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When Faced with a Messy Process, Do a Map

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Many hours are spent in government and organization offices trying to figure out how to handle requests, complaints, problem-solving and projects.   The problem is compounded, if tasks are not centralized through staff or a department, or if each problem is handled differently each time.

A mapping exercise for government or any organization, always results in positive changes for dealing with these problems.   Many organizations have not looked at how they work.  Various process steps or decision making have evolved over time into a difficult or cumbersome process. 

A mapping exercise begins with the group that is involved in a process, where they outline their current way of doing a task or solving a problem.  This tends to be more interactive, when those involved draw a timeline of each step on a large piece of paper or use post sticky notes on a wall to write and move the steps around.  Examining a process and why it is done in a particular manner, allows participants to identify how to save time, money and headaches.

When a team maps each formal and informal step, it allows a faster, streamlined and simple version to be created.   This process often results in recommendations to redesign efforts:

  • Can a step be automated or done online?
  • Can the steps be skipped, simplified or reduced in number?
  • Can staff time, difficulty and multiple approvals be reduced or simplified?
  •  Are there legal, regulatory, ethical or safety reasons for a step?  Can these steps be streamlined without being removed?

A before and after map can be placed on paper to get leadership approval.  Moving onto a new map or process requires communicating changes to those involved, so that old behaviors are not repeated.   Sharing or posting the process in an office for others to see, helps them to navigate the system easier and allows participants to break with the old ways of doing things.