Process Map, what is, when, and how to use it?

Process mapping is a visual way to show the steps to complete a process.  There are different types of maps that range from a very high overview level to a detailed overview level of the process.  Which one you use depends on the purpose of your analysis.   We already discuss the Value Stream Map and today is the turn for the Process Map or detailed process map.

A Process Map (PM) is a basic flow chart that presents the step’s sequence to complete a single process, showing all the inputs and outputs.  PM is a low-level chart used with the participation of supervisors and process owners.

When do you use it?

  • The purpose of this map is to document a process, analyze and manage workflows.  
  • You can use this type of map whenever you want to take a close look of a process workflow, focusing on the sequence of steps regardless of who or what department complete them.  
  • The map is a drill-down view of the process, which make it an excellent tool to see the input and output details of the process as well as the decision points.  
  • PMs are good to identify opportunities to eliminate, simplify, rearrange, or combine steps.
  • To create process improvement tactical plans. 

How to draw a Process Map?

  1. This is a team exercise, invite a multi-functional group to draw the map.  Those who provide input or receive the output of the process should be part of it.  
  2. Define the process boundaries.  What triggers the process?  What ends the process?
  3. Use a verb or noun format to list the sequence of steps to complete the process. For example, use, go to, search for, calculate, analyze, verify, and call.
  4. Include mental steps like thinking, analyzing, counting, and others.
  5. Keep asking what happens next, until you reach the end of the process.
  6. Write each step, including the trigger either on a sticky note or directly on a whiteboard.  Choose whatever method works best for you.  I like to use 4 x 6 sticky notes because they are big enough, and it is easier to edit the map if you need to add steps or rearrange them.   Plus, you don’t need a whiteboard, a clean wall will suffice.
  7. Watch for repetitive steps, like going back and forth between screens, copy and paste information on the same document several times.
  8. At the end, go through the map once again to ensure all steps are included.

While drawing the map, promote the participation of the entire group, create a comfortable environment where team members that do not know the process well feel free to ask questions without any fear.  For example, they can help writing the steps or place the notes on the wall or board.  As with any other continuous improvement activity, this is a learning exercise.  Facilitate the event in such a way that people understand the purpose and learn how to do it.  The idea is to promote the use of simple tools that can help them to present their ideas visually or to show the process to other people.

Now you have another tool to analyze your processes, learn how to use it and practice while improving!

What is process mapping?

An effective way to analyze a process is by drawing a process map. Process mapping is the activity of drawing the steps to complete a process following a specific format.  Process maps document a business process from beginning to end and enable you to identify areas of opportunity. There are different types of maps, each with a different purpose, scope, and level of detail.

The right map to use depends on what you want to do. Take a look at the different types:

  1. Value Stream Map (VSM) is a high-level tool used by leadership for strategic planning. It represents the flow of material and information through the value stream. The flow goes from customer request to product or service delivery. The goal is to identify waste within and between processes.
  2. Process Flow Map (PFM) presents the sequence of events to complete a single process in chronological order. This basic flow chart is a simple map of the inputs and outputs of the process. The purpose of this map is to document a process, analyze and manage workflows. PFM is a low-level chart used with the participation of supervisors and process owners.
  3. Swim Lane shows how the process ownership flows from one owner to another. This flow chart highlights how a process flows across company boundaries. It is useful to identify the key roles responsible for the process and how they relate to each other. Swim lane is for short-term tactical planning. A cross-functional team of process owners gets together to draw this map. 

Process maps are good tools to visualize the current state and design the future state with better processes and customer satisfaction. It is important to include the right stakeholders in the discussion and the creation of the map. Have the right people will improve the quality of information and team communication and performance.These process maps are good tools to improve processes and customer satisfaction. Including the right stakeholders for the discussion and creation of the map is important. This will improve the quality of information and team communication and performance.

Now that you know the different types of maps, you can choose the right one for your needs. Are you ready to start mapping?

Do you know what a process is?

A process is a series of steps or activities necessary to achieve a goal. Some examples are: cooking, plan an event, create an invoice, and checking out in a store. Everything that we do in steps is a process. Each business consists of processes that together make possible the delivery of a product or service. The effectiveness of those processes and how they work with each other are a big part of business success.

Is your business receiving bad ratings for poor service? Are people complaining because they receive something other than what they ordered? Are you missing deadlines? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then you need to improve those processes as soon as possible. The inefficiency of one or more of them or the flow between them is affecting your pocket. If you adopt continuous improvement, you will create small improvements frequently. That will keep your processes efficient and effective.

The first step to improve business processes is to identify what areas need change and prioritize. Complete an assessment of your business processes. Identify what is working well and what is not. What processes are affecting your organization or customers? Map the process you chose to improve first. With a process map, you can visualize the sequence of steps. Analyze where the flow stops, and see if there are delays or waiting time. What step takes longer to complete? Why does that happen? It is important to find the true cause of these problems to avoid recurrence.

Ask your employees for feedback, involve them in the analysis and innovation. Design a new process based on your findings. Implement and communicate the reason for those changes. After the implementation, you need to review the results. Is it working? Are you getting the expected results? If the answer is yes, then you are ready to tackle the next item on your priority list.

Are you ready to start? Practice continuous improvement to keep making your processes and your business better. Contact Better Process Solutions if you need help to start your improvements!

This article was originally posted in Organization and Efficiency Solutions.