My Experience With A Cup Of Coffee



How it all started

Once I had a panel interview for a very demanding role, so I was exposed to numerous questions by six members of the panel who were eminent experts with huge knowledge in their respective fields.

I was doing really well till about fifteen minutes before the end of the interview. Then, suddenly, one of the members of the panel asked me to design and analyse a process flow then and there, using an example of my own choice. I have to say that his request would’ve not been a big challenge by itself, if there hadn’t been a catch.

I was given a couple of minutes to come up with such an example that would be very simple and easy-to-follow, yet complex enough to provide a various alternatives to analyse. And, what did I do? Instead of doing my best in finding an adequate example, I just went blank.

I was literally in the state of hibernation when – out of the blue – in my thoughts I saw myself in my pedagogy exam … Yes, believe it or not, pedagogy was one of the non-maths exams I had to pass before obtaining a bachelor degree in mathematics …

So, now I am sitting across from my pedagogy professor, and he says to me: ‘Now, let’s see how fast you can think… Pick quickly a ‘thing’, any thing, and use it to explain the difference between pragmatism and expediency’. At the exact moment when the professor is finishing his sentence, his assistant is coming in holding in his hand something that catches my attention – a cup of coffee.

I can’t explain why I was so strongly drawn by that matte-white, ordinary cup, but it really inspired me to provide an answer that led me to getting the highest grade on the exam. That same cup of coffee ‘woke me up’, and I became aware of my interviewers, again.

I didn’t know how long I was ‘dreaming’; however my voice was pretty calm when I addressed the members of the panel: ‘If you agree, as an example, I’d like to use a process that I believe we are all very familiar with: Making a cup of coffee’. Even though, considering the circumstances, my idea might’ve sounded a bit awkward, I heard encouraging: ‘Please do carry on…’.

After briefly describing the scope of the process and drawing the first version of the process flow, I started step-by-step to build up a ‘business case’ and discuss its alternatives. By the end of the interview, my golden matte-white-ordinary cup of coffee secured me a job offer.

Sharing My Experience

I stayed in touch with my master thesis mentor/adviser, a university professor, and sometimes I assisted him in running workshops for students and one-day seminars for organisations to help them to start developing their own capabilities regarding process mapping.

One of those seminars was scheduled a couple of weeks after my job interview, and I suggested the professor to use the ‘Making a Cup of Coffee’ example. He did that, and the result was really amazing. The audience was very responsive and interactive, and by the of the seminar they produced four different process flows being designed based on the presented initial version of the ‘Making a Cup of Coffee’ scenario.

Of course, we didn’t use this example all the time in our seminars or workshops. But, whenever we would introduce it, we always received positive inputs from our audience and had wonderful results.

Next Step…

In one of my next posts I will describe this scenario and the initial version of its process flow, including a set of questions that we used during the seminar for the purpose of engaging the audience in analysis and encouraging them to take part in transforming the process model by changing relevant influencing factors.

In addition, the initial version of the ‘Making a Cup of Coffee’ process will be graphically illustrated with three types of diagrams for process modelling: ITIL, IDEF0 and Swim lane.

The update is coming soon, and I hope it will be useful especially for those who learn or teach basics of business process modelling.



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