What's the best way to quickly gain alignment on complex processes or issues? Draw a picture.

By Cal Sloan

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It is really worth more when you think about it. In today’s world we document processes and procedures to codify what is supposed to be happening. People don’t read, remember or follow the written word. We have workflow systems to manage us through processes and yet there is still a lot of misunderstanding, noncompliance, and brokenness. Draw a picture.

In a recent engagement, a client was not aligned or clear on the sales process. This was evidenced by talking to a wide variety of stakeholders involved in sales and delivery. We drew a one page picture called “Land the Business”. It showed the sales stages, key qualification criteria, stage exit criteria, sequencing and roles. The review of the picture led to spirited discussions regarding qualification questions, stage exit criteria, exceptions conditions, lost versus deferred opportunities, and responsibilities (customer, sales rep, sales ops, etc.). The picture was not perfect and needed updating. But at the end of the day all parties were clear on the process and completely aligned.

The success of that exercise led to another one page picture for the “Product Build & Installation”. This was for an LED light manufacturing company and the build to order process called for a first article install and light optimization prior to full product build and customer delivery and signoff. The review of that process identified and cleared up several more role/responsibility issues and process gaps.

Guideline to drawing pictures:

  • Keep it to one page…even if it has to be a really big page
  • Use whatever tool will meet your needs - PowerPoint, Enterprise Architect, Excel, Visio, etc.
  • Show process steps, roles, organizational entities, etc. to tell your story
  • Add graphics or clip art where possible or appropriate
  • To spur discussion, color various elements to show a heat map of issues

Pictures are never right the first time so don’t overdo on the first pass. Review with stakeholders will clear up shortcomings quickly and those discussions are a large part of the resulting value.

Now go. Draw a picture, make sense of the world, and solve some problems along the way.