Can't win them all

January 13th, 2008

Value-Steam mapping a electronic transactional process is dumb; Value-Stream maps are meant to show not so much what is happening as what isn’t, where work “in progress” is actually sitting around waiting to be worked on. Given large enough quantities of electronic data, it may also sit in queues and take time to process, but more generally data now moves as fast as any average person could hope to make it. The value-stream map springs from the “Just do it!” ethos of changing things in straightforward ways that most people can effect, not technical analysis for IT specialists.

Traditional process mapping,however, makes a great deal of sense when applied to computerized processes. In fact, the little detailed steps and the finer points of sequencing can be pivotal to the design of the software. So I was much happier this week to be working on process maps to facilitate the new factory software implementation than I was last week trying to puzzle out a value-stream map.

Still, there are always an abundances of necessary tasks in the office for which I am the best skilled to resolve, or fancy myself so, and I had to resolve to spend Thursday doing nothing other than the process maps. Since I did not lock myself in a room away from all the normal work, it wasn’t strictly all that I did; but you can fairly say I spent the day doing those. Maybe not all fourteen hours that I worked, but quite long enough.

It was fortuitous that I decided to spend so much time to get them done, because on Friday it was learned that Big Scary Guy (the same threatening power eliciting our sniveling compliance with every inane idea of the A-Team) was interested in the documentation our site was producing. This in turn gave our plant manager a whole new level of interest in what we were up to. So rather than putting finishing touches on the process maps, a good portion of Friday was spent explaining them to people who wanted previews before Big Scary Guy had his imperial review.

Right about when all that business was over with and I was feeling pleased with myself, someone from the customer service center contacted me on the corporate instant-messager and asked if I still reviewed the claims. I almost said that that the importance of the claims was insignificant compared to properly preparing for this software change over, but, as the rep was writing from the customer service center that will be closed in months, it hardly seemed appropriate to put on airs about the importance of, basically, her job function. If the claims still matter to someone who will be unemployed shortly, surely it would be brash for me to call them irrelevant.

Honestly, I think that the claims, having a direct affect on the customer, are empirically much more important than documents that will likely have very little effect on the introduction of a new software package. The day that was perhaps the highlight of the month for me in coporate politics was, in customer service ethics, unremarkable or dissappointing.

And how often the two do seem inverted.