By the sheer number of tools out there, and symbols to chose from it would appear that having more to chose from is a good thing. It seems like it is everywhere else, more movies, songs, theatres, cars, boats, homes … you get the idea.
However in process mapping that may not be such a good thing. When we learn a new language we have to understand the grammar, words, pronunciation, tenses etc. When we have enough knowledge, we start to have a breakthrough. We can understand what others say, and reach that eureka moment when we respond by talking to them in the new language.
This is an exciting moment, for now we are participating in the communication process. So what has all this to do with process mapping you might ask.
Well if we use symbols without a pre agreed grammar, if we lay them out in different directions, if we put different detail and labels on them, the results are inevitable. They are hard to read and inconsistent.
This week we had an important meeting with a new prospective customer. We mapped their existing processes into TaskMap format and when completed, found ourselves defending why the maps read top to bottom right to left, why all the role information was contained in the task and why we didn’t use swimlanes to lay them out.
Sometimes, we forget that we already have the grammar built into the system, because we use it all the time. If someone is used to using another language, they will want to relate the new language to the one they already know. Doesn’t matter that it’s easier, the point is it is different.
So next time you take a look at a TaskMap with a client or staff member for the first time, don’t forget to explain how this relates to other means of communicating processes. Then, and probably only then, will the lights go on, and that eureka moment occurs.