There are so many ways to gather information these days that it’s easy for us to get lost in the detail. When it comes to looking at and understanding processes we have the same challenge – how to wade through that sea of information and data to find the truth.
The short answer is that you will never understand everything and you shouldn’t expect to. It is ridiculous for us as process analysts to walk onto a project and set about trying to learn every piece of information on a subject that has taken years to create and which sits within the heads of numerous subject matter experts. To quote a sage friend of mine, we need to take the approach of “how much do you need to know, to know that you know enough”.
Whilst workshops can have value, and depth interviews, well, add depth, I am a great fan of walking the process. This involves very simply following the flow of information through the process – walking to each person or department and asking them to take me through their work. Information will always disappear into systems and pop out somewhere else, but we can still follow that too.
What walking the process achieves for me is to build a visual picture of flows in my head. It also helps me to build relationships with the staff involved in the process and to explain what I am trying to achieve. There is something about walking the process that helps the staff to build a sense of trust and to speak openly about the work they perform and the issues they face. Putting the same staff in a workshop environment creates a totally different set of group dynamics where staff may not be so open with their thoughts.
So as a starting point, do not underestimate the power of walking the process. It’s an ideal first step.