April 30, 2006
Liz published this at 9:26 am
One GIANT Flow Chart
It was an interview with the Chairman of the Board of a publishing company. We had just taken a break. I came back from stretching my legs to find six 4ft. x 8ft. foam core boards that made one GIANT flow chart, supposedly outlining the publishing process in complete and total detail.
I thought, “Ohmygod. They’re one of those kinds of companies.”
He said, “So, what do you think of that?”
I said, “I believe it was very useful for the folks who put it together.”
I usually think of work situations like I would a dating relationship You don’t date a guy thinking you’ll change him. That I took this job thinking I could change this company was just wrong.
The thing about a complex process is that it never works the same way two times in a row. Only assembly lines get processes designed one time. In complex processes factors occur which cause change, and the process has to allow for them. Those 6 foam core sheets were never used once they were made.
A Complex Process
It’s been a while since I described Part 1-Process Models. Were you wondering whether I would get to Part2? I took my time getting here because, designing a process that works is fairly easy compared to writing how to do it. But I’ve finally got it down to a few easy rules.
Let’s start with the definition. By a complex process, I mean one that involves more than one person and more than one line of action. Several people and several things are going on at the same time. Different things have to happen in different times and with different goals.
I’m waiting on your outputs because they are my inputs, which you might then be waiting on because you need them back again. Each of those circumstances makes the process exponentially more complex and also more stressful. Which is good cause for wanting to design a process that works really well.
A Few Easy Rules
Publishing has all of the complicating factors of organizational process. Every book published is different from the book that came before. That means that the process needs to be reconsidered and re-invented every time a book is made. Here are the few easy rules I’ve learned that work really well.
- There must be a leader who has done this before.
- The big picture, global thinkers decide on the flow of the work.
- They do that by talking through the way the work will go.
- That discussion is best done with as few people as possible, but with all phases of the process represented — one person can speak for more than one part. The detail people should not be present at this discussion.
- When the process is defined, the big picture people present it to the detail folks who will participate in the process.
- The detail folks ask questions to challenge the process, to find every chink in the process they possibly can. In essence, they are there to test the thinking.
- When that discussion is complete, the process will stand as a working plan.
- The entire group should agree that this is the process, until it isn’t working, at which time, the group will meet again to adjust the plan.
All processes need the flexilibity to change for the introduction of new information. If the number of people in the process changes by 10% more or less, it’s time to rethink the process again. The same holds true if the timeline changes significantly.
Process is a fluid thing. It moves just as people do. Trying to draw up and frame steps rigidly on foam core is a nice way to learn the steps of a business work in theory, but not how they function efficiently in real life.
Mental flexibility, mental fluency, strategic deep thinking, process skills are all critical ways of using our minds to move with the times, to be as dynamic as the information is in this age where information flies.
Even when you work alone, you use process and process thinking. How can you use these rules to promote your brand and your business? Imagine how you can use this to help your clients plan.
–ME “Liz” Strauss