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Why It's Critical to Map Your Work Processes

Last month I mentioned that Rallyfan of Random Thoughts on Life and Work is mapping work processes at his nonprofit. First they conducted surveys and now he's at the interview stage. He reports:

Here is what I have discovered so far:

  1. One of our processes is tallied three different times.
  2. Many of the “exceptions” that we handle could have been dealt with before reaching us if technology was implemented differently.
  3. Our file documentation process is killing us.  We file hard copies and electronic copies of everything!
  4. Lack of training in other departments is increasing our workload.
  5. There appears to be a lack of definition about what our Key Result Areas truly are.  And if you believe the mantra “You get what you inspect not what you expect” then this is an issue of real concern.  If we don’t know what we are about then how can we know what to measure?

Based on my personal experiences consulting with nonprofits and government agencies, these are not unusual results. In fact, these would be the rule, in part because so few organizations actually engage in process mapping to find these things out and address them.

It's good that Rallyfan's organization is discovering their inefficiencies. This will be the first phase of doing something to address them. But as he points out, even more disturbing is the fact that there doesn't seem to be agreement about key results. In other words, the organization isn't really being clear about what constitutes success--presumably the whole point of engaging in the work processes to begin with.

Rallyfan's experiences should be a major wake-up call to any nonprofit that hasn't taken a good hard comprehensive look at their processes recently. I'm glad he's sharing the journey for the rest of us to learn from.

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