Help! Don’t Know How to Start My Business Process Improvement Project


How You Got to This Point

You were given a great opportunity that could give you some really great visibility. You are being challenged by your leadership to step it up and show everyone that you are capable of producing some real results for the business. You are extremely excited about the opportunity, you publicly tell everyone that you are totally stoked and happy that they have trust in your abilities.

What is happening inside your mind though is, you begin to doubt yourself. Not, necessarily because you don’t think you don’t have the goods to deliver, but rather you feel a little bit of your version of ‘writer’s block’. It is that feeling of hesitation and feeling frozen in your mind.

You think to yourself, I don’t even know where to begin with this improvement project!

That Frozen Feeling

The Tip: Where & How to Start

Here is my one piece of advice of where to start if you find yourself in the situation above with a great opportunity however with hesitation. What I recommend is for you to simple begin with mapping the process. This diagram has several names, process map, process diagram, swim lanes, and process flow, however the primary purpose of this process artifact is to communicate visually what the process is.

Basics of a Process Map

  • Blocks (rectangles or square) that connect from one step to the next.

  • Use diamonds to identify decisions which have various outcomes.

  • Use arrows to connect the various symbols.

  • You can use a basic pen & paper to draw it out or you can use software dedicated for this purpose such as Lucidchart or Visio.

  • Get the information you need for this process map from someone who lives the process or processes that are in scope for your project, every day.

  • Don’t over complicate it and don’t stress about appropriate process map etiquette, just draw of picture of to show one step to the next.

Basic Process Map

What You Will Learn

  • You will identify issues as you ask questions.

  • You may even be able to get rough sizing numbers of the severity of issues based on your conversation or side-by-side.

  • You may learn about solutions to the issues.

  • You will get to learn very specific things that are happening in the process and will be able to pinpoint exactly where those issues are happening. Very few people in your business will have this information because very few take the time to go through this exercise.

Tips as you Build Out Your Process Map

  • Clearly define & understand the beginning & end

  • Make a decision up front the level of detail you will go into. You can make a choice that you will go extra detailed (which is great!) however ensure that you are consistent with that same level of detail throughout the entire process.

  • Use colors and symbols if you would like to call out specific observations

  • Overlay an additional level of detail to look at the process from a different angle for example:

  • How long to the steps/tasks take?

  • Who performs what, if different people?

  • Where do errors occur more frequently?

  • What do the business or regulatory requirements apply?

Why Process Maps are a Good Place to Start

  1. You can easily jump into them today or tomorrow. Get going on your journey to continuous improvement.

  2. They are great tools for learning as well as for communicating what you learned visually.

  3. They are flexible tools that can be have multiple views, layers or ways of looking at information.

  4. You don’t need any special equipment to get started.

Continuous Improvement is the key!

This was a quick tip in the event you find yourself not sure how or where to start. We all experience this occasionally, even the most seasons process improvement experts. When I am not sure, I always resort to my favorite process artifact and it never fails me!

Quick Questions

  • What are your thoughts?

  • What do you do if you don’t know where to start? Do you have other tools that you prefer to do first?

  • What is your opinion about a process map as a starting place?

  • Any nightmares that you ran into?

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