Make a Map of Your Automated Workflow – Or Your Team Will Get Lost
To design an automated system means to design a workflow. The first step in this kind of design is to see a system from a high-level. To craft a complete map.
Mapping here means visualizing the entire workflow of connected components: interactions, data, devices, people, and actions.
Without a map teams default to heads down iterative progress – which is how technology teams often work, sprinting on a small chunk of deliverable code. Without a map even the best tech teams are blazing a trail without understanding their route.
A complete workflow view means leaders and teams can find gaps in the experience and systems they are making. With a map in hand, new insights can inspire stronger decision making and creativity. And more clarity is gained on where to dig deeper and spend more effort.
Before setting off to change the world, find out where you are.
Sharing Ideas to Mobilize An Army of Geniuses
I worked on some projects at eBay where more than six teams were involved in creating product experiences. Six people is a lot to connect… six teams is an army. If you are trying to move an army having a map that the leaders can reference is very helpful (that’s an understatement). I discovered a visualization tool that Cap Tech used to present ideas about location technology and adapted a version to visualize complex systems we were crafting.
Here is an abstracted example of the workflow map:
At the time I created this, I was not thinking about automation, but the team was building systems to manage and control communications with people. The map helped. This layered approach allowed leaders and teams members to see where their work fit and enabled team members to exercise creativity to make overall improvements.
Create a Shared Understanding TO UNLOCK Genius
Even if you understand the intent of what you are building, communicating that intent with others is still challenging. Making a workflow map gives teams and leaders a common reference point for understanding and speak to ideas. It makes solid the fuzzy intersections between machines and people. Having a shared map means team members can add their own ideas, question what is shown and collaborate with clarity.
If you want to unlock potential team members’ genius, then show the team the world you’re asking them to remake.
Also published on Medium.