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Process Improvement

Is there any point mapping “As Is” processes?

I’ve been busy on several process assignments with clients over the past couple of months and a recurring question is “what’s the point of mapping As Is processes?”.  Actually, it would be better re-framed as “when is it worth mapping As Is processes?”.

The answer, as always, is “it depends”.  There are (typically) three levels of process improvement objective:

  • Standardisation
  • Incremental Improvement
  • Step-change (Radical Re-design)

If you simply want to document your existing processes to ensure they are operated in a standard way across your organisation, then mapping the As Is processes is essential.  What I often find though, is that organisations doing this tend to come at it from a functional perspective, rather than an end-to-end process perspective.  So, an organisation might map its Marketing and Sales processes as carried out in each function, rather than looking at the end-to-end “win business” process.  Another example might be where an organisation maps its Procurement and Production processes functionally, rather than looking end-to-end at how “customer orders are fulfilled”.

Of course, the problem with mapping functionally is that people in the functions don’t usually understand fully how the whole process works and the process maps often end up with gaps, or assumptions, that don’t quite hang together.  Mapping functionally also reinforces silo thinking and silo working.  Mapping end-to-end with cross-functional teams helps break down some of those silos and builds understanding.

A more “process mature” organisation would map its As Is processes after agreeing a High-level process model that describes the end-to-end process flows.

If your objective is incremental improvement, then mapping As Is processes is also essential, but only to a level of detail that enables waste and improvement opportunities to be identified.  There’s no point mapping the gory detail; you just need to be able to spot value-adding steps and waste.

If your objective is to achieve step-change in performance, you’re probably not going to want to map the As Is processes at all. A better approach is Clean Sheet Design, where you create a process, comprising value-adding steps only, from a blank sheet of paper.  Mapping the As Is process only reinforces the constraints of the existing process, such as organisational boundaries or roles that carry out today’s work.  A Clean Sheet Design will necessarily be a “Sequence Map”, not a Swim-lane one because you only decide on roles after the steps have been designed.


You may also be interested in reading:

How a high-level process model identifies value

What is value-add?



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