“What lies beneath” … the power of Process Visibility

May 2010
Issue 07


In order to deliver on calls for increased cost effectiveness – and the mantra “to do more with less” – managers need a better understanding of how business is run … the basic business process. Also, to implement corporate-wide growth strategies, the demand for cross-functional cooperation and integration has never been greater.

A key to achieving success in such endeavors is a clear sightline of the business. We call this “Process Visibility.”

Process Visibility – What is it?

Process Visibility is a methodology that simplifies and makes visible all the key processes, activities, tasks, and supporting resources that are essential for business success.

Process Visibility is also a presentation style that can help internal and external stakeholders quickly see and understand the business at a high level. This allows companies to collaborate more effectively to solve problems, to increase speed of service to stakeholders, and to enhance the use of valuable support resources and tools.

Process Visibility serves as a top level “process architecture” that helps you organize and present valuable content to multiple stakeholders at multiple levels of detail. It establishes a method and view to see the entire organization at a high level (40,000 ft.), group or functional level (10,000 ft.), team process level (1,000 ft.), and worker task level (ground zero). Similar to popular GPS mapping tools, it allows you to zoom in and zoom out to see the company at different levels of context, and context setting is critical to problem solving and collaboration among groups.

This work is not as much about detailed business process re-engineering or Six Sigma process mapping as it is about creating the high-level visibility necessary to set context for a common language for communication, cross-functional problem solving, training and on-boarding, and innovation.

How does this work?

The Process Visibility methodology creates a high-level framework of different process views as depicted in the following chart:


The methodology prescribes a deliberate and systematic rigor to viewing and analyzing business processes and then presents business at the optimal level of detail to facilitate common understanding (at the Phase and Activity levels) and deeper analysis (at the Task and Step levels).

How can Process Visibility help drive value?

Following are some examples of how Process Visibility has helped our clients to see their business more clearly and to set the stage for solving problems, innovating, and executing important strategies:

Example Application

Presenting Client Issue

How Process Visibility Helped

1. Mergers and Acquisitions
(International Accounting firm)
How can we make sure that we achieve the cost saving synergies planned for in the merger? By making visible all the key activities of the end-to-end merger and integration process, Process Visibility helped the client create new activities to better manage integration risk across functional teams from: a) determining pre-merger synergy estimates, b) merger integration planning, and c) post-merger integration execution.
2. Overseas Sourcing
(Retail company)
How can we make sure our sourcing vendors make what we design? Through Process Visibility, the client identified all the key activities from Design to Shipment, identified the critical few activities that most impacted quality (e.g., a pre-production meeting of all parties), and created new activities and training on those vital few activities that make a difference.
3. Product Recall
(Retail company)
How do we make sure we quickly execute product removal from the entire supply chain during a product recall? Better Process Visibility of all key activities, by all key stakeholder parties, helped the company see where proactive customer, supplier, and internal supply chain communication activities were critical to success.
4. Best Practices Implementation
(Mining company)
How do we pick the right few activities to manage and measure with most impact on production throughput? Process Visibility allowed improvement teams to assess all key activities, identify the ones that had the most impact, and to find and distribute best practices to the multiple mining sites world-wide.

How can you determine the need for Process Visibility in your organization?

The next time you are in a group meeting focused on solving an important business problem, ask your team the following questions in order to determine the degree to which the team has a common understanding of the current process:

1. For this problem, what is the end-to-end business process?

2. Where does this process start? Where does it end?

3. What are the most important phases and activities of this process?

4. What is working? What is not working?

You would be surprised at how much disagreement there is in the answers to these simple questions. In addition, many meetings jump right into a discussion of Question 4, without a common group understanding of the answers to Questions 1, 2, and 3. Many assume that everyone knows the process. At this point, trying to solve for Question 4 first is like having multiple parties, each in a separate boat on a lake, giving their opinions on “what lies beneath.”

Process Visibility has the effect of “draining the lake” and seeing all that lies beneath the surface of your business. This common sightline of business by all fosters the use of a common language of process. This in turn opens the door for collaboration and innovation.

How can Process Visibility be a pathway to Innovation and Change?

At St. Charles, we have found that by executing good Process Visibility applications on all levels at the front end of major change initiatives provides the following key benefits:

  • First, this approach will create a common communication protocol to help capture and share institutional knowledge in a user-friendly, easy-to-access way and to improve cross-training capabilities for greater leverage and flexibility.
  • Second, it will increase “speed to competency” across the company by using a common language to clarify how things work – a key factor in allowing for a rapid ramp-up in activity.
  • Third, it will enable ongoing “process visibility” for problem solving which results in greater collaboration.
  • Finally, it will create a forum for future innovation, ensuring an atmosphere of continuous improvement and sustainability.

For more information on Process Visibility, please contact Bob Hiebeler – [email protected] ,
847-612- 0287.

Next month

Rapid shifts in business requirements, evolving talent management demands, a transforming global workforce, the rise of social media, and the ever-present pressure to optimize resources … These are just a few of the reasons that many organizations are aggressively rethinking their learning & performance technology strategy. They are back to planning for the future … but in dramatically game-changing times.

Next month, we will begin a discussion that will help HR, L&D, and IT planners get it right. We will outline our points of view on what an effective learning technology strategy might look like for your organization. We will also share our thoughts: 1) on the business case for a new strategic technology framework to support learning & performance, and 2) on the key people, process, and technology components that need to be in place in order to truly impact the business.


Webcasting & Virtual Classroom: Less Costly Option for Engaging, Effective Learning

When it comes to training, companies today want it all — high quality, low cost, and easily accessible for a virtual and global workforce. Organizations have either begun to use or are now seeking alternatives to in-person, instructor led training. While asynchronous (computer based, web-based) learning has been successfully implemented in many organizations, more are looking for more personalized, hands-on instruction available through webcasting or virtual classroom. This virtual, instructor led delivery mode can meet all the demands of quality, cost and accessibility, but often companies are skeptical of its ability to effectively engage their workforce participants, or they struggle with the logistics associated with this delivery mode. Moreover, companies have limited, knowledgeable resources to successfully plan, design, develop and deliver the webcasts.

However, webcasts and virtual classroom training can be effective and engage learners in creative and interesting ways. We offer full-service webcasting/virtual classroom capabilities. Using your delivery platform or ours, St. Charles learning experts can work with your content experts to create engaging and cost-effective training.

To learn more about webcasting or virtual classroom delivery services offered by St. Charles Consulting group, contact Laura Oswald at 630-377-5549 or via email.