Breaking the Complex Down to Simple

When you study martial arts there are many precise movements that work together to produce a powerful motion to protect one’s self.  In order to understand that powerful motion you must first understand the parts the motion is made up of.  There are many different punches, strikes, kicks, angles, pressure points, and more that play into that powerful motion.  In order to understand the effect, you have to understand how that effect is built.  This concept is no different to approaching identifying processes in your organization.

I have had the opportunity for 15 years to be a part of organizations where process modeling is a tool leveraged to explain the complex, and break it down to simple.  However, process modeling/mapping/flowing, can be an art, and science, based on the maturity of the organization, knowledge of those doing the work, and several other factors. What I have found can be challenging is identifying the actual processes to model/map/flow.  The identification may not occur on the first attempt.  The work can be quite iterative.  However, there are some concepts that can help make the identification a little easier:

1. Organizational Set Up

Take time to understand how the organization is organized and how the different pieces of the organization fit together. You can determine this information by analyzing an organizational chart, or other organization information.  You may not uncover every single department.  During process modeling, a whole role or organization may be discovered.  This may sound crazy, but I’ve experienced some unconventional things in my career to say the least.  At least if you take the time upfront to understand the organizational set up, you will have some great knowledge.  We all know knowledge is power and can really unlock some keys in understanding, and piecing the puzzle together.

2. Clear terminology

Everyone in the organization has to agree on common terminology.  You may say, “That’s common sense Paula!!!”  One would think so, but it’s amazing to me when you just simply ask, “what is the definition of a process?” you get many different answers depending on who you are talking to.  For example, some real life answers I have received are as follows:

  • A process is a flow of activities broken down into different levels.  For example, level 1, level 2, level 3, level 4. I really don’t understand what the levels mean, but that is what I was told.
  • A process is a sequence of actions taken to achieve a particular goal. 
  • A process are tasks you do in a procedure.

You may find that your first problem is some involved in the process work do not understand the work they have been asked to do or lead, nor understand how to accomplish the task.  Many organizations know they need process documentation, but do not have the budget to hire the resources who have the know-how, or have the resources internally to complete the work successfully.  It’s EXTREMELY important everyone understands the terminology being used and the definition of that terminology.  Yes, there are process standards out there in the industry, but let’s be honest, every organization is different and may use ALL, SOME, or NONE of the standards.  Some organizations even make up their own standards and rules.  That is fine as long everyone understands those rules and speaks the same language.  Which brings us to point 3.

3. Education

Once you understand the organization, and the terminology, please ensure there is education to ensure all necessary stakeholders understand it as well.  Everyone needs to be working from the same foundation.  In martial arts, we all work from the same foundation.  There are different types of martial arts, but each has a foundation.  Your foundation has to be strong in order to build upon it.  The foundation of martial arts is “mental” not physical.  If your mental is not right, your physical will be off.  The same is with any methodology, or structure, in an organization.  If the foundation is not stable, nothing you build on it will be either.  Spend time ensuring your foundation is strong through knowledge, and understanding first.  Then do the work on top of that.  If that means you slow down your project by a couple of weeks then by all means, SLOW DOWN.  There are a couple of key points necessary for the education to be successful: 

  • Make sure you receive the support, and buy-in needed to be successful.  The support needs to come from the top and filter throughout the organization.
  • Make sure you educate on what is in it for each individual in the organization, and how it benefits the organization as a whole.  People need to understand the WHY before spending time doing work.

4. Common Approach

It’s best to leverage a common approach to the work, especially if you work in a very large organization.  Doing so ensures that everyone understands how we arrived at the result.  It also provides context and meaning to those results. 

In my next article, we will discuss the Functional Decomposition Diagramming method.  This is a common approach method that I prefer for identifying process, and I will explain how this done. 

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