Cross-functional Process Maps Using Flowchart Diagrams

“People respond more positively when ideas, solutions or products are presented in a way that aligns with their thinking preferences.”  – Whole Brain

Focused and organized effort, intelligent inputs, expert stewardship, constant assessments, and stellar leadership represent key attributes that help shape and mold modern business processes. In addition, such processes must remain sensitive to market forces, the demands of customers, emerging trends in segments and sub-segments of major markets, inputs from vendors, elements that animate the macro-economic climate, and more. Bearing these factors in mind, strategists and thinkers have promoted the concept of cross-functional process maps, because these devices “provide insight into processes, help teams brainstorm ideas for process improvement, increase communication, provide process documentation, identify bottlenecks, and locate areas of repetition and delays.” Indeed, these visual manifestations of organizational functions (and processes) have emerged as crucial enablers that allow the modern organization to delineate roles and responsibilities, promote the idea of collaboration, encourage the prototyping of new systems, respond swiftly to evolving requirements of customers, and compete effectively in densely contested market spaces.

Swimlane diagrams, when expressed through flowcharts, typically “group components into a distinct sequence, or lane, in the visual presentation of workflow and process charts. These diagrams distinguish capabilities, roles, and responsibilities for each sub-process in business process workflows.” As manifestations of cross-functional process maps, swimlane diagrams allow modern retailers, for instance, to connect work processes and business systems with individuals, work groups, departments, and functional heads. Further, these diagrams help enlighten functional connections between product purchase departments, inventory control mechanisms, customer service groups, accounting work teams, and other business processes. The emergent multi-level diagram thus spells out the components of complex business operations with marvelous clarity, thereby generating scope for intelligent interventions, system refreshes, and locating avenues for new profit. Further, the modern retail industry could utilize cross-functional process maps to drive process improvements, thereby delivering enhanced value to stakeholders.

The act of designing and evaluating cross-functional process maps with a keen eye empowers creators and reviewers to detect various grades of bottlenecks (or sites of degradation) in process functionality, while turning the spotlight on responsibilities entrusted to different teams and departments. In enabling such scenarios, flowchart diagrams serve as diagnostic tools that promote analyses, encourage the re-thinking of process mechanics, and help upgrade the quality of modern business processes. This implies flowcharts, when paired with human intelligence and ingenuity, directly create an impact on business bottom lines. This is significant because every enterprise pursues the profit motive and must investigate/implement every tool that assists in generating higher levels of quarterly and annual profits. Further, analysts may elect to examine individual sections of cross-functional process maps in isolation, with the intent to extract maximum mileage from the moving parts of processes, systems, and sub-systems.

Intelligently formulated cross-functional process maps allow process owners and operators to “view the relationships between inputs and outputs inside a process and to identify key decision points.” Such ability remains crucial because it enables businesses to calibrate efforts and inputs in tune with the desired forms of output. For instance, operators of commercial airline systems could utilize these process maps as part of efforts to elevate the quality of services offered to passengers, boost profitability from in-flight sales of merchandise, improve aircraft turn-around times at airports, and ideate on new sources of revenue generation. In addition, process maps could assist operators to reinforce key decision points with multiple lines of convergences emanating from decision makers, evaluators, feedback loops, and designers of travel experiences. Further, insights generated from interactions between operating elements of these process maps could power new refinements in service standards, thereby sharpening the competitive edge of airline operators.

Resource utilization must figure prominently when designers set about creating cross-functional process maps. For instance, manufacturers of engineering products must define high percentages of resource utilization at every stage of the engineering goods manufacturing process. This stance must be mated to quality control standards to ensure the optimal use of available resources, guarantee customer satisfaction, and protect the corporate reputation (and market standing) of the manufacturing concern. In addition, cross-functional process maps must outline quality benchmarks that apply to parts manufacturing sub-processes nested inside the engineering goods manufacturing process. The downstream benefits of such design include a high degree of predictability in product delivery schedules, a minimal wastage of resources, and notable success in ongoing campaigns that seek to optimize the structure (and flow) of business processes.

Ideal representations of cross-functional process maps could seek to simplify stages, combine sub-stages, or eliminate certain steps inside a modern process. This plan requires designers and process owners to study the expanse of processes in detail, find the locations that can help execute said actions, and thereafter design a compressed representation of the process. A section of the illustration could house information that quantifies the gains registered through these actions, thereby enabling process owners to gain visibility into fresh improvements. However, these actions must attract curated efforts to ensure outcomes remain constant and adhere to the founding vision that promoted the creation of a certain process. That said; designers could work to refine certain process mechanics through means such as substitution and division into new sub-processes. Such a stance ensures they work within the confines of the stated dynamics of processes without imposing additional costs on process owners or the sponsor organization.

The Rummler-Brache methodology empowers organizations “to build systems of leading and lagging performance metrics that trigger actions for continuous improvements. When done right, carefully chosen measures serve as the single most powerful driver of an organization’s effectiveness.” In line with this statement, organizations could deploy cross-functional process maps that decompose an expanse of stages and sub-stages into a sequence of serialized phases. These include steps designed to plan the performance of a system, project definitions (such as goals, roles, and boundaries), multiple aspects of an implementation strategy, performance management actions, among others. Key intents resident in such process maps include the mandate to drive efficiency inside processes, examining process mechanics from multiple perspectives, allotting ownership to diverse groups of operators, a constant appraisal of process situations, survey of process outcomes vis-à-vis the stated objectives of an organization, and more.

These reflections outline the enormous possibilities modern businesses could leverage through the agency of cross-functional process maps. The act of re-engineering each component of such maps can point to significant gains that may accrue to a variety of commercial, industrial, scientific, and technical processes. Additionally, such maps empower organizations to affix responsibility for, and ownership of processes, thereby ensuring significant spurts in terms of return on investments. In enabling such scenarios, these illustrations spur the attainment of organizational objectives, create scope for developing the innards of newer extended processes, and promote original thinking in process design.

Interestingly, the cross-functional flavor of process maps also impinges directly on the performance of human resources employed by an organization. An effective implementation of such maps helps decimate silos and promotes collaboration across work teams, thereby creating the grounds for sustained performance by human resources. Such maps also promote the objectives of developing quality training and instruction modules inside the modern organization. Further, flowchart-based diagrams can assist in driving process overhauls undertaken in response to changes in market environments. These benefits exert a direct impact on the effectiveness of modern organizations, thereby positioning them for maximum impact on their chosen fields of operation.

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