a few! The BPMM not only assists in the research and analysis of potential change, it also promotes a more logical, analytical and thoughtful assessment by management when change proposals find their way into the conference room and eventually – the board room.
Sure, there are those who’ll swear they don’t need a business model or process map to run their business or implement change, instead relying on “tribal knowledge” to achieve the desired winning results. “Tribal knowledge” is a speculative practice that invariably leads to an environment where everyone may know the rules – but only a few know the ropes. Watching “those in the know” walk out of your department or business can leave you with a huge deficit – one that could have been avoided. By operating your business without the benefit of the BPMM, you could end up in uncharted and unfriendly territory wishing you had brought a map to direct your progress. Why not avoid that situation? Start capturing process information within the context of business objectives to avoid the painful experience of being hopelessly lost and begin understanding how things are done today – before making changes for tomorrow.