Effects of Designing a Process Map on a Collaboration Team

In today's global world, everything and everyone is interconnected. Look at the Japanese earthquake in 2011. The Fukushima nuclear power plant was severely damaged from the massive quake, rupturing toxic waste containers and dumping tons of contaminated waste into the ocean. What that immediately meant to the rest of the world was Japan needed assistance to contain the contamination, and to help its citizens. A few days later it affected the global economy, because Japanese goods ceased shipment due to the loss of electricity. Seafood markets around the world eventually were affected, because of the toxic waste dumped into the ocean. Two to three years later, it means debris from the quake finally began to show up on America's beaches.

The same is true in today's business world. Processes created in one office can affect a large spectrum of people and processes. Look at the Ford Explorer and Firestone blowout in 2000 that ended with the two business partners parting ways after 100 years of working together. Firestone tires were separating and causing blowouts. Explorers were rolling over and killing its occupants. Both companies blamed each other's products. Ford said the cause of the rollovers was the tires, while Firestone said it didn't matter what kind of tire was on the SUV, there was a problem with the auto design. Millions of people were affected – consumers, workers, Congress, lawyers, and others.

Decisions changing a business plan can mean people on the sales floor have to rethink their strategy for presenting the organization's product. Marketing departments now must change their focal point and message. Product assembly now must realign and retrain workers, and suppliers must be contacted. Shipping must look at the needed changes for packaging and shipping costs. All this is affected, because two people sitting at a desk having a discussion decided to make a "simple" change in the product. So how can the changes take effect and be a positive thing, when so many people and processes are impacted from the decisions made by a few? The answer is found in the design process.

As you can guess from the example above, the design process can be demanding, and for complex issues -- such as building a cruise ship, or something of that size – almost impossible. The design process for the cruise ship can be exasperating, because of all the different suppliers, skilled workers, designers, engineers, laws, and regulations that must be met. The galley, or kitchen, requires electricians, heating and air workers, gas line and pipe fitters, safety equipment, like exhaust fans and extinguishers, equipment suppliers, designers and work flow consultants, plumbers, safety inspectors, input from the head chef, tile layers, carpenters, and cabinet installers – a complex and demanding process and that is only one room of the cruise ship.

From this example you can see why current collaborative-type design work relies on older models that have been successful, instead of exploring the possibilities of a more efficient or superior design process. This choice is made, even though the current processes are expensive, time consuming, and, at times, incorporate poor designs that have to be fixed during the product's life cycle. This is why you hear in the news about the cost of "modernizing" military equipment, or you're constantly reminded by little pop-up notes on your computer of patches or upgrades.

To find a solid design process, two methodologies need to be researched. The first is learning the expected behaviors of self-interest groups coming to an agreement, due to their interdependency on a given project. The second is a more complex system – determining the changes that emanate as the cumulative effect of the many local decisions are implemented. When these two research findings are combined, you begin to comprehend collaborative design.

Before we delve into the design process, we first must know what collaborative design entails. Collaborative design is "a complete set of interdependent action plans outlined to include: required resources, specifications to include legal requirements, creation steps, disbursement, maintenance upkeep, marketing, and goals." All these components, laid out in a multi-dimensional form, are the design space.

Collaborative design broken down

Collaborative design is work intensive and many organizations revert back to "the old stand-by" plans, because they have been tried, tested, and found to be adequate. Collaborating is not only intensive, but its up-front costs squelch its use by many organizations. Leadership looks at the initial cost of bringing a group of highly trained and talented people together to discuss organizational processes that appear to be working, and let them manipulate, test, and discover new and better procedures. What an organization will end up with is a superior process, product or endeavor; but many organizations do not want to invest in its discovery. For those that do, they tend to lead their field of expertise with far superior service and products.

The bottom line is, if an organization is going to invest in a new project that is effectively, intelligently, professionally, and realistically set up, it will be a booming success. But if it is haphazardly designed, never tested, and tossed at the employees, it will be a pile of smelly goo that will never leave the design floor and see the light of day. The result: Money and time invested will be a total waste.

Step One

Okay, it's time to put your top-notch players together and remove them from their regular work areas. You are asking a huge commitment from them and their departments, so it's best to enter this with a solid working plan. At the beginning set the tone with the following rules:

  • Clearly tell them the hours they need to be working.

  • Explain the process they will be using.

  • Give a timetable for each activity within the process.

  • Hand out plenty of sticky notepads and markers, since this is a visual and fluid process the group will be undertaking.

Since there are areas where the group will be split into teams for brainstorming various processes, it is best to predetermine these teams to ensure a good mix of expertise and special skill sets are with each team.

Step Two

All right, the easy step is out of the way and now it's time to get down to the business of designing a process map. The first step of Step Two is to grasp the objectives of why the group was assembled. For this article, we are going to use the example of mapping the successful launching of a book on Kindle. The objective consists of launching the book to its targeted audience, using a marketing campaign focused at an on-line market of Amazon and Kindle shoppers.

At this point, it is a good thing to go ahead and give everyone the goals the company has set for the first three months of the book's release, and the average sales goals for the rest of the year. This gives the group an idea of what strategies will and will not, work for the book to be released. No matter what the project is, it is smart to set goals so the project team has something to strategize toward; people will work toward goals when given them, especially if the targeted objective is slightly far reaching, but doable.

To grasp and understand the areas needed to be covered in the design process, using a business canvas model type of approach gives a simple and easy visual for beginning the mapping process.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Collaboration Skills course?

What makes this approach great is the large project is now broken down into two sections – the customer/product arena and the cost/resources structures. This immediately tells the group which steps are tied into bringing in the money, and which areas are forking out the cash. There can, and will, be some overlap -- such as traditional delivery systems, or things of this nature; but this does give the collaboration group a starting point for beginning the mapping process. Here's the way the canvas breaks out:

Customer/Product Arena

Customer RelationsWho is the typical customer – Describe "Joe Customer." (What does he do all day? When and how is he likely to search for our eBook?) What is he willing to pay? (Why should he choose our eBook over the hundreds in this market?) How will we reach him? (Will we attract him through a blog? Or will it be a direct email marketing strategy? Book review? Customer Review?) What type of relationship are we trying to build with Joe Customer? (Long-term? Short-term? How can we keep Joe Customer coming back? What avenues will we pursue? What benefits will we highlight to Joe Customer to encourage a continuing relationship with us? What are the fast and furious benefits of a short-term relationship with Joe Customer?) What are the different profitability percentages available for this book and long-term prospects for other revenue from loyal customer relationships?

Customer Values

In this area, the group will identify what values the organization offers, can offer, or should offer their customers. The idea is to look at this section through the eyes of the customer. You identified Joe Customer, above, so now utilize him to create the value he desires within your organization. Do not just look at what you offer but look at what you SHOULD be offering. You might discover there are some things you should quit offering and create a new marketing strategy to better meet your customer's needs.

Giving customer needed information to better his life

Enhancing value through bargains – (price cuts, BOGO, or other marketing strategies to create loyalty)

Creating value through a variety of resources available – (company blogs, free resources, other eBooks, etc.)

Customizing value through special mentoring programs

Projected Values

This area looks at the values the company offers its customers that should be highlighted in its marketing message. The premise here is to see where the organization is, and what its strengths are, at this moment, so the group can enhance strengths, strengthen weaknesses, and add new areas for growth to further strengthen the organization.

What are our value strengths? (Immediate product delivery through Internet? Great customer service? Solid knowledge we share with our customers? Accessibility? Flexibility in services?)

What methodologies do we utilize to reach out to our customers? (E-mail; blog; traditional advertising; articles; white papers; podcast, etc. Which are useful? What are we missing? How does Joe Customer learn about our new products? What avenues does he faithfully look at on a daily basis?)

What type of follow-up program do we have? (How are we ensuring customer satisfaction? How do we learn of Joe Customer's other needs?)

Revenue Channel – Where does revenue come from? What are customers willing to pay? Which areas are the organization's strongest? What type of pricing system are we primarily using? Is it working or is there a better system? What are we dependent on for our revenue? Are all our eggs in one basket? What needs do we, as an organization, have that are not being met with revenue that immediately need to be addressed? Future needs? How can we generate this revenue – aggressive marketing? Opening new areas with existing customers? Broader customer base?

Cost/Resource Structures

Main ResourcesWhat resources are required to deliver the customer values and our value strengths to customers? What resources are required to reach all needed markets? What resources are needed to continue relationships with sources, customers, and advisors? What are our assets? Human? Equipment? Intellectual? Financial? Loyal Customer Base? Logistical?

Principal Activities – What does it take to create customer values and our value strengths? What is required to maintain customer loyalty with Joe Customer? What is required to network and market products? What does it take to create products? What does it take to solve issues?

Primary PartnershipsWho are our partners – suppliers, backers, etc. What relationships does the organization have to ensure success and continued growth, and having needs met? Any partnerships for new business growth?

Cost ConfigurationIs this business model cost-driven or value-driven? What are our fixed costs? Variable costs? Economic factors? Scope of Market versus Marketing Costs? Are we getting our dollars' worth, or should it be refocused?

As you can see, you will need a large bare wall for all the sticky notes, for all the thought processes. The key for the leader is they must be able to comprehend and communicate to everyone the statements and sequence flow of all the notes.

The key areas the leader must understand and emphasize, as needed, so that true value is gained from the collaboration effort is:

  • The primary influences that affect an organization are: technical, social or cultural environments, economy fluctuations, legal/political forces, and working capital.

  • Influences in the marketing arena are: perceived needs by customers, costs, revenue, demand trends, economy.

  • Industry dynamics are: supply chains, stakeholders, hierarchal, competition, products, services, substitute or alternative products or services, industry structure, available resources.

  • Models need to be built using Joe Customer, and not placing focus on the organization. To be successful, the models built must be from the mindset of a customer: (What do they need? What are their values? Why are they looking at us? Why did they purchase from us? Why did they not purchase from us?)

  • Focus everyone on what really matters the most in each area; identify values in each area, at the beginning, with Joe Customer as the VIP.

Step Three

Now that the business mapping has been accomplished, and an understanding is in place, it is time to turn the complete focus to Joe Customer and how the various organizational components play a role in his experience. This process looks at an organization's complete processes through the eyes of a typical customer, potential customer, and not-so-typical customer.

  • Split the team and create the various "types" of Joe Customer the organization can, will, or might attract.

  • Share your different Joe Customers with the group.

  • Map out their journey from various points, where they may be introduced to the organization.

  • Share this with the group.

  • ID points of opportunity/hits/misses in marketing strategy and other areas along Joe Customer's journey with the organization

  • Now map out the moments of opportunity to further understand strengths, weaknesses, and processes.

Step Four

This is the creative step in the process, where the steps are sketched out like you would a comic strip story. The artwork does not have to be perfect, but it should be representative. What this does is fine-tune Step Three's thoughts and processes. This finds the glitches or hiccups in the process. This adds visuals to the words. This forces discussions and brings out the best in the procedures. So take the time, and draw a road map to success. These can be sketched out on white-out boards, paper, or whatever assets your organization has access to for the project.

Step Five

This is where the money is made, so to speak. An organization's customers and business has been validated and Joe Customer has been analyzed, formalized, structuralized, and conceptualized. His story has been documented and re-documented. At this point, the group's brains are a bit frazzled, and there should be a sense of accomplishment and understanding – an understanding like never before of who we are, what we do, who our customer is, and how we can make Joe Customer have a better experience.

Well, that last statement will not happen unless Step Five is performed. It's time to take the best of the best ideas and write a White Paper of the best procedures discovered along the journey. Writing the White Paper further fine tunes the process and if there were multiple great ideas this boils the process down to the best procedure. These papers are then used by the organization to instruct every one of the new processes that came from the collaborative effort.