Alignment diagrams by themselves do much more than present a linear flow of activities. Buried in the process are various levels of analysis and strategies. Indeed, Aligned process mapping defines the “engineered customer and company experience.” The company wants its customers to have a great experience to the point that they will recommend the company to friends and acquaintances. With the power of social media, complete strangers can gain important insights and referrals from others. This fact can be a double-edged sword because bad experiences are also prone to revelation to the general populace of potential customers.
Analyzing processes, what they are supposed to do requires an examination of the human reactions along the chain of events. At each touchpoint are human beings (although this is changing for the worse, in my opinion.)
For example, technology is supposed to speed things up and improve communication processes. Enter the “Intelligent” voice mail system. Do these systems make the experience better for the customer or the provider? While it can make employees more productive, it can also negatively affect the customer experience. I know it does for me.
By the same token, a customer or aggressive employee at a process touchpoint can create a negative experience for both. That is why, when developing processes, it is important to understand and align the company’s and client’s goals. Particularly at touchpoints, there should be some default processes to avoid turning a process event into a problem. In fact, problems create real opportunities for the company to shine. We’ve all been there.
“I’m sorry, that is our policy, and there is nothing I can do.”
I know from my personal experience, that response cost a vendor a $500,000 sale I was planning to make because they just weren’t interested in helping me with a small yet important detail. There was no awareness of putting oneself in the place of the customer-aka empathy. Call it poor training, but there should have been an escalation process in place to avoid those “bad hair” days. “Sorry sir, let me get someone who can help you,” should have been the response.
Designing Alignment process mapping requires having the big picture. All processes should be within the context of the company mission and philosophy. The company has to be profitable, but there are times when employees need to use some critical thinking and elevate above mere procedure and turn to mission and philosophy. It may cost some sales, but in the long run, it will help build the brand. Training staff to understand the company priorities and how those may apply to variations from normalcy is money well spent. A visual model does not clearly explain those subtleties, but the process should be written out and designed to reinforce those values the company holds as sacrosanct.
Day in and day out, the processes of the company should reflect the best intentions of the company.
Traditional organizational structures like to break up functions into boxes or silos. While this model works well, it can become fertile ground for turf protections and obstructive politics. Crossing the functional lines can become an act of war. When designing processes, the entire company needs to be involved in some sort of fashion. Processes that flow from one department to another require collaboration, and there must be efficient interphase between them.
Often, departments have no idea how other departments work and why they do the things they do. During the process of mapping, the entire company can learn how and why other departments fit in the general flow of doing business. In fact, there are those management gurus who feel the day of “boxy” organization charts” may become a thing of the past as more companies promote collaboration rather than siloed specialization. Flat and collaborative.
During the mapping process, simple yet important questions are asked: “Why do you do that?” Most often, the reply is either “I’m not sure,” or “That’s the way we have always done it.” When existing processes are evaluated, inefficiencies can easily be seen and either removed or changed. How much time and money is lost, filling out useless documents or files lost because there are no logical organizational processes? “ If it ain't broke, don’t fix it,” can be a costly default.
It’s not uncommon while mapping to find not only more inefficiencies but also new opportunities. For example, we may find that an existing process can require a position that could be substituted with technology and allow an employee to be deployed in other more productive tasks. Another example is there may be by-products that could be turned into new profit centers by slightly altering the existing processes. Indeed, processes are the operational foundation for companies, and they should be constantly examined for inefficiencies and better ways of getting things done while at the same time, staying aligned with the company principals.
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