I have just been reading a 2013 article by Mike Rosen of Wilton Consulting Group about “context maps”. I don’t like the name, but the article does quite a good job of laying out a flow of analysis that is likely to be useful to most of us.
Mike Rosen starts with a “value stream” – which in my language is just a value chain – a high level list of the steps needed to deliver value to a customer. In this context, customer can be external or internal.
The next step is to produce a “context map” – I think I would call it an “actors and interconnections map” or something like that. The map involves defining all the actors involved in the value stream – customer, supplier, and different departments or people – as well as any systems that react when contacted (like a website or portal). Then the interconnections are defined between each actor – who does what to whom? These are drawn on the map as lines between actors with an arrow showing who has initiated and to who. Against each line you can write the nature of the connection, often one person asking for input from another. I have not been able to copy and paste the diagram in Mike’s article – so go to his article to see an example. [I figured out how to copy the diagram – thank you to Mike]
As Mike explains, the “actors and connections map” emerges as you follow the flow of activity from someone who starts it off. You may not be able to define all the actors first, and then put in the connections. You may find it better to follow the flow, adding actors and connections as they occur to you or those you are working with.
With this interconnections map, it is then much easier to draw a swim lanes process map: which shows how a process moves between different actors over time. The interconnections map lists all the actors and shows the flows – so it is really little more than a translation from one to the other. (see below)
In my thinking about operating models, I have tried to remain strategic and not get drawn into too much detail. Clearly value streams, context maps and process maps are detail. But, now that I am pretty clear about how to do the high level strategic stuff, I am getting more interested in the detail.