The larger the organization, the greater the number of employees, the greater the number of processes, the greater the number of repetitions of those processes, the more there is to gain by determining which is the best process and adopting that process throughout the organization. Not every form of work is amenable to process mapping or improvement. Some activities are almost entirely “bespoke” and pointless to document. “Creative” work, such as painting, poetry, music composition, come to mind. Process documentation is nothing more than writing done the steps of the process. The amount of detail can vary, but critical to the creation of useful process diagrams is a common syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. Also critical to effective process diagramming is the participation of the people who actually execute the process on a daily basis, regardless of where these people fit in the organizational hierarchy. Effectively documenting processes requires knowledge of the process documentation grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.
Any regularly repeated activity that involves more than a few steps and more than one person is a candidate for process documentation or process mapping. When multiple employees are all doing the same repeated activity, everything else being equal, most of the time one of the employees will be faster and more accurate than the others. While some differences are no doubt accounted for by individual differences in skill, in most cases some of the efficiency differentials are due to process. Whether intentionally or by happenstance, one employee is following a more effective series of steps (process) than the other employees. It follows that documenting, and having the rest of the employees adopt, the most efficient process will generate a net improvement in overall efficiency.
It also requires the ability to ask opened questions and listen carefully to the answers. It is necessary to know how and when to follow up, seeking further detail or confirmation. It also is important for the process documentation facilitator to be patient and resist the impulse to make “obvious” improvements to the process during the documentation stage. But this tendency must be avoided. It is critical to capture the process as it is actually practiced. Or at least as the stakeholders believe that it is practiced. Only by using a common format to first document processes in their “as is” states can we begin the task of improving the processes. Think of planning a road trip using a map. It is more difficult if the maps are not in the same format (e.g., North up, scale, contour, key, language, etc.).