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An Offer You Can't Refuse

Brando_godfather One thing my clients sometimes ask me to do is help them improve their processes.  I've done it for banks and for factories (and all with no Six Sigma blackbelt).  You can't improve a process, however, if you can't document the process.  I liken it to attempting to take a trip to an unknown location with no map.  (And don't ask my sister-in-law... all of her directions are subjectively obscure landmarks... "drive to the mall, then turn left until you hit the pumpkin-colored house... no, not the tangerine-colored house... anyway, then drive until you find the barn with the three pretty dogs..." Well, you get the idea.)  No, my friends, a roadmap (or GPS) will get you from Point A to Point B.

At a minimum, I like to create a deployment (or swimlane) flowchart.  Unlike a "generic" flowchart, the swimlanes show who is responsible for completing each task in the process.  If you understand the process of making a flowchart, this is very telling for either existing (as is) processes or desired future (to be) processes.  And yes, I am a big fan of documenting both your existing and future processes.  Most people don't want to "waste" time documenting the existing processes, but doing so helps you flesh out many of the potential areas for improvement.

The process for creating a flowchart is really an offer you can't refuse... and yes, the Godfather reference is intended... it will help you remember HOW to build one of these bad boys:  BRANDO

B is for Boundaries - where does your process start and end?  If your process is really big and complicated, consider breaking it down to smaller processes.  The oval is the tool to show the start and finish of each process.

R is for Roles - who are the people working on your process (not specific names, but more job titles or role definitions.  I tend to list them in the order they are introduced into the process

A is for Actions - identify the individual steps in the process.  Tasks go into rectangles and decisions to into diamond shapes

N is for Negotiate - discuss and clarify and validate the steps.  Be prepared to argue and debate and edit and change so that everyone is in agreement (and no, not everybody currently does the same process the same way)

D is for Draw - connect the lines among the rectangles and diamonds, add any supporting documentation to show paperwork or computer interactions

O is for Opportunities - look at the existing process to identify areas for improvement and then brainstorm for solutions to improve the process (or maybe decide the process isn't even needed at all)

Of course, I spell all of this out in SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment, and you get to follow along as the characters struggle with all of the "yeah, but what if" twists and turns in their quest to do it right.  In the end, though, you will see that a well-drawn flowchart really is "an offer you can't refuse."

Flowchart

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