By Julie Rey

Putting good processes in place can solve fundamental business challenges, create smoother transitions in workflow, align teams and people, and translate into tangible business results and savings. But first, you have to get there.

In many cases process work requires a leap from thinking about work in the form of an org chart (see: people) to thinking about it in terms of functional pillars and workflows. At times this is where companies and teams can get hung up because it’s difficult to stop thinking about “who” will do it.

A relationship map is a simple tool to assist in translating org ­based thinking into processed-based thinking. It focuses only on the inputs and outputs in terms of where exchanges will occur, thus freeing teams to think about workflow without a people bias.

Function Relationship Map (2)

Once a relationship map is agreed upon, you can begin assigning people’s names to the inputs and outputs, with better context around functional groups and individuals relative to the process.

There are two typical ways we use relationship maps in process development.

1. A Waypoint

Rather than being a “deliverable,” the relationship map is a sketched ­out step on the way to the developed process. This is a particularly helpful step for people and teams that struggle to let go of org thinking — or, what individual will do what task. This step helps these teams name their functions without any associated names. Instead, they can then imagine each function in terms of the critical inputs and outputs that will support the overall process.

2. Creating Alignment

Before getting too far along in process design, it’s important to assess how the process will work within a team. A simple relationship map can be a powerful tool for creating alignment among people and teams. Using the relationship map as a guide, we can put what pieces of information will be exchanged between functions on the map without overloading on detail and without “people” assigned. Instead, this map demonstrates how cross ­functional groups would engage. Once there is alignment, we are able to move on to building out processes.

Here is an example. We recently worked with a healthcare technology company that was struggling to engage with its largest client, a client who also owned the technology company’s product. It was a complex situation that called for an entirely new engagement model along with a well­ defined suite of processes. It amounted to a significant business transformation.

To gather alignment early on, we leveraged a relationship map. Eliminating the people bias was especially helpful with this client because org­ based thinking had been hampering them from making judicious workflow decisions. The relationship map allowed both teams to see how the new engagement model would work, helping them more critically consider the functionality they would be handing each other and how it would all operate.

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