Art Weeast has helped a number of organizations to “think beyond the task of documenting policies and procedures to the intelligence of the information that is in those documents.” In other words, think of the value or purpose that the documents serve. One of his objectives, as he trains organizations on how to create valuable documentation, is to “keep what’s in it for me, from the end user’s or the employee’s perspective, in mind as you develop content”. The end user and all stakeholders might consider, “What problems and questions can this documentation solve?”
To demonstrate the application of Process Intelligence practices (as Mr. Weeast termed his work), consider three common problems:
- Employees and Management do not value the documentation (mainly the procedures).
- Work tasks are not clearly connected to executive priorities.
- Business Units/Departments/Functions do not collaborate on cross-functional processes, often leading to tension and decreased productivity.
With Art Weeast’s help, let’s tackle each of these problems one at a time.
The problem faced by many (maybe most) organizations: Employees and Management do not value the documentation.
Consider how you can make your documentation useful. Follow this three step process:
- Set a course to establish more comprehensive documentation. Rather than tracking just the steps of the procedure, frequency, who performs…think of all of the everyday business questions that come up related to the procedures. Add Roles and Responsibilities, Applications Used, Definitions, Procedure Input and Output–these fields will help you to address common problems. Read further to see how.
- Make it easy for process owners and your front-line doers to capture the documentation. You don’t have to complete the fields in consecutive order. Starting with the procedure, then considering what leads into the procedure and what the outcome of the procedure is before moving on to the purpose and other data is a much easier thought process.
- Make use of the intelligence that is inherent in your documentation to solve business problems. With updated, comprehensive procedures, you can address common problems…effectively and efficiently!
Another common problem: Work tasks are not clearly connected to executive priorities.
The front line doers, on a day to day basis, do more repeatable processes than executives do. At the executive level, it is unlikely that you will see procedures. This is the root cause of the disconnect between the tasks and executive priorities. It’s no wonder that executives generally don’t feel the value of the documentation and therefore, the employees don’t feel the priority from the executives to create and maintain the documentation. So, per human nature, documentation becomes an unwelcome task to do, and usually it is tackled at the last minute with a mad rush to get it done.
Help your organization to establish the connection between top priorities of the business and the tasks that hardworking employees carry out day after day.
A master at translating the complex into simple steps, Art Weeast developed a method for creating this connection. He calls it an Operational Map. To build your Operational Map you will:
- Interview the Business Owner and document Primary Functions and Sub-functions from her perspective
- Prepare List of Procedures for each Process Owner’s Area
- Create a visual representation of Functions and their related Sub-functions
- Map Procedures to related Sub-Function by playing “Operational Bingo” with Process Owners—you hold and call out the Procedures while she identifies the related Sub-function.
- Validate the mapping with the Business Owner.
- Executives come down to a level that they rarely visit—they better understand what it takes to get things done! They begin to appreciate the value—and the NECESSITY—of the documentation in a more highly regulated and complex world.
- Process Owners (the everyday do-ers) appreciate the collaboration with executives. They sense the tone from the top and the priority becomes clear. The do-ers begin to understand the bigger picture—the risks that the organization faces and the importance of what they’re being asked to do. And they are very curious about what other departments do!
The final problem we aim to address: Breakdown in cross-functional processes.
Frustrations build in an organization when communication and collaboration breaks down or does not exist among certain parties. You can tell this is happening when you or others can easily blame someone for inadequate, inconsistent or untimely inputs into your process—or others who put disruptive demands on you to produce an output with a nearly impossible delivery date and provide inadequate information needed to meet the demand. It is natural for all of us to personalize the process under these circumstances.
The art of establishing collaboration among cross-functional parties can be reduced to four main steps. The following steps serve to “de-personalize” the process and issues, and allow parties to focus on the desired end result.
- Meeting: Bring functional representatives together for a collaborative process review mediated by a neutral party.
- Current state: Have them describe the standard process; first without the history, exceptions or problems. Then revisit the standard process with issues.
- Future state: What does it look like? How is it better?
- Transition state: Outline steps to get from where we are today to where we need to be.
Think about what’s happening here. Typically, if anyone ever does dare to address the communication breakdown among parties, what do they typically do? They work to identify the issue(s) and to problem solve against those issues. The process outlined by Mr. Weeast, an expert in operational and change management, takes an opposite approach; helping parties to very quickly begin working together effectively.
Applying these practices outlined by Art Weeast results in an efficient and effective organization that can:
Art Weeast has decades of impressive experience in enterprise-wide leadership, technology & data expertise, Lean Six Sigma methodologies, organizational change management, and in defining and refining operational processes. Art has been a client of policyIQ with three different organizations. When I met Art, I had been involved in the work of streamlining, refining, re-engineering, and automating processes for many years, myself, and—while it was my responsibility and mission to help him in any way that I could to solve his organization’s business problems using our software—I was forever changed by what he taught me!
This post was originally shared following a policyIQ-sponsored webinar in which Mr. Weeast shared his Process Intelligence practices. The policyIQ team continues to share the lessons of his Process Intelligence session year after year. If you’re interested in more information or hands-on support with applying Mr. Weeast’s methodology, reach out to us and we’ll connect you with the appropriate tools, information, and resources!