4 Steps to Process Mapping
As I was working with a client in Atlanta recently, we were discussing where their business was and where they wanted to go. As always, various barriers came up that needed to be overcome and I employed a strategy I have used many times for overcoming barriers called process mapping.
If you’re experiencing barriers to success in your business, I’m sharing the 4 steps to process mapping with you now (as well as a nice image of a process map for breakfast) in hopes that you’ll push through and move forward, and maybe make a really awesome breakfast tomorrow.
Step 1: Location, location, location.
Identify the area you want to work on and where you currently are and where you want to go. For example, if we are talking about revenue, what is your current revenue and the projection moving forward? Where would you like it to be? Assuming it is higher than the projection, how far off is it? The analogy would be driving from Atlanta to another city. If it is just to Alpharetta (a suburb of Atlanta), the steps to get there are fairly simple. If it is Seattle, it might be a bit more complex. The time it takes to plan each of these trips as well as the time to complete the journey is directly in proportion to the distance you are traveling.
In other words, if you want huge growth, it may take significant planning and time. If your goal is more moderate, it may be a quicker and easier fix. Until you identify the starting and ending point for sure, it is pretty tough to make progress. “People aim at nothing and hit it with remarkable accuracy” is a quote I love.
Where are you now, and where do you want to go? Answer those two questions and you are off to a good start.
Step 2: Are you prepared?
Going with the analogy I used above, before a road trip, it is always a good idea to kick the tires, check the oil and make sure the majority of the systems in the car are operating properly. In addition, maybe you check the GPS, the weather, and be sure that the emergency items are packed. The more of those processes you do right, you not only stand a better chance of completing the trip, but also getting there safely, efficiently and with the least amount of difficulty.
What areas of your business are not prepared for the trip? If your company doubled in size tomorrow, where would the gaps be? Is it your AP system? Your service department? Your management structure? Your training processes? You have to start breaking each area apart to see which one will be your bottleneck that restricts the growth you are planning for.
Step 3: Map out the steps to get there.
When I was a kid, I can remember taking the map out and using a highlighter to mark the route we were going to take. I would go from one city or town to the next, to the next and to the next. That way as we drove, I could identify where we were on the map easily and be sure we weren’t off course. I can remember a few instances where I came to a town that was not on my route. I had missed a turn.
In your company you have the same potential. Mapping out the steps to get to a desired outcome in a very systematic manner will allow you to see where you could go off course as well as where you may not be heading in the most efficient direction at times. Checkpoint by checkpoint, step by step, all graphically represented in a flow chart, you will be able to see opportunities to speed the journey up, as well as areas to put up speed traps to slow you down and be sure things are done properly. This is one of the most vital but overlooked steps.
Everyone involved must be looking at the same visual aid at the same time. Whether it’s online or on a wall or on a table where everyone can stand near it, point to it, ask questions and express concerns, it needs to be the best, most detailed and accurate display of the route. That way, you can alter as needed and be clear about everything but the last step.
Step 4: Assign and watch for progress points.
Before GPS, most of us can remember the struggle to see the turns. Even with GPS, I am sure I am not the only one that has been misdirected by my handy dandy phone. If I’m driving with a passenger, I let them know what city will be next so we are on the same page and looking for the same milestones on our journey. It’s the same for your business. You have to assign your milestones and then have various members of your organization watch your progress and know when you meet those milestones. You need to be focusing on growing the business, members of your team should be providing you with information on status so you can catch a wrong turn early, recalculate the route (as my GPS would say), and see how that has impacted the overall plan.
So pick an area to work on and take these 4 steps to map out your process. Get your team involved in discussing what the process actually is, write it all out, and look for opportunities to improve. You will be better prepared as the growth hits.
One thing to always remember: A screw up, miscalculation, market correction, curveball, or whatever detour, speed bump, or accident occurs, only potentially delays your arrival. It doesn’t necessarily have to cause you to miss the mark. With enough planning, effort, focus and pure determination, you will still arrive at the destination.