Quick and Practical Tips for Effective Virtual Process Mapping

In the wake of new lockdowns to halt the spread of the coronavirus, companies need ways for home-based team members and coaches to collaborate online to improve processes. So, in a recent webinar for product developers in the Lean Product and Process Development group, Coach John Drogosz demonstrated practical tips that you can use now for virtually mapping a process when the facilitator and team members are all working remotely.

Based on his experiences, he offered real-world recommendations on how to run a virtual process mapping workshop that covered three phases:
• Preparation
• Workshop
• Implementation

Preparation: Be a Minimalist
“There are many mapping icons you could use but I suggest that you be a minimalist and stick to some of the very basic icons,” Drogosz said. “Keep it to no more than five.”

Here are some other suggestions:
• Set up a virtual whiteboard using software available at your company.
• If you are mapping a product development process, mark a timeline along the top in weeks or days. Mark milestones or major activities on the timeline with diamond-shaped sticky note graphics. (This isn’t needed for mapping some transactional processes.)
• Set the project’s scope and goals with the sponsor or team leader. Cover the project’s start and stop points and make sure everyone understands what a value stream map is and how to use the software (1 hour).
• Invite the right people based on the scope. People who do the actual work in the process must be part of the mapping exercise. Don’t forget to invite suppliers and customers.
• Each participant writes virtual sticky notes to be added to the map. Notes indicate activities, milestones, workloads, reviews and approvals, and delays or bottlenecks (1-2 hours per person). “This way, the team members remember as much as they can about how the process works,” Drogosz said.

Workshop: Mind the Momentum
“The workshop is about a two-day process, but I wouldn’t spread it out over more than a week to maybe 10 days,” Drogosz advised.

• Conduct a current-state “walk” (1.5 hours X 2 sessions). Bring the whole team together online to understand the process flow by arranging process steps on the map. Each team member “walks” through the process adding their virtual sticky notes, showing steps, activities, delays, etc., in their function’s horizontal swimlane. Watch the above video clip from the webinar to see John drawing a current-state map for an expense report process.
• Pause. Now that members have walked the process flow together as a team, have them review the map individually before the next online session. Their homework is to identify and record on virtual sticky notes all wastes, improvement opportunities, and best practices for standardization. (1 hour).
• Review. “At your next session, ask each person to go through their sticky notes,” Drogosz said. If possible, the team can prioritize problems now or circle back at a later session.

Implementation: You Got Rhythm
“You’ve got people in the rhythm for doing the workshop, Drogosz said. “Keep that rhythm going” to quickly develop a future-state map of an improved process and a plan for implementing it.
• Develop. Create a future-state map (1.5 hours x 2 sessions) and its implementation plan with problem-solving A3s (1.5-hour x 2 sessions). Expect team members to need followup implementation and problem-solving coaching sessions (1 hour – weekly, 4 – 8 cycles).
• Reflect. As you get close to whatever goals you set for yourself and your scope, conduct a reflection event with the team to review results and the mapping process (1 hour). Drogosz advises that you ask, “how did the process work for us; did we achieve what we thought we were going to achieve, and what can we improve?

Next Steps:
• Read the complete story with all John’s tips at the Lean Post: https://www.lean.org/LeanPost/
• Get access to the latest ideas and how-to advice about using the innovative LPPD methodology to design not only better products and services – but better futures for yourself, customers, and team members. Sign up for the free monthly LPPD newsletter: https://www.lean.org/leanpd/
• Advance your career and your organization’s transformation. Reserve your spot at the Virtual Lean Learning Experience (VLX), a 10-week, in-depth course of study that begins September 14, 2020. VLX features content from the Designing the Future Summit on innovation and product development plus the Lean Summit. Get details and register: https://www.lean.org/summit2020

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