Process modeling in workshops

Last week I explained how I manage to chair a process modeling workshop. Today I would like go into detail to the point of process modeling in workshops.

My goals for this are:

- easy to use and understand even for people which never thought about process modeling

- close to BPMN

- easy to transport

- visible for every participant of a workshop

I tried various things within the last years:

  • Using modelings tools with a beamer (not really off-line)
  • Using white boards and draw processes
  • Using static foils (e.g.
  • Using Post-It®s
  • Using facilitation cards with
    • magnets and white boards
    • with pin and pin boards
    • with tape and brown paper

In the end currently I prefer facilitation cards, because the are available in any company or easy to organize, available in many colors and big enough. But I struggled with the magnets, pins and tape. It often happens that after a few minutes of discussion right in the middle of the process some steps have to be added. It is really hard to take the cards of or shift the cards if they were attached to a wall. Or they drop because the pin is not long enough or the Post-It® do not stick well on dusty walls. Therefore i decided to switch into the horizontal.

Today I use tables.

All cards are arranged on the tables and the participants are staying around it. The cards can not drop, they are very easy to move and shift. Tables could be arrange to one very long row or a circle or or or. You have really enough space to work. The walls and brown papers are used for other stuff (like expectations, open topics, etc.).

Additionally after using facilitation cards fore a while I decided to design my own process cards, which are based on BPMN:

Task       Gateway      Event       BO

I printed those cards in postcard size on thick paper, they were really great. It is easy to mark necessary additional information, showing up the process flow and are more special than facilitation cards which has a positiv effect to the motivation of the participants.

You are interested into the template of the process cards (available as PDF) or you would like to have a small set of process cards for testing purposes. Please contact me:

Chair process modeling workshop

It’s not an easy job to ascertain as-is processes or to design to-be processes with a group of person within a workshop. Often the BPM Guerilla isn’t the subject matter expert. So he/she should  focus to chair the workshop. This means for instance:

  • keep all participants focused on results
  • feel and react on different moods of participants
  • moderate discussions
  • motivate to think outside the box
  • lot of other stuff

For me it is hard to focus on topics like mentioned above and in parallel do documentation, capture results and write facilitation cards.

Therefore I decided to let the participants work. I don’t write any cards. Only in very critical situations I write on flip charts to gain the participants attention and get all of them focused to single topics.

The most work is done by the participants. They are writing the cards.

In I have 3 areas for cards within a process workshop for:

  1. Expectations
  2. Open topics wall
  3. Process modeling canvas

The expectations are split into two areas: a) expectations regarding the workshop and b) expectations regarding the process going to be modeled. This could be a flip chart or brown paper or just the wall of the meeting room. Every expectation is written on a single card by the participants in the very beginning of the workshop.

The open topics are as well pinned to a flip chart or brown paper. They are added during the entire workshop. Every time a topic or questioned come up and it either deflects the participants or can’t answered directly it should be written down by a participant to a card and being attached to the open topic wall. This open topic wall is talked trough in the end of the workshop. Some topics are solved during the workshop automatically some others are still open and you should try to assign those open topics to a responsible person.

Last but not least there is the process modeling canvas. This should be used to create the processes.Every single activity of a process is written on a single card. As well this is done by the participants. So they feel more connected to their processes and more responsible for the result. I rarely intervene into their modeling, only if they really make syntactical mistakes.  Then they are arranged to show up the process flow. Currently I prefer tables, because it is the most flexible. You could rearange entire table within your meeting room to arrange order of processes. You could move and shift cards more easy than if they were pinned to a wall, just grab them with your outstretched arm and move plenty of cards at once to add a card in the middle of the process. Try this with pinned cards ;-)

It is important that the cards are laid down in the right order without any chance to interpret it wrong (e.g. “Oh, I will lay this card somewhere over here, because there is no space at the right place”). One or two weeks later you can not remember the right order anymore.

At the end of an Workshop I take photos of all areas and create a “photocol” and send it to all participants latest the next day.

Next time I’m going to discuss the process modeling within the workshop in more detail.