Designing Process for Startup Success
Why invest in process design? Your clients. When your team is working in sync with minimal obstacles, your customers experience smoother, more consistent interactions along your service path. It's not about achieving perfection; it's about having a plan so that team members can find their way through the chaotic moments to a clearly defined target. The design process is about less redundancy, higher efficiency and confident employees that turn out great products, resulting in bigger profit margins and happy customers that keep coming back for more.
Benchmarking, Contextual Inquiry, Stakeholder Interviews, Task Modeling, Process Mapping/ Modeling, Process Design, Affinity Mapping, Conflict Management, Communication Facilitation, Report Writing & Design.
Improved collective understanding of department roles and needs for clearer hand-offs and workflows; Visual Process Map indicating a potential 50% increase in efficiency; Report on company pain points, team feedback & suggestions for next steps.
I was approached by the leadership team of a San Diego-based eLearning company to create a process map to be used as a company-wide visual tool that could help team members efficiently find their way through the development process and increase understanding of cross-departmental functions. As a startup that had experienced rapid growth over the previous year, the team needed a structured plan that would get all team members working on the same page and prepare them for future expansion. Working closely with the VP of Product and his team, I began the project with a process prototype they had put together in the form of an outline.
Determined to build process model with and not for the team, I put together a plan to engage as many team members as possible, covering all departments, Executive Leadership, Sales, Instructional Design, Project Management, Design and Development. I began by benchmarking various mapping models and collecting available data and documents from each team, and then scheduled a series of stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiries as well as time for immersed observation.
I interviewed team members individually and in groups of multiple configurations to cover all points of agreement and disagreement.
Once all teams had been interviewed, I organized the comments into an affinity map that uncovered several primary themes, helping to identify and prioritize issues according to the number of people affected and perceived levels of urgency.
As I collected input from the various departments, I began to sketch out the process so that I may visualize and share rough, low-fi models as early as possible. These sketches acted as rapid prototypes to be tested during early interviews and became more detailed and accurate with each iteration.
Both the process model and the map design evolved over a few weeks. Each round of feedback added more detail in the design elements, adding clarification to communication design. As the tool became clearer, the process became more defined and easier to see. This visual clarity led to deeper discovery of the the process flow, departmental hand-offs/ responsibilities, communication chains and inter-departmental relationships.
Each department has it's own swim lane so a team member can look at his/her own department, follow it through to the end and quickly see how their tasks and responsibilities relate to those of other departments.
While drawing the process accurately presented a challenge, the real work was finding agreement between all departments. With the company split between New York and San Diego, an all-hands meeting was not an option. Therefore a great deal of work went into tracking and addressing inter-department conflicts and facilitating productive communication to find solutions. In the end, all departments agreed to the final results. Both the map of the general process and one key sub process was printed and hung on the wall as a visual guide. Team member collaboration throughout the project, set the stage for change management, earning buy-in and establishing champions for implementation.
I updated leadership with a series of informal reports throughout the project by way of Slack, emails and photos of sketches and affinity mapping results.
A formal report showed the results and suggestions from members of the entire company as well as my own recommendations for how to use and proceed with the research.
As I had come to the end of my contract, I left the research in the hands of the company leaders with a plan for a 50% improvement in process efficiency and some general suggestions for a change management plan. As the process was still a prototype and required time for testing, I recommended a checkpoint in three months to measure progress and work through any unexpected challenges.