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Posted by on October 11th, 2012 with 0 Comments

Dan Madison is founder of Value Creation Partners, an organizational consulting and training firm. He’s also author of the best-selling Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management. He focuses on helping clients increase value through operational improvement, organizational redesign, cost reduction, and strategic planning.

Earlier this summer, I attended Dan’s intensive one-day seminar on process reengineering and lean techniques. After seeing what his methods did for my team, I had to interview him. Over the next four weeks, Dan and I will discuss how process mapping can make you, your team, and your organization SMART as Hell.

PART ONE: What is Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management?

Glenn: Hi Dan, welcome to ‘Get SMART. Tell us a little bit about your company, Value Creation Partners.

Dan: Hi Glenn. I got into training and consulting in 1988. The first title of my organization was Process Improvement Associates. After working for a little bit, I decided that Value Creation Partners was a better title because I was more interested in creating value than necessarily improving profits – even though you might think of them as being similar.

The company is basically focused around doing four things:

  1. process mapping,
  2. process analysis,
  3. process improvement, and
  4. process redesign.

The business includes consulting on those topics, training on those topics, and doing university seminars on those topics. It’s pretty much me, although I have folks that I work with when an engagement calls for more bodies. But, the bulk of the time, it’s basically me.

Glenn: For those who don’t know, what is ‘Process Mapping’?

Dan: Well Glenn, a process map is the beginning of an analysis of the flow of work or information as it moves through an organization. The map allows us to have a visual representation of the flow, and it answers a couple of questions : who does what, and when. Here is an example from my website.

Glenn: Now, there are ways to document a process non-visually. I assume you would not consider those to be process mapping?

Dan: Can you give me an example of a non-visual process flow?

Glenn: Sure. A task list.

Dan: Huh, that’s a good question…

Glenn: [laughing] Yeah, I have a tendency to ask ‘stupid’ questions. I guess, if someone walked up to me with a task list, it could show “who does what and when”, but I wouldn’t consider it a map – anymore than a list of turns to get to the grocery store is a map. I think the visual is really important to the value of what you’re doing.

You do talk about task lists in your book, though…

Dan: Yes. To me, if you can make it visual – in terms of pictures or symbols or something more than just the words – I think it’s more powerful.

Glenn: Agreed. That ‘power of the visual’ is one of the things I took away from our session. Standing up, as a group, around a large map is more effective than sitting and reading a list.

For those who have never experienced process mapping, why would someone want to map a process?

Dan: I think there are a lot of reasons. One would be so that we have an understanding of what the connections are, of our work, as it moves through the organization. Because, again, a map answers these questions: Who does what and when.

Often, we know what the person upstream from us does; we know what we do; and we maybe know what the person downstream from us does; but as we get further and further away from our own work, it becomes fuzzier and fuzzier of who’s doing what, how does the work moves, and what issues people have…

So the map allows us to see the totality of it – how all the pieces fit together.

You could actually think of it as puzzle pieces that create a picture and the picture is this flow of work and information. So, if you’re only looking at your own little piece of it, you don’t see the entire picture of how the work and information flows from end to end.

Glenn: Right. That ‘big picture’ perspective is important.

Dan: But that’s just one big reason.

Another big reason to engage in process mapping is for analysis. When I first entered this field back in the late 80’s, the gurus of the time – W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran – were saying that roughly 85% of all of the issues in an organization occur or have their roots in process. So, if we’re not visualizing process and analyzing process, then – if you believe that statistic – we’re missing out on the root cause of 85% of the issues that we encounter daily.

So, for me, the map is the foundation that we build from and that’s where the analysis, improvement, and redesigns start. A map by itself has some utility, but it gains a lot more power when we analyze the map. And now the map becomes more of a live, working instrument of what’s working or isn’t working within this flow.

Glenn: You’re reminding me of a lesson I learned years ago in a “7-step Problem Solving Class”. They taught us that – when you’re trying to solve a problem – the first thing you should ask yourself is, “Does a written process exist for the activity that produced this problem?” If a written process doesn’t exist, don’t bother problem solving. First create a repeatable process, and then execute the process and identify the leaks in the process… because, any good problem-solving methodology would identify the lack of process as a root cause of the problem.

Dan: Exactly!

Glenn: I thought that was so interesting. It has saved me – literally – hundreds of hours of problem solving over the years. Rather than diving into solutions, I find myself saying, “No. First draw it. Then ‘do what you drew’. And then identify the problem, if there is still one. See what blocks are breaking down.”

Dan: It’s hard to argue with that.

Glenn: [laughing] Yeah. I also want to point out that – in your book – there’s a great list of symptoms of a broken process: customers are unhappy, things are taking too long, activities don’t get done right the first time, high frustration rates, and many more. Any one of these is a good reason for an individual or organization to map a process.

Dan: Absolutely. That list is something that I use for folks to identify places in their organization where it’s a good place to start process mapping. I have them listen to all those symptoms and write down where they see these symptoms. If a process has multiple symptoms, that might be a good place to begin.

Glenn: You wrote “Process Mapping, Process Improvement, and Process Management” in 2005. What was your goal when you started writing the book?

Dan: Well, I guess it was part of my ‘bucket’ list. I had a goal to be an author and the project was sort of ‘on the shelf’. One day I got a call from this publisher who features books on quality-related topics. They had seen my course offering at the University of Chicago, where I was teaching open-enrollment classes on process improvement, and asked me if I was interested in writing a book. Well, lo-and-behold, I sure was! So, I talked with them, we negotiated a contract, and I started.

The goal that I set included three different expectations. The big goal was that the book would be reasonably popular. Also, it would establish me as somewhat of an expert in this field, and it would lead to business.

Glenn: It’s interesting that when I ask this question, many authors say, “My goal was to be an author”, but didn’t have any business goals. You did have a business goal. Did you have a number of books that you wanted to sell?

Dan: Well, everything is relative. I asked some other authors how many copies they sold of their books. I heard, at the time, that five thousand was a good number – a number that came up a number of times. So that was a frame of reference that I had.

Glenn: I’ve heard that number as well – that, roughly, 50% of books sell only 500 copies and less than 10% sell 10,000 copies. Based on that, 5,000 copies of a niche book is pretty good.

Dan: I didn’t expect it to be a bestseller, because of the topic. In terms of the kind of material that it is, I thought that if it sold five thousand copies that I would be reasonably happy. We’re now at eleven or twelve thousand sold.

But it did achieve another goal that I had, which is that it’s been a bestseller in its topic areas on for almost the entire time it’s been out – either number one or number two in process mapping, number one or number two in process improvement, and number one or number two in process management. So if you measure popularity by this sales ranking, it’s been either number one or number two in the three areas of its title the entire time it’s been published.

Glenn: That’s impressive.

Dan: The other thing is this credibility factor and what it’s done for me to get in to teach at universities. Right from the beginning, if you’ve written a book that’s reasonably popular, it establishes your credentials that you know what the hell you’re talking about.

So, if I were to put a goal around money, the amount of money I made from royalties actually is pretty miniscule. But the amount of money I’ve made from training and consulting is way more than that. That financial aspect has been very successful.

Glenn: That’s a great point. The best advice I’ve received about book publishing came from agent Kevin Small at ResultSource, who told me, “A book isn’t a business; it’s a business card”.

Dan: Absolutely. The whole topic of book writing has changed so much, especially with self-publishing becoming so popular and e-books being popular, and an authors ability to market via the Internet. With all those changes, would I go to a publisher today? The answer would probably be no. It’s hard to justify the value of a publisher taking 85% of the revenue of the book.

Glenn: As a expert on process and the value created by various steps of the work process, it’s interesting to hear you say that you don’t see the value in the publisher’s ‘box’ of the process’, and that – if you were to re-engineer it for a second book – you’d drop it or do it yourself.

Dan: Right.

Glenn: I think a lot of other people have reached that same conclusion. Sounds like you should help publishers map their process!

Next week we’ll discuss what your process mapping sessions look like.

Learn more about Dan’s work and other resources in this interview below:


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