Sample Engagements – Additional Details
The descriptions below expand on many of the engagements on the summary page.
The engagements below were all conducted in the “flip chart” phase of ActionMap. The ActionMap Toolkit software reduces session time, because compared to using flip charts, the software speeds up the capture and organization of the information provided by session participants.
#1 – Physical Placement of Support Staff
Situation: A “new business onboarding” function for a regional utility was formed. This function focused on planning the installation of gas and electric lines for new housing tracts, shopping centers and industrial parks. The new business function combined people from marketing, engineering, and construction. Administrative support for the new function was provided by a central administrator. The central administrator and the marketing and engineering professionals had different ideas about where the administrative staff members should be seated, and about task priorities for those staff. All groups needed to create documentation for their new activities.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the parties did not have a clear understanding of the actual workflow that the administrative staff needed to support. Without that understanding they had to rely on knowledge of past workflows, which were not applicable, and informal negotiating tactics, which were colored by existing relationships and agendas.
Solution: We conducted two days of process mapping to create shared understanding of the overall workflow. We then provided twelve hours of training and support for the department staff members to create detailed process documentation. This produced clear shared understanding of the requirements of the work. That formed the basis for strong detailed agreement on physical work locations and priorities for the administrative support staff.
#2 – Information System Design with End User Team
Situation: Later, the utility in engagement #1 needed to develop an information system for their new business function. In addition to the marketing, engineering, and construction departments, there were three other support groups that would use the new system. Agreement was needed in a short time on many system design elements..
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the organization needed the information system quickly in order to reduce the increased workload of the new business function. Their standard approach would have been to submit a request to the central IT department, where it would have gone into a backlog, followed by a cycle of requirements- gathering interviews. Our client wanted to move more quickly than that.
Solution: We conducted five days of group workshops for process mapping and screen and report design for the new system, with all major groups represented. The outcome was firm cross-departmental agreement on the overall system workflow and high-level screen and reports layouts.
#3 – Telephone System Rollout / Client Buy-In
Situation: A large regional organization had an extensive internal telephone network, including desk sets, switches and transmission lines.
A new billing system for the internal network was about to be released, with plans for major enhancements to this new system being finalized. The systems manager wished to ensure that the new system installation would go smoothly.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was sheer complexity, resulting from a combination of scale and detail. The project involved several technical specialties. In addition to internal telephone operations, external services needed to be accounted for. The budgets for many departments were affected, so timely and accurate reporting was critical. A physical inventory of all telephone equipment needed to be taken across hundreds of locations, and there was no procedure for doing so.
Solution: We conducted two days of process mapping, evaluation and action planning with a combined business and technical team. We followed that with a one day group session focused on analyzing how the telephone switch technology could be used to provide detailed billing information. The outcome was agreement among the stakeholder groups on a high-level plan for system implementation, along with detailed understanding of the technology-to-business interface.
#4 – Field / Headquarters Team Building
Situation: The materials management function of a large organization was distributed among corporate headquarters and two levels of field locations. Over a billion dollars a year of inventory passed through this function. Over a hundred million dollars a year of purchases were being made outside the standard purchasing/inventory process, in order to provide better internal customer service. Staff had identified many opportunities for improved cost control.
The organization was undergoing a major restructuring. Field personnel were insecure about their positions, and did not have a clear sense of the value added to the process by headquarters staff.
Solution: A one day session for cross-education and team building among headquarters and field staff, using process mapping and evaluation.
#5 – Interdepartmental Communications and Coordination
Situation: A payroll and personnel department in a local agency shared and exchanged information in several areas, including business activities that require timely operation. The staffs of these departments had limited detailed understanding about each other’s jobs. Numerous regular information errors were being passed back and forth between the two departments. Work was frequently rushed or done in redundant ways in order to meet deadlines.
The departments’ managers were on poor speaking terms. Their hidden agenda issue was competition for scarce additional headcount, complicated by disagreement over the appropriate location of a key business function. The clerical person in charge of this key function required information from both departments, was greatly over worked, and suffering from significant job stress.
Solution: One day of cross-education using process mapping and evaluation helped the departments see where they needed to interact effectively, and where they could operate independently. The management issue was resolved a few weeks after the session.
#6 – Team Building and System Installation Planning
Situation: A newly staffed organizational group was about to undergo an automation project. The staff members were unused to automated systems, and unfamiliar with each other’s work styles. Few individual staff members, nor the supervisor, had a clear, overall understanding the business function that was being automated, or of each person’s role in it.
Solution: One and a half days of process mapping and evaluation, for cross-education, team building, and development planning
#7 – Identifying Strategic Metrics
Situation: A division of an international manufacturing company was experiencing severe competitive pressures. In the annual planning cycle, the senior management team of this division was tasked to produce a strategic business plan according to a detailed format.
At the start of the meeting, the vice president in charge rejected the planning format and called for the identification of specific performance metrics that could be used to address short-term business needs.
Solution: The detailed annual reporting format was dropped, and the ActionMap method was used, focusing on mapping and evaluation. Three new strategic metrics were identified, along with action paths for bringing them to bear on the current business problem.
#8 – Outsourcing and Automation
Situation: As part of its service offerings, an internal consulting department began providing a small product distribution function. Over time, the distribution function grew into a separate business activity, requiring two full time staff, who primarily performed administrative tasks.
The department decided to outsource the business activity, with the requirement that the outsourcing service should provide an information system to allow improved product ordering capability from within the original organization. The consulting department needed to develop a specification for the business activity to be performed, and for the associated information system requirements.
Solution: One and a half days of process mapping and evaluation. Mapping was done for an ideal future process, and the evaluations focused on problems and opportunities with the move to outsourcing. The session document was used as a detailed requirements statement in the outsourcing project.
#9 – Mission Statement
Situation: A staff department with significant financial and functional oversight responsibility decided to increase its customer services. A planning session was scheduled for this purpose.
Shortly after the meeting got underway, the department’s management team learns that after having been hinted at, a major reorganization of the department and its main peer department was definitely being proposed by upper management.
The team elected to change the focus of the meeting to produce a new mission statement with economic arguments for maintaining the current organization structure.
Solution: The meeting shifted to high level activity mapping of the department and its main peer department, along with evaluations of these processes, focusing on measurements of value-producing actions and interactions. These were then summarized in a final draft mission statement that was produced in the session by the end of the day.
#10 – Product Development Planning
Situation: In a major high-tech manufacturer, the primary product of a product marketing department and a development division was entering the final phases of its still valuable product life-cycle. Some of the department supervisors and senior staff members were new in their positions. Coordination between organization units occured only when called for by specific projects. There was no detailed 12-month operating plan. The department manager was going on an extended temporary assignment.
Solution: One day of process mapping and evaluation, focusing on the identification of critical milestones and detailed opportunities for improved inter-section coordination.
#11 – System Requirements and High Level Design
Situation: A manufacturer with a large product line decides to develop a new order entry system, to support telephone orders from customers. The system will utilize new end user interface technologies, and will replace three existing order entry systems. Several other departments, from Product Marketing to Contracts Administration, have requirements that need to be reflected in the system design.
Solution: One day of process mapping and evaluation, including mapping the major input/output functions of the system, to identify screens and reports for subsequent detailed design.
#12 – Receivables Cycle Time Reduction
Situation: The senior management of a major publishing house identified that the organization had a much longer receivables cycle than its competitors. The publisher had divided its business into commercial and consumer lines, and used two different computer systems, both of which were antiquated. Several departments, including sales, order processing, advertisement production, billing, accounting and audit had interests in changing the current business operation. Shared understanding among the departments of each other’s activities was low.
Solution: One day of process mapping and evaluation, focused on cross education, and on gaining consensus on and prioritizing the major opportunities for process improvement.
#13 – City Planning Department Productivity
Situation: An “edge” city of a major metropolitan area had adopted policies to encourage rapid development. The cycle time for planning approvals through the Planning and Development department had increased significantly, leading to developer complaints. Over two thirds of the department staff’s time was being spent doing research in an inappropriately organized manual filing system, or in making presentations to the city’s numerous planning review commissions. The planning approval process impacted the Public Works, Transportation, and Police and Fire departments. The Planning Department also needed to coordinate, obtain approvals, and file reports with nearly a dozen local, state, and federal agencies.
Solution: One day of mapping and evaluation to identify action plan titles and plan outlines. An additional half day of interviews, and a half day of individual work finalizing detailed action plans from group session draft notes.
#14 – Food Products Order Fulfillment
Situation: A major food products producer was planning for long term growth in a highly competitive market. Customer orders were being placed with a variety of detailed specifications that change from one order to the next. Price negotiation, short notice delivery, stringent product quality, and customized packaging and delivery were part of normal operations. Order fulfillment activity from stock picking through shipping needed to be scheduled and planned in detail, with frequently changing priorities that forced schedule and planning revisions. There were few documented procedures. Computer systems support was outdated. The departments involved were only familiar with their own segments of the operation. Key people with critical knowledge of the process were recognized as being severely overworked.
Solution: Two separate days of process mapping and evaluation, to cross-educate, identify major improvement opportunities, and to develop consensus on and prioritize those opportunities.
#15 – Reorganize Administrative Support
Situation: The executive management staff of a six-hundred person division in a large financial services company wanted to improve administrative support. The executive staff consisted of managers, professionals, and administrative assistants. The majority of the executive staff workload consisted of functional oversight of the operating departments, and running projects, conducting studies, and preparing and distributing information at the request of the division vice president. In addition, the executive staff performed a number of regular operational functions, in which the professionals and support staff played key roles.
The openly identified issues were stress among support staff members due to overwork, and unpredictable and uneven availability of administrative support assistance. Other issues were personality conflicts, competition for resources, supervisor/support reporting relationships, and the distribution of responsibilities among the managers, professionals, and support staff. Finally, the department was making the transition to a new vice president, and all staff members were uncertain about their positions
Solution: Eight concurrent projects over 12 weeks to map, evaluate, and create detailed improvement plans, including the development of detailed procedures, for separate administrative functions that would be required in any likely new form of the organization. Approximately two days of facilitated ActionMap method operation per project, in half day increments, with another two days of overall program management.
#16 – Worldwide Data Center Consolidation
Situation: Through the use of telecommunications technologies, a large international energy corporation had physically consolidated two dozen data centers into a half a dozen. The old, smaller data centers addressed the needs of particular client segments, and the new, larger data centers still to a large extent each provided specialized services to different client segments.
Several key general services provided by the data centers needed to be standardized across all the new, larger data centers. The supervisors of the new, larger data centers had previously been supervisors in the smaller ones, where they operated their own version of procedures for these key general services. In addition to addressing the different client segment needs, there were several other activity areas within the new data centers that the key general services needed to be coordinated with.
Solution: Four two-day analysis, design, and action planning sessions for the Production Change Control, Job Scheduling, and User Support functions involved in the data center consolidation.
#17 – Purchasing Process Improvement
Situation: An electronics equipment manufacturer had rapidly expanded, developing a large number of vendor relationships. Vendor management, particularly with respect to prompt payment, had become an important concern. Certain types of payment approvals fell between the cracks or bounced back and forth between the purchasing and payables departments. A large number of purchases were made outside of normal purchasing procedures. Members of the purchasing and accounts payables departments were unfamiliar with the other departments procedures, and for the most part, had never met face to face.
Solution: A one day process mapping and evaluation session, to cross-educate, identify major improvement opportunities, and to develop consensus and prioritize those opportunities.
#18 – Citizens’ Task Force on City Finances
Situation: A medium-sized city was facing a serious revenue shortfall, due to state budget allocations and recession-based sales tax decreases. Previous measures to increase revenues were recently defeated in a heated political battle with local citizens’ groups.
The city formed a Citizen’s Task Force to find acceptable revenue strategies and create the core of a consensus for approving them. The Task Force included many of the most politically active unelected local leaders, including those who defeated the past attempts to increase revenues.
51 people were selected, and assigned to 3 sub-committees, each with a major area of responsibility. The Task Force was charged to produce twice the amount of combined increase revenues or decreased costs as were defeated earlier, and given a 12 week time table to produce a detailed recommendation for the city council.
Solution: ActionMap provided support functions for the 12 week Task Force activity, including a) design of the 12 week meeting plan, along with agendas and procedures for communication and decision support and b) training and support for the Task Force member to use ActionMap methods to map and evaluate the different functional areas of City operations. The work was completed on schedule and three months later the City Council accepted the Task Force recommendations.
#19 – Worldwide Order Fulfillment Systems Architecture
Situation: An international high tech manufacturer had vendors, factories, and distribution centers in all major world markets. A large new product line was being introduced. Competitive pressure required a significant reduction in order fulfillment cycle time. Seven computer systems, none of which provided complete order fulfillment functionality, were used in five geographic regions. These systems were maintained and operated by people from six different nationalities.
Integration and enhancement of the existing computer and network functionality was critical to meeting the order fulfillment cycle time goals. Each of the technical groups had its own agenda for developing the appropriate system to do the work.
Solution: A three-day strategic planning/team building session among the systems managers, resulting in the identification and recommendation of a common, agreed upon 18 month development plan.
#20 – Nationwide Multi-Unit Retail Expansion Strategy
Situation: A major department store chain, under direction of its parent company, planned to triple its number of stores in the next ten years. The overall development and expansion function required close coordination among five separate departments, which in turn reported to four different senior managers.
Existing expansion strategies could provide no more than one third of the required annual growth rate. Communication among the different departments was strained due to historical factors and a current business downturn, which also dampened interest in strategic planning for high growth.
Solution: Nine days of strategic planning sessions over four months, using ActionMap methods, in conjunction with parallel efforts in two related teams. The result was interdepartmental consensus on a detailed recommendation for a new organizational design for the overall expansion activity.
#21 – Activity Based Costing
Situation: A major public utility was undergoing an extensive reorganization and reengineering in response to current and potential regulatory and competitive pressures and trends. A pilot Activity Based Costing project was being launched for the customer billing activity, with the goal of producing guidelines for a following reengineering project for the same activity.
The customer billing activity was spread over half a dozen departments, under several senior managers, and employed several hundred people, with responsibility for several million customer relationships in four major customer categories.
After preliminary project plans had been completed, the project team had six weeks to create, validate and add survey information to process maps and activity outlines for the entire customer billing function. The maps and outlines would be used both for the Activity Based Costing project and for the reengineering work that was to follow it.
Solution: One day of ActionMap training for project team members followed by one day of detailed project design planning. Project team members created first-level maps which covered the entire focus activity. Starting with those maps, the ActionMap team led four days of process mapping and outlining, with only brief evaluating, to map the entire customer billing activity in three to six levels of outline detail.
#22 – Distribution Capacity Reengineering
Situation: A large regional natural gas utility had bought out two smaller competitors. Senior management ordered the reengineering of the scheduling and control functions for the new, combined gas distribution network. A project team had interviewed all the experts and managers responsible for this activity.
This experts group was distributed over nine departments and reported to five vice presidents. There was disagreement about the scope of the scheduling and control activity, and whether or not it should even be considered an integrated function for reengineering purposes. The project team was approaching a major milestone in their reengineering project: the creation of the current process model.
Solution: A one day session with the experts and managers of the activity, to define scope, identify major sub-processes, and capture and prioritize evaluations. One day of ActionMap training for the client project team members. Three days of abbreviated mapping with the project team members, based on the earlier interview information, to design a sub-process structure to organize all the tasks in the scope area. Five days of final model document creation, which included coordinating remotely with the client project team members for drafting, review, and update.