Imagine the scene: You’re just about to start the analysis for a project which involves a large contact centre employing hundreds of people. The call centre manager hands you a dusty folder marked Procedure Guide. “Here you go, this is exactly how we do things here.” says the manager, “this will save you interviewing our busy front-line workers!”.
I suspect many of us have experienced this situation (although it’s far more likely to be some kind of electronic repository rather than a dusty manual) and when it happens we try and hold back a wry smile. Procedure guides are extremely useful artefacts, but so often they are not properly managed and maintained and they quickly fall into disrepair. In some cases, the work that is conducted on the shop floor often bares only a passing resemblance to the ‘official’ processes, and in many cases there are unofficial ‘enhancements’, ‘interpretations’ and ‘workarounds’ that have crept in over the years.
With this in mind, when we are carrying out business analysis and improvement work it’s important that we understand how the work really works. Elicitation techniques such as observation, apprenticing, scenario analysis and many others can help here. If the process hasn’t been well-managed and well-maintained it’s highly likely that we’ll find variation. Differences between teams, and even individual workers may have emerged. There may be entire new ‘steps’ in the process that have been created, or steps might have been removed, re-ordered or changed in some other way.