View free policies procedures examples from all manuals. No obligation, no credit card!
One way to set strategy is to use your clout. As the company’s chief executive and majority shareholder, convince everyone else that the direction you want to take is essential to achieving the company’s objective goals – increasing sales, improving customer satisfaction, and complying with government regulations. Maybe not the best way, but it’s one way.
Realistically, there are better ways to determine company strategy, and no one way is the best way. Any time you can take more than one route to arrive at a desirable goal, you need to balance the relative value of projects, using financial measures like ROI, or prioritization schemes like Pareto charts. This post considers the interactions between decisions, projects, and systems – in real life, few good decisions occur in isolation. Decisions must take into account that everyone in your company depends on everyone else for information and work-in-process.
That’s where process maps come in
Implementing strategy without a process map is like navigating a family road trip without a road map. It usually doesn’t work out. Ask my wife about my driving and navigating from St. Louis, Missouri, to Michigan. Fortunately, we had plenty of food and water in the minivan, and the kids were already in Michigan at summer camp.
Today in the article section, we continue our series on process maps by introducing three types of process maps: High-level, Low-Level, and Swim Lane Process Maps.
Consider that before packing the minivan, I might have consulted a map of the United States. Were I to look at the big picture, I would have seen right away that the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is north and somewhat east of Saint Louis and that it’s faster to drive through Illinois and Indiana to get there than say, through Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee Ferry. In that sense, the national map is a High-Level Process Map. It shows the major systems (states) and how communication (highways) pass through them.
If you were updating your company’s automation supporting order-to-cash software, you might want to review a high-level picture showing how Purchasing moves a quote to Production, and Production sends finished goods to Shipping. A High-Level Process Map would show you right away that Shipping has to receive materials before shipping Finished Goods to customers. Knowledge of sequence and dependencies depicted in a High-Level Process Map helps you determine what happens first.
Back on the road
Once we were in Wisconsin, the big US map showed that Milwaukee was to the right (er, east) of Dodgeville. Easy enough. Once we got to Milwaukee we searched for the ferry. There, the big USA map was not much help, so I pulled out the more detailed (or low-level) Wisconsin state map. On it, I looked for the Milwaukee area insert. Furthermore, had I stopped to ask directions, someone might have advised staying in the southbound lanes of Carferry Drive rather than end up back on Lake Parkway heading toward Chicago.
That is the kind of insight you can glean about your business from a Low-Level Process Map. Credit checks and accounts-receivables reviews happen before granting credit to customers, so you might want to work on the estimating and accounting software packages before redoing the invoicing systems.
Now my family and I are all safely home. I’m contemplating our next road trip, and I have become a big fan of Swim Lane Maps. Like a Low-Level Process Map, Swim Lane Maps show the functions that must occur for a successful journey, like “Drive” and “Navigate” (and maybe “Keep your hands off your sister’s iPod”). Swim Lane Maps show responsibility for each activity and when various parties need to accept information from (or hand off to) one another.
Had I consulted a Swim Lane Map before repacking the family in the minivan, it would have been visually apparent that I was responsible for driving, not navigating, and I was supposed to accept information somewhere north of Chicago.
One can come to appreciate that maps get all the information out in the open. And should things go in the wrong direction, you can point to the map. Interested parties can discuss the map calmly, with no need to comment on anyone’s innate abilities such as hearing or sense of direction.
At this point, you might see how Swim Lane Maps could come in handy in your company, when you consider how systems will support people who provide information and work-in-process to each other, and vice versa. For example, the sales department is supposed to hand off orders to the credit department which, in turn, performs the credit check based on management criteria. The IT department should want to know about responsibilities, dependencies, and hand-offs — which a Swim Lane Map can convey easily and concisely – before they begin to plan, develop, debug, and roll out software.
So, check out this week’s installment about High-Level, Low-Level and Swim Lane process maps. An introduction to the series appeared last week in a blog post of ours and in the article site where we posed the question, ‘What is a Process Map?’
I trust that next week, you will find your way back here for more types of maps.