Using Sticky Notes to Diagram a Process
Sometimes it feels as though I singlehandedly keep the sticky note business alive; some weeks I use 100+ stickies. I often start the day with a cup of coffee and a pack of sticky notes, jotting down the tasks for the day. Often I use one note for a complex task, with the subtasks detailed underneath. I even use the window next to my desk as a tiny agile board, moving notes over to the "done" area as I go.
They're also helpful for any kind of project with many parts. For example, right now I'm working on consolidating and making sense of all the tools we use and the tools we still need. When my teammates walk by this window on their way to get a snack, they can shout out tools I might be missing.
Our team especially loves using sticky notes to make sense of complicated processes. We encourage new clients to do the same during any software implementation.
Since we recently moved over to Zendesk or our support work, our team spent a morning doing this activity with the support process. When we attempted to connect the stickies with lines and decision points (which is why a whiteboard is great) we were able to spot gaps in the process and create more stickies to flesh it out.
How to use Sticky Notes to Diagram A Process:
This exercise is most effective if you can get 2 or more people to do it with you who are familiar with the process you want to analyze.
- Sticky Notes
- Whiteboard or large poster board
- Silently spend about 5 minutes writing individual steps in the process and "what ifs" on sticky notes (one per note). Don't worry about writing the same step as another person.
- Have each member share their steps and post them up on your board.
- Work as a group to recognize and merge duplicate notes. If steps seem similar but are slightly different, discuss what makes them different and create clearer notes.
- Still working as a group, order the notes in a logical flow. You will likely have a few "lanes" if a process might follow more than one path.
- Using a marker, connect the notes to show how one leads to another. Write in the decision point - if any - that would lead to one note or another, such as "If the fee is paid, then..." or "Is the application approved?" Yes leads to one note, No to another.
- Once the group is satisfied, take a photo. You can translate what you decided on by using a free diagram tool such as draw.io or use the photo as a tool when implementing the process in software.
During this discussion, you'll likely identify areas of your process that are unclear or perhaps not defined at all. These might be "processes within processes" that merit their own discussion at a later point. Our team recognized a few areas that needed some clarification, so we scheduled meetings at the end of this activity to regroup and work again.