If you’ve ever spent some time in a meeting, workshop or evaluation session with me you will know that at some point I am going to draw a process map. Getting stuff down on a piece of paper (or tablet screen) in some sort of diagramme really helps to clarify my thinking and understanding of a client’s organisation, their structure, their needs, problems or successes. In fact I use process mapping (or process tracing) in pretty much everything that I do these days.
Using a map helps to define where the pinch points in an organisation are. You can understand why data collection from one point is always late and always early from somewhere else. You can see why planning and analysis of activities happens either on time or behind schedule. It also helps to unpick the underlying costs of the activities that you’re doing.
For example: if you do a monthly project reporting cycle and you know that the reporting is always a little bit late or not quite up to scratch, but no-one can tell you why (and yes that does happen), mapping the process might highlight a bottle neck in a central analysis function that is crucial to the reporting process, or it might show you that the data collection activities are scheduled incorrectly for reporting purposes (even if they work perfectly well in the field).
I know some of you love words (well I guess we all do) and that reading a well constructed report is a joy. But at the end of the day, in our data-rich time-poor lives the old saying really is true: a picture (or map) can be worth a thousand words!
Have you ever used process maps? Do you think process mapping would help you?