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For those of us who work in intricate work environments, it becomes easy for things to get lost in translation. This is why it is essential for organizations to have traces of Business Process Management (BPM) incorporated into their structure. To help explain my point, let us observe this basic scenario that most people can understand – and probably relate to.

So, Tom needs to submit a report to marketing by Friday, but Kelly needs first to approve it. However, before Kelly can accept it, Matthew needs to update the report because David from sales has sent a change request. Still, even after Kelly approves the report, Tom must wait for his senior advisor to look over it before he sends it out.

Sounds familiar to anyone?

The situation just described is a great example of a simple business process that is being compromised by multiple roadblocks. For those of you involved in numerous projects all at once, identifying bottlenecks and other issues is important if you want to be efficient.

The roadblocks listed in the example above are a series of inconsistencies deriving from a lack of processes. By introducing sustainable business processes, you can help improve the flow of work within your team and across your organization.

Optimizing Your Process Flow

Process mapping is a great technique for recognizing inefficiencies in a workflow. It will allow you to define and organize what your organization does, as well as identify where all the different responsibilities lie, and with whom.

Having detailed, documented processes in place allows individuals to see the big picture, and it also helps lay out the particulars of a workflow. For these reasons, it is important to identify what could be considered a barrier or waste in your workflow.

The Basics of Process Mapping does a great job of outlining the idea of waste. We can define waste as any activity that takes up resources but does not add any value to the process (Damelto, 2009). The most common type of waste would be delays in the process flow, such as waiting for approvals or sign-offs. Additionally, we can also look at waste as spending time performing an unnecessary step or protocol.

Benefits of a Robust Business Process

To effectively refute waste, it is crucial that organizations implement robust business processes. By doing so, organizations negate the risk of waste in current processes as well as in new ones. When mapping out a process, it is important to keep two points in mind: Streamlining Processes and Accountability for Work.

Streamlining Processes:

Start by identifying all the impractical parts of the process – sign-offs, approvals; anything that seems redundant or impractical. Once identified, try removing as many of them as possible in hopes to reduce waste and better streamline the process. Finally, evaluate and try to rearrange the order of process steps or simplify some of the actions so that operations spend less time floating around in the pipeline.

Accountability for Work:

By clarifying responsibility across organizations, it becomes easier to pinpoint who would be accountable for each step in the process. This helps isolate where problems are if you come across any delays. It also helps reduce waste by getting rid of the “blame game” by associating responsibility to their respected contributors.

Business Processes and New Employees

Onboarding new hires become much easier with the help of a process map. It is hard enough as a new employee to learn the ins-and-outs of a business, but what makes it even more challenging is the lack of proper processes – no matter the task.

How long does it usually take for a new employee to understand your processes? This question is an excellent way to judge how efficient your business process is. If an organization finds it takes new hires too long to understand certain business processes, documented business processes can help clarify any uncertainties they may have. It also provides new employees the resources they need to engage in a new responsibility or task independently.

Some Tools for Process Mapping

The flow process chart presented to the members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1921 was one of the first real structured methods for documenting process flow. Flowcharts are still used for basic process mapping, and they are often seen as the starting point when pinpointing a particular process and the bottlenecks.

Organizational relationship maps can also be used to outline internal or external relationships between parts of an organization. While they do not show specific work activities, they are a good way to understand the bigger picture before deep diving into the details.

Example of Organization Relationship Map

Organization Relationship Map

 

While relationship maps do a great job of getting the big picture, swimlane diagrams help with getting into the finer details of a process. Swimlane diagrams outline internal or external relationships among parts of an organization – just like relationships maps do. However, swimlane diagrams also specify the related work activities of each organization.

Example of a Swimlane Chart

Swimlane Chart

 

Remember, it is very easy to lose track of all your tasks when you are swimming in projects. That is why putting proper business processes into place can help you to avoid being compromised by roadblocks and bottlenecks. By introducing a sustainable business process, you are contributing to improving the flow of work within your team and across your organization.

References:

Damelio, R. (2009) The Basics of Process Mapping. 2nd edn. New York: CRC/Productivity Press.