Execution.... the third in a series of thoughts

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I had promised I would talk about the fun you can have with process mapping and I think the best segue into this would be to start with "Meeting attendance auto-Pilot", or for those who love acronyms, MaaP*

A lifetime ago, in another world, I found myself in a meeting listening to a marketing manager review a promotional initiative that was in "pilot phase". It was here that I slipped into MaaP. I'll take a moment to define it for those not familiar with it - MaaP is the ability to be aware of everything happening in a meeting while mentally tending to the many other things you would be doing if not for the meeting. I should also point out this is not an aspect of disrespect but more a necessity for survival in some companies. I suspect it's comparable to an out of body experience. 

All of a sudden my MaaP drops out of warp drive and I find myself saying, "run that by me again?" It is here that I'm retold how the promotional fulfillment component of the "cool smartphone app promotion" is fulfilled automatically in one case, but in the other instance the fulfillment needs to be done through the sales force. There is some discussion with regard to using the sales force for promotional fulfillment and how it is a bad idea... it distracts the sales force and increases the exposure to having a disappointed customer. The marketing manager points out that it is a "very cool app" and there were few examples of the need for the sales force in the pilot. To that it was pointed out that the pilot would not scale in its current form. The meeting continued and I think I may have slipped back into MaaP.

Example of a simple process map (some get very complicated)

Example of a simple process map (some get very complicated)

Let's fast forward three months after my MaaP experience... by then, that "app promotion" had rolled out into the market and my role had changed where I was now much closer to the impending storm of "a pissed off sales force and disgruntled customers". As I got into the situation it became clear few people were aware of, or even understood the impending "problem". It was time to develop a process map as to how this promotion worked - Not a bad segue eh?**.

So what is a Process Map? -  A process map is essentially a breakdown of a process to determine how it flows and, ultimately, how effective it is. Those who complete process mapping look closely at elements such as the structure of a system and the flow of communication within the system. It consists of circles, boxes, diamonds and arrows representing the flow. (see diagram)

  • The circle (oval, or rounded box) represents the start or end of the process
  • The square represents a specific activity as part of the process
  • The diamond represents a decision making point (yes or no)
  • The arrow represents the flow and the connectors from activity to activity through the decision points.

Here is why I like the process map: 1) it forces you to understand your process and how you do what you do, 2) it is a visual representative, so you can literally see what you are working with and by extension makes communication easier, 3) it makes it much easier to identify problems and gaps in your process and 4) it helps determine optimization, correction and execution.

So now back to the process map of the promotion... well it was so complicated it looked like a "circuit board"; so much so when I was reviewing it with someone they simply looked at me and said, "you've got to be kidding". In the end, this process map made it easier to communicate the situation and illustrate it's impact on the customer, as well as internally. It ultimately led  to process improvement, that, although not perfect, alleviated the immediate issues.

As I look back at this situation and what came out of it, a few things resonate with me still - 

  • Development of a process map in the beginning, as well as a better understanding of the systems that you work with***, probably would have driven better execution.
  • Smartphone Apps are not a silver bullet.
  • No matter how much someone tries to convince themselves that there is not a problem, there is.

There is a great science to process mapping, as well as its close cousin functional excellence, and I have learned over the years that is it is an excellent tool to help you optimize all things involved with execution.

I hope you are finding this series informative, as well as maybe a little entertaining. Let me know.


* I will be the first to admit that this could just be me, as at the end of the day I have the attention span of a small insect.

** Remember I am Canadian.

*** Understanding the systems that you have available is imperative for optimized execution. It makes me nuts when people try to work outside the functionality of the system at their disposal and then blame the system for any shortcoming. I mean, I wish I had a "matter transfer device" to get around, but I don't so until then I will work with the airline industry.