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5 Steps to Build Stronger Communication and Understanding

By Chris Anderson

You have permission to publish this article free of charge, as long as the resource box is included with the article. If you do run my article, a courtesy reply to sean@bizmanualz.com would be greatly appreciated. This article is 927 words long including the resource box. Thanks for your interest.

Part Three of a Four-Part Series

Part One: Process Improvement

Part Two: Core Processes

Next Week: Six Sigma Tools

Did you know that you should always create a process map for every procedure or system of procedures that you develop? And did you know that, like a table of contents, this will create stronger communication and better understanding in your organization?

How do you do this?

Identify Core Processes

Last time, we followed the money trail and identified your business core processes. We discussed where to best start a change in one of those core processes. And we introduced the technique of producing a process map. So this week, let's take a further look at how to create a process map - and see how it creates knowledge to benefit you and your organization.

Use Process Map as Communication Tool

A process map is a flow diagram of the primary processes within an organization. It very specifically shows you both who and what is involved in a process, as well as the requirements for that process to be effective. The primary goal is to use the map as a communication tool. It is to show the sequence of interactions of the elements involved in the process. And so process maps are drawn and used by organizations to achieve several benefits:

"Increase process understanding
"Clarify process boundaries, ownership and effectiveness measures
"Identify process sequences
"Isolate core processes, bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement
"Clarify the interaction of Customer, Supplier, Management and Operations processes
"Provide a tool for training and discussion

In other words, a process map details what happens first, second and third in a process. It shows what happens in each step along the way. And this is drawn in graphical form for easier communication and understanding.

This type of map shows the "big picture of 10-20 core processes within an organization. The map also shows the critical elements within each section and its importance within the whole system. And these sections, or bands, are what relate the processes to each other AND to the outside suppliers and customers.

Link Suppliers and Customers

Although there are several ways to draw a process map, the basic diagram is typically constructed in four bands. And these four bands link together Customers, Primary Processes, Secondary Processes and Suppliers.

You improve effectiveness by showing the specifics of a process. And sometimes we"ve learned the hard way that the development phase of a project or a process is far more expensive than the planning phase. And so by thinking through and perfecting your processes beforehand, you decrease waste in development time. With a detailed process map, you identify and decrease such waste wherever it occurs in the process.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind while process mapping:

"Identify core processes to support mission and goals
"Determine how to create value for the customer throughout the process
"Map ownership and performance metrics along with the process
"Engage your people in process mapping to define problems and solutions

Now, let's break down the process map even further.

Define Steps of the Process

We"ve just defined the big picture process map as a sequence of interactions of multiple processes. These multiple processes consist of multiple steps. As we"ve discussed, the benefits are better communication and understanding and a decrease in waste. And this offers a great "big picture view of your organization's processes. But"

When you go to write your organization's procedures, you need more detail. You'll need a method to define the sequence of interactions of each step. And you do this with a procedure map. Here's an example of a typical procedure map:

With this refined procedure map, you can see the steps that go into an organization's competency process, including the suppliers and customers for each of those steps. This is also called the SIPOC method. This method identifies the Suppliers of the specific data used as an Input for the Process to create Outputs for the Customer. The map also gives you both effectiveness and performance criteria for this process owner(s). With such measurement criteria, you set the mark for continuous improvement of the process.

And so by creating a procedure map, you will further increase communication and understanding within your organization. Procedure maps become a strong tool in training, either to familiarize new employees to their jobs or to increase efficiency and performance with current employees.

Communicate, Understand and Apply Knowledge

Both process and procedure maps are crucial in an organization. And so as a rule of thumb, never develop a procedure or system of procedures without first creating a process and procedure map. Acting like a table of contents, a process map helps organize the chapters of a complex book in a way that this knowledge can easily be communicated, understood and applied.

Next time, we will discuss Six Sigma problem-solving tools and answer the question: how do you move from seat-of-the-pants decision making to measurable and continuous process improvement?


About the Author

Chris Anderson is the managing director of Bizmanualz, Inc. and co-author of policies and procedures manuals, producing the layout, process design and implementation to increase performance.

To learn how to increase your business performance, visit: Bizmanualz, Inc.


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