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How to Improve Flow

If you wanted to improve flow in a business process, how would you do it? 1. What principles would you apply? 2. What steps or procedures would you follow? 3. What work products would you produce as a result? 4. When you assess a business process, where would you look, and what would you watch for, in order to find and eliminate barriers to flow? 5. How would you know that the process and the flow of work in that process were measurably improved-in ways that your customer’s experience and value? These are a few of the key questions that Mr. Alec Sharp and I will help you answer as part of a proposed 3-day public workshop experience coming this fall. Why Proposed? One of the top needs that I keep hearing from LED members is a desire for training on how to apply lean concepts, tools, and principles in transactional, service, or office settings. I’d like to help address that need, but I need your help to make sure I’ve targeted the right concepts, tools, and principles. Here is what I am asking of you:

1) Take a few minutes, read the Overview and then scan the detailed list of topics. Could you let me know if this would be of value to you?

Send me a note at Improving Flow - Proposed Offering or click on this link to register or get more information

2) Is there something else that you would definitely attend if it were available? 1

Please describe what it is that you desire; better yet, email me at What I Really Want or feel free to contact me at (214) 995 1960 so that I can discuss it with you

Overview of Proposed 3 day Workshop: Here is an overview of what you will experience. The first 2 days focus on 3 sets of skills. 1. Creating workflow models 2. Conducting a structured assessment of a business process 3. Designing an improved business process You’ll get your first chance to learn key concepts and apply useful guidelines as a result of several practice activities associated with a case study. Mr. Alec Sharp will be leading the first 2 days. Day three, will focus on improving flow. Repeat after me, “Flow, not Joe.” Throughout day 3, you’ll have your second chance to strengthen what you have learned, by placing key concepts, principles, models in the context of lean in general, but also in the context of an award winning lean engagement whose “secret sauce” is the very same approach that you’ve just learned. You’ll be able to view and ask questions about many of the actual work products produced during the engagement (especially from the structured assessment) and to discuss lessons learned, including a set of 7 principles for improving the flow of knowledge work. Then via a simulation, you’ll have the opportunity to identify and remove barriers to flow, and to use measures of flow to calculate the impact this has on lead time, productivity, quality, and cost. Why “translate” perfectly good knowledge into Lean terminology? Think about the functions and roles that have some type of process improvement responsibility. In many organizations, this may be:

1) Business Leaders


• • • •

Chief Process Officer VP Process Improvement or Business Excellence Process Owner Initiative leaders or Program Managers with IT, CMMI, or Process Improvement responsibility

2) Operations/Business Excellence, or Continuous Process Improvement • • • Process Improvement Specialist Six Sigma Black Belt Lean Six Sigma Black belt

3) IT or Systems Engineering • • • Business analysts Business process or systems architects Systems Engineering Process Group (SEPG) internal consultant

One of the things that Alec and I both have learned is that each of the sets of functions and roles listed above tends to think about work and processes using different underlying mental models. It’s only natural to rely upon the specialized function or discipline “dialect” that we each have learned to use to diagnose and describe the work that we see and do. So even though we all may be “looking at” the same work, what we tend to see and how we describe what we see, tends to be very different. Ironically, this often is a cause of waste, rework, delays, and cost in the very processes that we are intended to improve. To help bridge this gap, we’ve built in some “cross-discipline” learning opportunities. Here is an example. Alec defines a “business process” like this:


“A business process is a collection of interrelated activities, initiated in response to a triggering event, which achieves a specific, discrete result for the customer and other stakeholders of the process.” He goes on to clarify that when uses the word process, he means “an end to end, cross-functional, business process” where ideally the same “work item” moves through the whole process and is transformed into a countable result. In Lean Speak 101, this is known as a value stream. In everyday English, it is called “work.”

Why this Workshop? Overview: Business processes matter. Above all else, they matter to the enterprise, because business processes are fundamentally how value is delivered, whether externally or internally. So, understanding how to work with business processes is a vital skill for a wide range of business and IT professionals – business analysts, process architects, application architects, functional area managers, and even corporate executives. But too often, the available courses and literature either float around in generalities and familiar case studies, or descend rapidly into technical details, arcane theories, or incomprehensible models. This workshop is different – in a practical way, it shows how to discover and scope a business process, clarify its context, model its workflow with progressive detail, assess it, and design a new process. Everything is backed up with real-world examples, and clear, repeatable guidelines. Professionals around the world have benefited from this workshop and the methods it provides. Description: Participants will first learn exactly what a “business process” is, the key factors to consider when dealing with them, and the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them. On this foundation, the course moves on to specifying the scope and goals of a business process, modeling the current workflow, assessing it, and applying three critical process redesign techniques. 4

On completion of the workshop, you’ll be able to:
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Describe the key factors that differentiate process and functional approaches Employ a variety of techniques to keep stakeholders involved, and promote “process orientation” Identify a “true” business process, and specify its boundaries and goals Model process workflow at progressive levels of detail using Swimlane Diagrams Stop process modeling at the appropriate point, and move on to other techniques or phases Conduct a structured assessment of a business process Develop a process redesign while avoiding common (and serious!) pitfalls Explain a set of 7 principles to improve flow Recognize and assess frequently occurring patterns of flow in knowledge work Use selected measures of flow to quantify improvement of flow and the effect this has on key customer and business results (lead time, quality, cost, waste, and productivity)

Key principles are illustrated throughout with workshop exercises and discussions.. Detailed list of topics • • • • • • Thinking in process terms – concepts, terminology, principles, and techniques Variations on what is meant by “process,” and the impact on process identification Three guidelines for well-formed processes What makes a process a “business process? Real-world impacts of incorrectly identifying business processes A clear method for determining when one business process ends, and another begins


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Example – using this method in identifying “true” business processes Summary – five rules for business processes Impact of process identification for application and process architects A brief history of “business processes” – the rise, fall, and rise again of “BPx” Hammer’s legacy – understanding functional and process perspective The good and the bad, part 1: Why functionally-based organizations are a good thing The good and the bad, part 2: Why functionally-based organizations introduce process difficulties Reconciling the two – philosophies and methods for helping functions and processes get along Introduction to modeling techniques – when to use decomposition, when to use flow diagrams What makes for an effective “swimlane diagram?” A five tier framework for relating business objectives, processes, applications, and data Modeling techniques for each perspective Achieving progressive levels of detail – working through scope, concept, and specification levels Understanding the six enablers of a business process A three-phase approach to completing a process-oriented project A reading list Discovering your enterprise’s business processes “Process areas” – families of related business processes Depicting process areas with an “overall process map” or “process landscape” The role of standard process areas such as “Customer Relationship Management”


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Why top-down process identification often leads to incorrect results A bottom-up method for process discovery Beginning your analysis by clarifying terminology – a structured approach Introduction to the major case study Hands-on practice with process discovery – team work and group debrief Framing the process – scope, issues, and goals A critical concept in all business analysis – separating the “what” from the “who and how” Four components of the “what” scope definition – the essence of the process Three components of the “who and how” scope definition – the current implementation Tips for ensuring you haven’t defined the process smaller than it really is Case study – hands on practice with documenting process scope Initial assessment of the "as-is" process and goal-setting for the “tobe” process A compelling and blame-free format for the case for action, and methods for communicating it Clarifying strategic direction – the process “differentiator” Case study – hands on practice with process assessment and goal specification Workflow models – techniques for modeling process workflow Components and terminology in workflow models (“swimlane diagrams”) The most common errors in workflow modeling – missing the point, “deception by sanitization,” and a rapid descent into detail Avoiding errors with three questions to drive the development of


your initial swimlane diagram • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • A real-life example of applying the three questions Principles and guidelines – making your models useful, and knowing when not to model Guidelines for actors – who or what can or cannot be an actor on a swimlane diagram, Guidelines for steps – naming, multi-actor, and sequential, parallel, and collaborative steps Guidelines for flow – what that arrow really means, common errors, parallel vs. exclusive flows Representing the basic concepts in BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) Additional symbols, keeping it simple Managing detail – controlling the detail of your models, knowing when to stop Real-life example – why detail must be managed Controlling detail – three levels of workflow model (handoff, service, and task) Definition, use, and example of each of the three levels Business modeling vs. specification modeling, and the problems with being too precise When to stop – how to know when you’ve crossed the line and aren’t modeling workflow anymore Making the transition to use cases, procedures, and task specifications Techniques for facilitating an as-is workflow modeling session The basics – participants, resources, and tools Facilitated session ground rules – specifics for “process” sessions Tips and guidelines to ensure you’ll actually get through the process A reminder – the three questions to drive your initial “handoff level” workflow model 8

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After the initial pass – five questions to validate and extend the model Case study – hands on practice with developing the initial workflow model Progressing to further levels of detail Tips for designing the to-be process Three common redesign problems, three techniques to avoid them Final assessment of the as-is process – a framework for assessment and its role in redesign Surfacing and challenging assumptions – using a “challenge session” to generate improvements Characterizing the to-be process – generating creative improvements Uncovering unanticipated consequences – using an enabler-based assessment to avoid problems and understand the requirements for process change Factors to make the new process sustainable Creating the new workflow – turning the to-be characteristics into a workflow mode Review of selected work products from a structured assessment; a quest for the secret sauce Lean Speak 101 - Knowledge Work Version 7 Principles for improving flow of knowledge work Waste in knowledge work Flow - definition and anatomy Enablers and flow Barriers to flow - recognizing patterns that frequently occur in knowledge work Waste and flow Measures of flow – lead time, cycle time, value-creating time; rolled

• • • • • • • • • • •


throughput yield, productivity • • Assessing flow- “where to look, and what to watch for” Simulation-Hands on Practice in finding and eliminating barriers to flow and quantifying the related business improvement results

Food for Thought

What do you get when you put a Canadian (Alec) and a Texan (Robert) in the same room? • • • • Exposure to English as a second language? Copies of their books? The chance to shape your own personal learning curve? How about access to 50 years of process improvement experiences?

I also promise you two things: 1) The per day cost for LED members will be less than the per day cost to attend an LEI offering ($800, currently) 2) There is no single offering comparable to this, anywhere, at any cost at this time. (If you find one, let me know and we’ll both go to that one instead.)

When I was early in my career, I had the opportunity to learn first-hand from seasoned practitioners. They authored books and gave talks at Conferences; some even still personally facilitated workshops on occasion. They made lasting contributions to the field; the types of people we might refer to today as “thought-leaders.” Sadly, those folks are no longer with us. But Alec and I are. And though our rates may be lower, we could consider raising them if it becomes a deal-breaker. Instructor – Alec Sharp:


With over 25 years of consulting experience, Alec has provided handson process modeling and improvement expertise throughout North America, Asia, and Europe – this workshop is based on real-world experience, not textbook theory. Alec has also delivered hundreds of Workflow Process Modeling workshops, and top-rated presentations at international conferences, including “The Seven Deadly Sins of Process Modeling,” “Crossing the Chasm – From Process Model to IT Requirements,” “Getting Traction for ‘Process’ – What the Experts Forget,” and “Five Common Errors in Process Improvement.” Alec is the principal author of “Workflow Modeling” (Artech House, 2009) which is a consistent best-seller in the field, and is widely used as an MBA text and consulting guide. Instructor – Robert Damelio: Another 25 yr person, Robert is a consultant, author, and President of THE BOTTOM LINE GROUP, a Dallas, Texas based management-consulting firm. He has worked extensively with both Fortune 500 and Government organizations to help them strengthen operations, increase productivity, provide customer-perceived value, and enhance customer satisfaction. His primary areas of expertise are process improvement, process management, and change management particularly as they apply to knowledge-intensive work in service, professional, administrative, and “non-manufacturing” processes. During the last 10 years especially, Robert’s focus has increasingly been on helping leaders within Client organizations plan, implement, and measure the results of their major organization change and improvement initiatives. Robert is the author of The Basics of Process Mapping. He has read Alec’s Workflow Modeling and likes it. Many of you may know Robert from his current ASQ Lean Enterprise Division leadership role, as Chair of Lean body of knowledge and certification committee. Target Audience: Business analysts who are responsible for requirements specification; process analysts involved in business process re-design or improvement; business managers and content experts who will participate in process re-design or process-oriented application development efforts; process or application architects responsible for developing, coordinating, and promoting an enterprise-wide view of business processes.