Bayeux tapestry


What we do at work is more complicated than we think. This is mostly because we don’t think about it. The only time we contemplate the tasks ahead of us is when we start a new job, or when we come to review what we do. Both of these can be quite daunting.

My involvement now is in helping people come to an understanding of what they do, in particular around helping them to identify and buy some new technology. It is vital before you shell out hard earned cash that you are clear about what it is that you need. If you are not then you may as well throw your money away.

A simple technique that I use, I refer to as as a Bayeux Tapestry. It’s very old school, involving Post-it notes, Sharpies, Sellotape and flip chart paper, yet very effective.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a long embroidered cloth which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror and ending with the Battle of Hastings, a part of history that all school children know. It is like a comic strip that tells a story and can be read as a flow of time from left to right.

The Bayeux Tapestry technique does something similar, though it doesn’t require 70 metres of cloth. A few sheets of flip-chart paper are stuck together and laid out on a table top. Them using Post-it notes and Sharpies you write the different components or activities that make up your processes on a specific coloured note and lay them in a timeline, left to right. Using Post-it notes means that you can move then about as you remember those things that had slipped your mind.

Then, using other coloured notes, identify those things that feed into the process, inputs, and those things that come out, outputs. Keep going until you run out of ideas or energy.

Using this approach gives you a proper understanding of what you do and can be used to identify what is needed in a new system, what is important for running the business and what parts of the process do not make any sense.

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