A process flow is a common way of visualizing your standard operating procedures (SOPs). Process flows are a great way to account for and handle complexity. However, when it comes to SOPs, we find that they can create complexity.
But let’s start with why you would want to use a process flow? You’ll often handle things one way in a specific situation or another way in other situations. And that’s what a process flow does really well. It says that once you encounter this decision node, you’ll make a decision and follow the process.
But when it comes to writing your SOPs, you may be creating more complexity by using a process flow than not. So how does a scenario work?
A scenario is like a path on a process flow or a set of conditions. So, pick the most common path and name that as your initial scenario. It could go on and on, and you can place several conditions on a scenario. And that’s fine. But what you’ll find when you use your first scenario is once you go back to do other scenarios, you likely won’t need an SOP for all the different scenarios. So pick one scenario and write the SOP.
For example, we worked with a marketing agency, and when they bring on a new client, they schedule a client kickoff meeting. The question raised was, when do we need to have a kickoff meeting? When we completed the scenario, the kickoff meeting was only for large or ongoing client engagements. If the agency had a small project, they could skip the kickoff meeting.
Scenarios can be a handy way to cut through the complexity. And often, secondary scenarios can go away, or you can handle them with a blanket SOP. So how should you handle decision trees and process flows? Well, one, there’s always a reason why you need a detailed process for a really detailed or complex process flow. You can also use it for reference material. But your SOP should be simple and easy to follow.
Usually, if you have a detailed process flow, it is for employees to refer to when working. There are situations where an employee can take a minute and find where they are in the process. But if you’re not running an SOP for that type of environment, that type of situation, then creating a detailed process flow is probably a mistake.