Browse courses

Nobody wants to get bogged down in labyrinthine processes.

Sometimes, the succession of steps to get things done within a business develops over time, as more steps and safeguards get added over time. In other cases, a process might be put in place that already isn’t fit for purpose – leading to people ignoring links in the chain altogether.

Adhering to processes is important, whether they’re safety critical or simply a matter of efficiency. But it’s equally important to ensure that, as a business or organisation grows, the processes it uses are adapted to be as effective and agile as possible, and not simply scaled up along with it. A helpful tool to manage this is process mapping – and the benefits it offers can ripple right across a business.

The secret is standardisation

Above all else, processes provide consistency. Codifying processes for carrying out any kind of work ensures that all work adheres to the same standards, goes through the same checks, and maintains the same level of quality. While many people are often frustrated by the processes they encounter on a daily basis, feeling that they are laborious, good processes are more efficient because they reduce errors and oversights. The cost of spending extra time carrying out processes should be offset by the time saved from having to redo work, or fix the mistakes and damage that occur from failures in the process.

The value of processes is most obvious in industries where they are safety-critical. In the airline industry, for example, processes such as checklists exist to eliminate errors, and improve problem solving in stressful situations. Processes for communications between air traffic control and pilots exist to prevent miscommunication and conflicts that could, in the worst cases, lead to deaths. The language used by air traffic controllers for instance was only standardised after a miscommunication led to an aircraft taking off from Tenerife when another was still parked on the runway, leading to the worst accident in aviation history.

This might seem like an extreme example, and one that isn’t applicable across industries. Yet we saw a similar issue recently in an industry that has almost nothing to do with aviation: professional football. A mistake by the video assistant referees (VAR) in a high-profile game between Liverpool and Tottenham led to the wrong decision being communicated to the officials in the stadium. Had they learned the decades-old lessons from the airline industry and used standardised language – ‘goal’ or ‘no goal’ rather than ‘check complete’, for instance – this mistake could have been easily avoided.

Making processes work for people

Equally important are the processes that have simply become so lengthy and divorced from their original purpose that people begin to ignore them. In most cases, the original reason these processes were implemented will still stand: a process of some kind is still necessary, and all or most of it may still be valid. But by failing to update it, train it, or reiterate its importance, the value of the process has been lost. As a result, people may skip parts that are still important – or by skipping parts that aren’t, may lose faith in the value of such processes in general.

This is something we often see levelled at health & safety policies. Many people feel that health & safety is largely a matter of common sense, and that policies designed to protect people can be excessively long, laborious or cumbersome. This often isn’t the case, and it is rather that people do not appreciate the value of these policies, as they’ve simply ‘gotten away with’ doing their work unsafely in the past. In these cases, businesses have the opposite problem: convincing people of the value of processes when individuals or other businesses they have worked for may have ignored them.

What all of this speaks to is the need to optimise processes, ensuring they are only as complicated as they need to be. Each process should have as few links in the chain as possible, demanding only the actions that are required of people to complete it, and minimising the potential for oversights, errors, or breakdowns in communication. Perhaps most importantly, it needs to be clear to everyone what the value of the process is – both in how it is explained and trained, and how this is evidenced by the success of the process itself.

How process mapping adds value

The value of process mapping is in building processes that conform to a simple four-step cycle, known as PDCA: plan, do, check, and act. With this method, processes are not just planned out and then instigated, but then checked and improved upon, until they are both as lean and effective as possible. This journey doesn’t end when your key processes have been identified and redesigned. Instead, you’ll be aiming to both reinforce them and re-evaluate them, making changes to ensure they continue to follow best practices, and don’t lapse or become more byzantine over time.

This approach confers numerous benefits. Creating simple processes and communicating these to employees gives them a clarity of purpose, making it evident exactly what the rationale and end goal behind a process is. This also makes them more efficient, as they should take less time and be better trained and understood, saving money and reducing frustration. The greater agility these faster processes provide can also allow you to react to problems or opportunities more quickly, increasing your resilience and capacity for growth.

Conducting this through the use of process mapping software lets you track the changes you make, logging the evolution of all of your processes over time. This applies a rigorous and data-driven approach to something that is often informal, and develops naturally over time. While the inherited knowledge that brings about processes isn’t necessarily bad, it can often stand to be improved – keeping the aspects of a process that have been proven to work, and removing unnecessary complexities.


The stakes for following and optimising processes will vary between businesses, but the principles and benefits are the same. Processes are often things that fall into place without any real structure, and fail to account for changing circumstances. By learning and applying the skills of process mapping, organisations can take a more rigorous approach to everyday processes – ensuring they are sensible, efficient, and bought into by every employee.

Would you like to improve the process management skills in your business?

Working in partnership with you, we provide insight and assistance to help you achieve your development goals. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, build training plans across multiple teams, or need bespoke training solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

Contact Us

Mark Fryer

6th February 2024

Want 10% off your first scheduled course?

Sign up to our newsletter and receive 10% off any of our scheduled courses as a thank you! Our monthly newsletters are filled with features, advice and information about our forthcoming courses.