Process Mapping

Process mapping is the most essential and valuable tool int he process improvement arsenal. Process mapping is the key to knowing your business and how value is really created.

You are in business, so you already know that to be successful you need to know what is happening in the external environment and the factors (e.g. customers, competitors, suppliers, material prices etc.) that impact your business and its ability to generate profits.

To emerge with tons of money from an increasingly volatile, uncertain, ruthless, and competitive environment, you have some internal variables (e.g. resources, information, equipment, material, work methods etc.) at your disposal. These variables are uncovered through process mapping activities. From here on, we will refer to these variables as levers. Theselevers are all present and used by your processes. 

The means, map your processes to KNOW YOUR PROCESSES!

Processes Fall Into Two Main Categories

Process mapping is a simple yet powerful tool that aids the formation of a clearly understanding of what exactly happens in a process. They bring are a wealth of information.

Process:  - an activity or cluster of activities that uses inputs, adds value to it, and provides an output for use by internal or external customers. Processes use various types of an organization's resources and levers to provide definitive results

Business Process:  - a series of logically related steps that use various types of resources of the organization to create a product or service. Some processes may be completely contained within a specific function. However, most core processes are cross-functional.


Process Mapping - Two Key Types

The Flow Diagram or Swim Lane Diagram.

The purpose of process mapping is for better understanding. It involves the gathering and organizing of facts about the work and displaying them so that they can be questioned and improved by knowledgeable people. Process maps aid in understanding by abstracting, using visual charting symbols consistently and masking unnecessary details.

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a fundamental tool to identify waste and reduce process cycle times. Typically a current state map is created after a “Gemba” walk.

Tips and Hints on How to Process Map

  • At times they are correctly mapped but often insufficient time is invested in fully analysing what has been mapped. Take time to look at your map and find quick wins and improvements.
  • Also walk the process being mapped. Allow all team members to walk the process.
  • Walk the process from beginning to end. Then walk it from end to beginning.
  • Speaking to people working on the process to better understand what  they do and struggle with
  • Note hand off points and data points
  • Use swimlane process mapping and map the process from top left to bottom right. Process steps should be stated as “actions” (use verbs)
  • Map the process using brown paper stuck on a wall. Use sticky notes for easy changing
  • Add as much information as you can about the process on the map. Even photograph can be used
  • When the process has been mapped, bring in process workers to verify it
  • Then stand back and look at the process. What do you see? What are obvious disconnects? How often does material or information move back and forth between departments? How many hand-offs are there? What steps are Non Value adding?
  • Apply SCAMPER even at this point to identify quick wins Assign responsibilities for quick wins 
  • Last, but most importantly, list all the inputs (X’s) or variables found in each process step
  1. Know how your processes are performing
  2. Map your processes.
  3. Improve the performance of those key levers.
  4. Solve process problems fast.
  5. Sustain the gains.