How to convince the process mapping sceptics

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Encouraging people to try different ways of working is a big problem for many HE institutions. While taking advantage of a powerful process mapping tool, the continuous improvement team at the University of Winchester also learned some valuable lessons about bringing reluctant staff on board. Jane Avery explains what they did.

When the Continuous Improvement Unit was set up at the University of Winchester in 2014, process mapping was already being used on a small scale by a few staff. Over the last few years we have utilised the software to develop a large “How Do I….?” process library for staff, the benefits of which are constantly being realised.

At the beginning, already having powerful process mapping software in place was something of a gift, and we knew we wanted to use it. However, as we began to collect information and create new maps in order to analyse processes we encountered two major issues:

1.) From whose perspective were we mapping process? A lack of clarity about this led to inconsistency of mapping style and some confusion at workshops.

2.) Resistance. Process mapping workshops are often eyed with a certain degree of suspicion. Quite understandably, teams felt they knew their processes very well already and so engagement was a challenge.

Overcoming staff resistance

It was in trying to overcome the first problem that we came across a way to alleviate the second. Triaster, our software provider, talk about process maps needing to be useful, usable and used and that is what led us to the idea of creating a “How Do I….?” process library. All mapping would be done from an end-user (or customer) perspective driving consistent language and style.

As we went about organising workshops and meetings to gather the information we needed, the resistance we had previously encountered suddenly seemed almost non-existent. We were no longer the outsiders asking hardworking, time-pushed teams to improve. Now we were a team offering time and resources to help create maps which would allow end-users to understand and follow processes.

But what about improving processes? As lean theory tells us ‘respect for people’ is key. Trust the people doing the day job, they have pride in their work and of course they want processes to be the best they can be. By asking them to map the processes from the end-users’ perspective and giving time and resources to help make this happen, suddenly conversations naturally start happening about “Is this really the best way to do this?”.

We are then able to make small changes before the final “How Do I….?” map is produced. Where more major potential improvements are identified, we organise follow up workshops. Building the library also ensures these conversations aren’t one-offs, as maps are reviewed annually, meaning processes are continually re-visited.

The benefits of process mapping

Process mapping is time-consuming, there are no two ways about it. But through the creation of the ever growing “How Do I…?” library of useful, usable – and used – process maps we have opened up so many conversations that I don’t believe would have happened otherwise. We are now planning to build a parallel library focused on students as the end users.

Finally, if you or a colleague remain doubtful of the value of process mapping in opening up discussions, then try this. Ask them to process map making a cup of tea – it never ceases to amaze me the heated debates this creates!

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Jane Avery
Jane Avery is continuous improvement officer at the University of Winchester