Process Mindset 05 Caution! Pitfall ahead!

As I shared, process mapping is just one approach of many and process mindset is one perspective to view the world; miss-use or over-use would eventually lead to inefficiency or kill the innovation.  Here are some pitfalls that either I have witnessed, experienced, or unfortunately, fallen into.


I do think there is no way to be mistake-free; but we need the right focus and ensure the most important thing is on the right track. Sometimes, whatever that makes it work may just screw it up, when going to extreme. On one hand, process mindset requires us to focus black-and-white rules, responsibilities and discipline; on the other hand, unfortunately, being too strict with it would not help solve the challenges coming from the volatile and diversified nature of our world.

Therefore, it may sound like cliché; but the solution would simply be to

  • Be situational
  • Be flexible
  • Be open-minded

It’s only about processes

Mapping the process is just one way to break down complex puzzles. Focusing too much on processes may lead to a situation where the main element in the process like people, is just ignored. For example, mapping all the processes in which customer service team is involved may not help to create a useful tool for the team to manage their operational tasks from order to billing; because designing such a tool needs us to observe what kind of tasks the team is doing on daily basis to reach their performance goal. Another example, implementing SAP WMS may help the inventory management, but the fundamental question would be – is the team ready to follow the discipline required by WMS.

Solution: think end-to-end for processes, but also bear in mind the final goal and leave some space for people element – help them link the dots. People, process, technology – that is the general prioritization guideline.

Everything should be mapped into processes

Mapping everything is as suffering as in chaos without processes at all. Study the detailed processes which may only happen once a year without much value-wise or quantity-wise impact is not only waste of time, but also not trusting our basic human judgement.

Solution: solve the issue that really matters; 80/20 can be a simple threshold.

Everything should be mapped at the same level of details

Granularity to define the process is a situational judgement as I shared in what is business process; therefore, it’s difficult to set restrict rules for which level of details we have to capture. Adding new scenario of raising invoice with the same processes and system functions may not even require a new process map; however, to automate the billing tasks and minimize human intervention would require us to check in details how to find the billing-due list, how to update price, which text to be populated and printed, and to whom the printed PDF system needs to be sent.

Solution: more details with brand-new things; do not underestimate complexity of new system and automation.

If it can be mapped into black-and-white paper, everyone can understand it

A common challenge for introducing new processes is that our clients and users are happy all the time till the day they actually use it hands-on. It’s simply not the case that process swim-lane can explain everything.  “What is the tangible and direct impact for me and how my actual work will be changed”?

When we introducing new processes, it’s pretty much like the story of blind men and an elephant. Nobody can actually foresee the whole picture with the same decent details before they actually see it. What we can do is to analyze, discuss and communicate from different perspectives, so as to minimize the gap of the imagination and truth.

Way-out: communicate the processes with client-centric approach; not only share with them the forest, but also try to give them the tangible impact from the change and engage them to test the processes as earlier as possible.

All happens in system

Yes, processes and systems are not the same thing. Ideally, we should talk about processes first and how to build system functionalities second. When majority of the transactions being done in different kinds of information system nowadays, boundary of processes and systems is not so black and white. When we talk about detailed processes, we cannot totally by-pass systems because everyone would ask how to get it done in system and having or not having system support means different management style and control. The new challenges would be:

  • Those off-line tasks (outside of system or manual)may not be paid much attention and only the on-line tasks are well addressed;
  • We try to put everything into system; but doing everything in system may not be good answer for everything (the most powerful and flexible resources are human!).

Way-out: accept the facts that we cannot totally by-pass system when talking about processes; only build system functions for such processes with clear, stable and structured rules; manage and measure those off-line processes as if they were on-line.


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