Analyzing the Happy Path

Analyzing the Happy Path

The happy path is an error-free workflow and an analysis of it helps you understand what a process can achieve and identify opportunities for improvement. Often, we initiate problem-solving discussions by focusing on the negative aspects – what’s not going well. This analysis is a practical approach for increasing a team’s engagement, as it starts with identifying what an ideal state would be and involves team members in the process to find solutions, ultimately motivating them to focus on improvements to optimize the workflow.

How To Analyze the Happy Path

Start by identifying everyday interactions between your team members and think about the “ideal” process. What would it be if we could operate like this all the time? You are meeting SLAs, have no quality issues, deliveries are on time, and financial commitments are being met.

The next step is to examine the obstacles that prevent the team from achieving the happy path each time. They are categorized into three types:

  • Flavors – These are all the differences or variations in a team’s workflow, such as vendor invoices received in a different format or differences in client billing requirements that prevents us from following the happy path each time.
  • Paths – Paths are inputs that result in deviation because someone does not follow the standard work associated with the happy path. Think about the potential workarounds that exist in a procurement process (maintaining Excel files as opposed to recording data accurately in the ERP) or escalating requests to approve pricing of a new order.
  • Exceptions – These are factors outside of the team’s control; as an example, consider the receipt of an order that doesn’t have a valid SKU – that order needs to be reverted to the person who originated it for correction.

Deviations from the happy path start when managers ignore minor problems. These problems become more substantial over time, making them harder to solve as the company grows. This analysis helps you spot these ahead of time, discuss them with the team, and implement solutions as a collaborative exercise.

Business Areas to Apply the Happy Path

You can use the happy path analysis in any of these areas:

  • Customer Service: Test common customer service scenarios and the ideal resolution of client complaints.
  • Sales: Identify and test the perfect customer journey, from finding a product or service to selling and receiving follow-up support.
  • Marketing: Study the effectiveness of marketing strategies, social media campaigns, e-mail, and SEO.
  • Operations: Analyze standard business processes, including inventory management, logistics, and supply chain management, and their opportunities for improvement.

A happy path analysis helps you understand all the different paths in your workflow and the volume of work flowing through them so that you can make improvements.