How to make a process from nothing

You can’t worry about change management until you’ve got something to change.

And you can’t worry about process improvement until you’ve built a process.

So how do you build a process when there isn’t one at all? How do you know you need a process?

When I was a technical writer, I was asked to write a form that people would fill out to request resources to run a trial. The person asking knew what the output of a business process would be, but didn’t know how to ask for a process to be built. I could have just written a form, but that wouldn’t have gotten us what we actually needed.

Most of the work of process development is in talking to people. It’s interviewing. It’s asking people what they mean, what they want, what they need. But the key is understanding that it’s often hard for people to ask for what they need, because they don’t know yet that they need it. That sounds condescending, and I bring it up because it’s so crucial to not be condescending when you realize that what somebody is asking for is only the part above water, the part they can see. It’s so important to not be dismissive or to say it’s that what they’re asking for is too hard, especially when you haven’t walked through your thought process together. You risk not being able to get any more information from that person, which pretty much guarantees that you won’t be able to give them what they need.

In short, this approach does not help anybody:

The root of it is helping folks come to the understanding on their own that they’re asking for a whole iceberg. Then, once you’ve set some expectations (for example, no, I really do honestly only want the tip of the iceberg to be delivered, or yes, I guess I do actually want a whole iceberg!), then you can begin to think about resourcing the work.

Here’s a short case study about developing a business process where there was nothing in place at all, focusing on how I determined what was needed (versus what was asked for), with a good look at what kind of deliverables were part of the package. Click on the arrows or on the slide itself to advance the deck..


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