Process Mapping and Culture Change

First, it’s amazing how quickly time can fly between blog posts.  I would have bet my last one was no more than three weeks ago.

I just finished a gig that involved a facilitating three process mapping teams.

Here’s how that got carried out:

  1. Leadership picked three core strategic processes.
  2. Three process mapping teams (PMT’s) were launched.
  3. The PMT’s developed a project charter, a current state map of the process they were to target, an analysis of the variances of the current state map, and recommendations for improving the process.
  4. The PMT’s reviewed the recommendations with leadership.
  5. Leadership approved the recommendations.
  6. Three Process Improvement Teams (PIT’s) were formed to turn the recommendations into action plans.

There are stories to be told about each of those steps but I want to talk about #3.  That’s where all the action takes place that holds the potential for culture change.

How does culture change happen?

And what, exactly, is it that “happens there” that serves as the source for this culture change?  In a word…conversation.    In two words…facilitated conversation.  In…several words…facilitated conversation among members of a team with a mutual goal.

The conversation:

  • Generates ideas and discussion of those ideas.
  • Highlights disagreements and prompts discussion of those disagreements.
  • Exchanges information and transfers knowledge.
  • Provides opportunities to practice team-based decision-making and problem solving.

Why don’t these things happen in everyday meetings?

Don’t these things happen in the every day meetings that employees take part in?  In my own experience, the answer is no.  Why this is so is probably worth another blog post…if not an entire book.  In general, the guardrails are just too tight in those routine meetings.  The topics are narrow, the roles of team members are set in stone, everyone knows what he or she is allowed and expected to say and not to say.  The meetings take place well within the parameters of the existing culture.

Boxes and arrows = Culture change

The same simply isn’t true of process mapping meetings.  One reason is that too many organizations simply haven’t engaged in mapping their core strategic processes.  It’s a novel activity that leads to new ways of talking to each other and fresh insights as to why things are the way they are in the organization.  Repeated enough times (e.g., lots of process mapping teams and process improvement teams), these new ways of talking and  the continual development of fresh insights become commonplace.  The organization becomes more agile, more responsive, more able to gather and analyze data and information.  That, in turn, leads to better decision making, planning, problem solving, management of agreement, and collaboration.

So, yeah…boxes and arrows can lead to real culture change in your company.