One of the things I really love at work is when I get out the Post-it notes, flip charts and Sharpies. I carry them around in a small toolbox ready for any opportunity to hold a workshop. They come into their own when we need to map a process and that’s when you’ll see me sellotaping pieces of flip chart paper in a line along the desks to create a timeline. I call it a Bayeux tapestry.
So it was when I was working with a client who was thinking about implementing a purchase order module, one they already owned but had never got around to implementing. The consensus was that we would start with a department that had simple purchasing requirements and leave the more difficult ones to later. The IT team was chosen as the easy end of the opportunity as they had limited requirements, always bought from the office and had a systems way of thinking.
It was with optimism then that we got together to map the purchase process out. It wasn’t going to take long as their needs were simple and well understood.
There is an old saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy and it wasn’t long until the simple became much more complicated. Issues such as what happens if some of the goods don’t arrive, goods need to be returned, goods are ordered without approval (or indeed enough budget) or invoices received that weren’t expected all added to the complexity.
After about ninety minutes the paper was filled with Post-it notes from one end to the other. What had seemed simple at the outset turned out to be quite complicated. The principle was simple but the detail made it so much more entangled.
This is why the process was so worthwhile and rewarding, at least from my perspective. In truth everyone’s job looks simple from the outside but when you get to understand it you realise why they earn their money.