What Does It Mean to Reimagine a Process?

Ellie Warner-Rousseau

In the processes that make up your organization (processes such as application, enrollment, referral, communications, or service provision), consider whether your policies and practices put the needs of the people you aim to serve first and uphold the goals and vision of your organization. If any of the following instances feel familiar in your work, engaging in a “reimagining a process” exercise may help you critically examine current processes and take action to improve:

  • Your program/service has a high number of customers who begin a process but don’t complete it.
  • Customers or staff members see your processes as complex, confusing, or overwhelming.
  • It takes a long time, a lot of energy, or both for participants to get what they need.
  • Your program/service doesn’t reach everyone who might be eligible or interested.
  • Not all customers benefit from engaging in your program/service.
  • Some types of customers are consistently facing barriers in the process.

Reimagining a process can provide direction about how to implement broad and bold organizational change. It can also help you better understand what participants are experiencing, build empathy, and spark conversation about more modest or incremental changes. Reimagining a process requires dedicated time to think about what customers really want when they engage with a program or service (not how you want them to follow a process or even what they report disliking).

People are often “anchored” to a current process (meaning they use the current process as a reference point), which can make it challenging to think about what to change. However, you have probably already made these types of adjustments in response to COVID-related disruptions! Now think about them in terms of design choices rather than responses to external circumstances. No process is designed neutrally or accidentally, and you can make intentional design choices to address customer needs and goals.

Preactivity Discussion

To get started, discuss the following questions with your team:

  • What are customers’ goals in engaging in the process? How do you know?
  • What have customers told you about their experiences with this process?
  • What are the organization’s goals for the process?
  • What would simplify the process the most for customers?
  • Are there “safety-net” actions that teams are taking (for example, automatic enrollment for certain customers) that you could take the initiative to implement without waiting for customers to ask or that could be made the default?
  • At what point(s) do customers disengage from the process?
  • What changes in sequence or information would help customers apply or submit something on time?
  • What could be made automatic rather than an extra step?
  • What metrics should you use to measure change?
  • What are you already doing that would help you get there?
  • What are your strengths as an organization, team, or community?
  • What strengths do customers bring to the process?

Best Practices for Brainstorming Sessions

  • Defer judgement​
  • Encourage wild or big ideas​
  • Build on the ideas of others​
  • Stay focused on the topic​
  • One conversation at a time​
  • Be visual​
  • Go for quantity of ideas—don’t evaluate feasibility at this stage

Keeping these points in mind, use the Reimagining a Process Worksheet to begin to brainstorm, develop your ideas, and think about how to put them into action. Email [email protected] for more information or if you are interested in having a facilitator for this activity.