A [Kind of] Quick Introduction to Process Mapping

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying any of the following things:

  • There has to be a better way of doing this.
  • Ever since (insert name here) left the company we don’t know our own process anymore.
  • Wait, I’m supposed to be doing what again?

…then process mapping might be for you!

Hi, Levi Roth, here! Let me start by saying that I was drawn to process mapping as someone who has a passion for identifying and improving upon areas of opportunity within my organization. I’m excited to share insights and information I have learned along the way with those who share a similar passion or interest (or really anyone who needs a way to better understand their organization’s currents for the sake of capitalizing on strengths and addressing problematic areas. Who you are matters less, right? Because whether you’re an evaluator (internal or external), analyst, or program director, processes exist everywhere…and ultimately, we all seek to be as efficient and effective as possible. Okay, enough back story — let’s get started!

First off, let’s take a quick look at what I mean by a process map and discuss its purposes. I like to think of a process map as a planning and management tool that visually describes the flow of work. You can apply process maps to nearly anything; picking up groceries, cooking, getting ready for school/work, complex business processes, etc. If there are tasks to complete that have consecutive or sequential steps, you can map it. Creating a process map can help you and your organization in a variety of ways.

Process maps can:

  • Identify
    • Bottlenecks (i.e. a part of a process or procedure where progress is hindered within an organization)
    • Repetitions (i.e. an inefficient use of resources)
    • Delays (this one speaks for itself, right?)
  • Define
    • Process Ownership
      • Who will be ensuring that this process is properly followed? Typically these individuals are the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) of the process, can be considered a champion of the process, and have the ability to effectively communicate with other roles within the process to make sure it is being followed efficiently.  Tasks
      • These are the specific sequential tasks that are established within the process itself. Let’s look at some of the basic tasks involved in one of the processes I’ve mentioned previously: picking up groceries! Some example tasks could be: taking inventory of groceries at home, finding recipes you want to make for the week, create a grocery list of items still needed, etc. Roles and Responsibilities
      • This part is the most crucial for the success of creating process improvement and often times is overlooked. It is important to establish clear roles within the process and the responsibilities that are associated with them.
  • Provide Insights
    • Having the key stakeholders in the room at the same time to go through the process can also help raise other issues that may be happening. This is where we can start to gather insights on potential issues within the process.
  • Allows Brainstorming Opportunities for Process Improvement
    • This often times rolls into the Provide Insights portion quite well. From my experience, during the As-Is process mapping meeting individuals will already start brainstorming ideas on how to improve the process.
  • Provides Process Documentation
    • This can be incredibly valuable, especially if your organization has a high turn over rate. Once the process map is finalized, you can distribute this to others within your organization who use the process. You can also provide this documentation to new hires in order to help them better understand the process along with roles and responsibilities associated.

When documenting your processes, it is important to start with your As-Is process or What’s Happening Now. The first map you create really focuses on how the process works currently. In my experience, there are almost always three versions to any process:

What you think it is:

What the actual current state is:

What it should be:

Your organization may already have some documented process or procedures, however, as you begin to walk through what the actual current state is you might see some serious variation. By documenting how the process is actually being conducted it allows us to identify the hidden issues which may be causing those bottlenecks, repetitions, or delays we discussed before. Exposing these hidden issues allows the team to critically think about how to improve their process. This leads us to the second process map you’ll want to create with the team, and that is your To-Be process map. Because of the awareness we now have of those hidden issues, we can draw a more ideal map that streamlines tasks, clearly defines roles, and eliminates redundancies. If you are new to the concept of process mapping, I hope this brief blog has encouraged you to think about the processes in your current job and life, and the ways in which you can work to improve those process experiences. If you are a veteran process mapper, then I invite you to please reach out so we can keep the conversation going and share best practices with our community!

Levi graduated with a Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology with concentrations in Industrial – Organizational Psychology and Evaluation Research. Before completing his Master’s Degree, he was hired as a Project Manager on a $23 Million grant evaluation project within Wisconsin. During this time, he gained a wealth of experience in: Project Management, Resource Management, Evaluation, Analytics, Data Visualization, Process & Program Improvement, and many other skills. After the completion of the grant evaluation, Levi began a new adventure as an Agency Wide Business Project Manager for a large Government Agency within Minnesota (and he never heard the end of it from his Wisconsin friends 😊). He has been in his current role for roughly two years and loves the new experiences and challenges he is faced with on a daily basis. Looking to nerd out about process improvement or government work? Levi is your guy!

Interested in having us facilitate a process mapping session for your organization? Let’s chat.

Stay tuned for future posts on process mapping, including:

  • Holding the Meeting
  • Tools for Process Mapping
  • Implementing the Change

#AZENET20: Let’s Talk About Soft Skills

I’m very excited to announce that I was recently elected as the 2020-2021 President of the Arizona Evaluation Network. As someone who has been involved in the American Evaluation Association since the beginning of graduate school, finding a local affiliate was one way to stay connected to our field throughout the year. The opportunity to propel the Arizona Evaluation Network forward with a fantastic board and membership, striving for an engaging, equitable, and relevant community, is definitely an honor.

In future blogs, I will focus more on my adoration of the field of evaluation, but here I want to share the theme for the Arizona Evaluation Network’s next conference (whoo, 2020!): Soft Skills for Evaluators (and institutional planners, analysts, project managers, and the like). In our most recent Arizona Evaluation Network conference, we took a moment to reflect and reengage in the fundamentals of evaluation. This prompted me to think about what else is relevant to practitioners and academics alike – regardless of the context in which we find ourselves in the field of evaluation (or the approach we take, for that matter). Combining that with the important critical role that interpersonal skills, reflective practice, and self-awareness play in our success (or so I think), soft skills was almost an obvious choice. So, let’s talk more about that…

As a starting place, I’ll share that I’ve had this realization, which is that by bringing more of me to my practice, reducing the disparity between who I am personally and the work I do, everyone benefits (probably one of those things someone much wiser told me 1,000 times but I had to learn the hard way). So, you could say my development of my own self-awareness (a really important soft skill if you ask me!) is something that has really shaped how I engage in projects and collaborate with clients.

The next reason is that when I take a moment to consider soft skills of evaluators, I see it as a multi-faceted concept that has the potential to enrich our work and, even more importantly, play a role in the impact of the organizations we partner with. Soft skills include having the ability to navigate difficult conversations…the ones where humility and vulnerability are at the forefront. It’s the point in which we remove ourselves from a pedestal, the expert role, and come alongside stakeholders to achieve a common, people-centered goal. Soft skills enable us to get the right voices involved, which often means more active listening and less prescriptive consulting. It’s when we are focused on who we are as people, knowing where our value-add is to an organization or community, and capitalizing on the skills of others (stakeholders and other evaluators) that we facilitate the greatest impact: we are stronger together! Soft skills also prompt us to consider our approach and recognize that sometimes we need to pivot. And almost more importantly, acknowledging that it’s okay to do so, as we’re trying to tear down the wall between consultants/experts and stakeholders.

As I consider our efforts to establish the technical skills needed to be effective practitioners, I propose that we should be simultaneously focused on the other part of the formula: soft skills. Because after all is said and done, if we can’t have meaningful dialogue with stakeholders…meeting them where they’re at…it seems aspirational to think that a reliance on our technical skills alone will result in the use of findings. Let’s start thinking beyond certifications and traditional forms of expertise. You might call it back to the basics on effective human interaction!

I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about the importance of soft skills, but even more pumped to hear about what others have found to be effective in their work. Look for more details in the coming months on the 2020 Annual Arizona Evaluation Network Conference (even better, get on our mailing list to ensure you receive updates like a cool kid!).