Is It Worth the Time to Map Current State Work Processes?

The world is moving fast. Today’s most successful businesses employ agile practices and processes that enable them to keep pace with rapidly changing markets, customer trends, global events and economic shifts. That level of flexibility requires ongoing assessment, analysis and realignment—a willingness to implement work process changes when necessary to retain optimal efficiency of operation.

Even within the process of assessment and analysis, an emphasis on efficiency is essential. Leaders must quickly ascertain problem areas, identify solutions, devise strategies for moving forward, and implement change. Still, an effective and reliable documentation of a company’s organization design must be thorough and detailed enough to provide appropriate answers for improvement. Such detail itself takes time and focus.

The question when devising plans for organization adjustments is: How much time and what level of detail should be given to documenting the current state process of the organization?  And, future state process and organization design? Is the conventional approach of creating ultra-detailed, multi-layered charts of current state a dead or dying technique? A thing of the past?

Too much emphasis on detail, after all, can be inordinately time consuming. It may even distract from the ultimate goal of identifying positive avenues for change. As your team is occupied with describing problem areas and brainstorming ideas for improvement, the world is moving quickly and events may be taking place that could impact your strategy. In the weeks or months it may take to create a picture of a company’s work processes using conventional methods, external forces can shift and require adjustments to the change plan, even as it’s being created.

Devising Change Plans in Real Time

Consider, for example, two contrasting projects we have engaged in with large companies in recent years. For one project, we filled an impressively long wall with notes, suggestions, ideas, and charts that provided a deep level of insight into the current organizational process. Another project involved a relatively less robust level of detail, and was completed on two small spaces in considerably less time.

In retrospect, the less detailed analysis provided us with a plan that was streamlined, easy to move forward, and smooth in its implementation. The more detailed plan was valuable and successful, but a good share of time transpired between the project initiation and its completion, and some of the priorities we had identified for attention when we started seemed less urgent by the end. A quicker process might have produced a more agile and effective outcome, able to respond in real time to events impacting the business world.

A Question of Balance

Finding the right balance between level of detail and pace is one of the most important components in successfully changing a work process and implementing positive change. Too much detail can impinge on an adequate work pace. But equally important, too little detail may not yield the necessary insight to inform the most advantageous plan for effective change.

To determine the ideal level of detail to use in documenting a present and future work process, one has to decide precisely what is needed, and how intricate of a process is necessary to achieve the desired behavior change. What is the proper amount of time and detail with which to document work processes for best results? How abstract can we be in compiling documentation of work processes and still produce the most effective plan?

Ultimately, to arrive at an effective change plan within a suitable timeframe, planners have to ascertain precisely what is needed. Defining and setting accurate parameters will equip a team with the data necessary to formulate a plan fit for purpose, devoid of superfluous information yet inclusive of essential material.

Managing Constant Change

Because businesses and other organizations don’t have excess time, committing valuable resources to the process of documenting the organization’s work process in exhaustive detail may not be a realistic or an advisable use of time. Attention might instead be weighted toward outlining the future design, informed by practical decisions around how formal or thorough the documentation process needs to be.

“Change is the only constant in life,” as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said. Today’s most successful businesses and organizations recognize and internalize this timeless concept by maintaining balance in the realignment process without expending excess time on documentation of where they are, and focusing instead on where they want to be.

1 thought on “Is It Worth the Time to Map Current State Work Processes?”

  1. Thank you Reed. I have often thought that the detail of reviewing the current situation stalls movement forward. It can be demoralizing for the people involved. And I think it triggers our neuropaths to stay in the ruts of old thinking.


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