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Detailed simplicity: A path to process engagement and success

This post originally appeared in the Simplifying Processes blog by Matt Spears.

What is detailed simplicity?

Detailed simplicity is a method of organizing process information to maximize its readability and usefulness. In other words, it is a way to combat the all-too-familiar spaghetti-style process maps or the seemingly endless standard operating procedure manuals (which are typically a mash-up of policy statements, process standards, and procedure information).

Why push back against these traditional methods of sharing process information?

Well, at the end of the day, they discourage engagement. This matters because organizations should desire to have their processes positively impact the way they deliver value. For this to happen, process doers must reference and follow company standards.

If process standards are presented in ways that discourage engagement, then organizations can expect that process doers will avoid using those standards at all costs – even if that means longer processing time and increased defects due to trial and error or crowdsourcing of information – negative outcomes that flow downstream to the customer.

“If process standards are presented in ways that discourage engagement, then organizations can expect that process doers will avoid using those standards at all costs.”

By employing detailed simplicity, organizations can create processes that are both useful and engaging. Useful, in the sense that they contain all the information necessary to complete the process successfully. And engaging, in the sense that the information is presented in a way that is simple to read and comprehend.

So, how do you achieve detailed simplicity?

  • First and foremost, scope the process down to the maximum level of standardization. This will be key in limiting the number of exceptions, decisions, and parallel paths that need to be addressed during the mapping exercise.
  • Keep the main thing the main thing by mapping how the process flows most of the time. This is sometimes referred to as the 80/20 rule or the “happy path” concept. Do not worry – we will deal with exceptions to the majority below.
  • Separate process activities (high-level descriptions of what is happening at that point in the process) and tasks (low-level instructions for how to complete the activity in question). Your process flow should be made up of activities only, with tasks grouped and embedded in the activities they expound.
  • Address any exceptions to the majority using the most suitable and reader-friendly technique. This is one where the tactics will vary depending on the process platform you have at your disposal.
  • Get your process doers thinking “action” by using verbs at the beginning of your process titles, activity names, and task statements.
  • Chunk large processes into smaller sub-processes and map the relationships of the sub-processes into a value stream segment. This makes it easier for the process doer to understand the process context before drilling down to find specific instructions.
  • Make transactional-level detail available “on-demand” by embedding or linking to comprehensive work instruction documents.

Complex process maps may already be used within your organization. However, if you desire to change the way value is created for your customers, the front-line process doers must engage with your process content effectively and consistently.

Are your front-line workers easily engaging and understanding your process content?

Complex maps are not the way to create this much-needed engagement.

Instead, we must seek to present process information in a cogent way that draws users in and provides clear answers to process questions. In other words, we must seek to create detailed processes that are simple to understand.



Watch this 17-minute Nintex Promapp® on-demand video demonstration to see how quickly and easily you can create consistent, compliant, and easy-to-understand process maps.



Matt Spears

Matt Spears is a process management professional with a passion for uncovering and simplifying business processes. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, he works with Nintex clients in North America, helping them generate more customer value through documenting, managing, and improving their business processes utilizing Nintex Promapp®.

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