Step 2 in Mapping a Process
Defining Process Elements
May 20, 2015
Last month we walked you through how to select your first process to map. Now that you have a particular area in your sights, the next step is to break it down into its parts. Once it is broken down into its building blocks, you can reassemble it in the most efficient way.
Process maps are the visual representation of the work that is done. They contain triggers, assignees, activities, transitions, decisions, escalations, and data/documentation. You must parse out each piece as it currently exists before you can determine the standardized configuration you will implement in your business process management software.
- Name the process. Use finite terms to describe the process‘s starting point and end, to keep it a manageable size. Most of your work processes will be interrelated in some way, and it can be easy to keep adding steps, branches and processes until you have boiled the ocean and overwhelm your employees. Start simple. It is easiest to begin with the end point – What is the process attempting to accomplish? What does success look like? – and then work backwards to a reasonable starting point. Focus on the steps in between for your first process map.
- Identify all of the people who will be involved. This step should include internal and external contacts. If internal audiences are within different departments or locations, this should be noted as it may impact escalations. This step will help you define yourassignees.
- Interview key players individually. Sit down with each person separately, even if their role in the process is redundant. You likely will discover variations in how the work is performed – employees often find their own shortcuts, or differences may appear depending on who trained them. You can use this variation to your advantage by seeing several options and choosing the most efficient procedures.
- Ask pointed questions about what happens. You can start by asking someone to describe the process, but it is most helpful to mapping when you ask specific questions:
- How does a process start (by phone call? Fax? Physician inquiry?)
- What happens next?
- What information is needed and who supplies it (patient? physician? internal departments?).
This will help you determine all of the activities and needed documentation, and it will help define integrated forms for data entry.
- Identify each point where a decision needs to be made. Define what all of the options are, and what the outcomes are for each. These areas are where your process may transition or branch into parallel processes.
- Outline the timetable. One of the fundamental tools in workflow automation is setting expected duration of an activity. Sometimes third parties (such as CMS) set the deadlines, sometimes the deadline is a personal priority of your organization, such as informing patients of changes within the first 24 hours. This is another area where it can be easiest to start from the end and work backward. Look first at when it needs to be finished, and assign times to your steps leading up to the completion. Your timetable will determine escalations and inform process refinement in later steps.
These six activities should result in an outline of how the process currently works. You can now transfer this to a visual map of the defined process with all of its contained elements: triggers, assignees, activities, transitions, documentation, forms and escalations. Even an initial sketch can help you identify areas for improved efficiency before you codify the process in your business process management software such as duplication of effort or opportunities for automation. Transferring the process from the minds of your employees to paper is a major step in standardizing and optimizing how you operate.
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