Process Mapping: Steps and Benefits

Process mapping, a tool utilized to map out processes visually, includes developing a process map to effectively communicate how a process works or flows in a clear, concise and understandable way.

Step 1: Identify Problem
Determine the process that needs to be examined and mapped out. Is there an inefficient process that needs improvement? A new process that needs to be explained to a team or larger group in the company? A difficult process that employees often have questions about? Identify one that demands attention and get to work.

Step 2: List Activities
Brainstorm all the tasks required to complete the process flow regardless of order. Just get everything down in the list and note who is responsible for each task. This is good to develop as a team or larger group since the different stakeholders will understand their segment of the process and can alternate leading the group.  Be sure to define where the process begins and ends so it is clear which tasks should be included to produce the desired result.

Step 3: Define Steps
Now take those activities and put them in the proper flow order or sequence until the full process is represented from beginning to end. Check for missed steps or gaps where no defined step exists currently. That will help the map’s accuracy later.

Step 4: Draw the Map
Select the appropriate process mapping format and draw out the process, representing the steps with process mapping symbols. There are around thirty standard symbols used to represent different elements of a process, but customization can be built in to increase internal understanding if desired. Just be aware that sharing that map with resources outside the company may require explanation since they are not aware of the custom symbols or shorthand notes being utilized.

Step 5: Finalize and Share the Map
Once the process mapping is completed, share it with other internal or external stakeholders involved in the process to ensure understanding and that the reality of the flow was accurately captured. Make sure no steps have been left out and there are no redundancies or ambiguities.

Step 6: Discover Improvements
After the accuracy of the process map has been established, analysis of the completed map can begin and the team can identify the improvements uncovered by the work. See where there are bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the process. What steps can be eliminated? Which tasks can be completed more efficiently? Once you’ve identified these areas of improvement, create an action plan with all stakeholders to address them and revise the process map to reflect the improvements.

Why a Process Map?
Process mapping allows you to solidify ideas and streamline processes by visually communicating the steps needed to execute an idea.

Process maps can also be called workflows, workflow diagrams, flowcharts and process flowcharts, but the map aspect is a vital concept to understand. Here are some ways that process mapping can be useful for a company, division, cell and team:

  • Helps you see bottlenecks, gaps, and other issues in a process flow.
  • Breaks down complex flows into smaller steps.
  • Promotes thorough understanding of a process.
  • Allows for contingencies and provides problem-solving guidance.
  • Coordinates responsibilities between various individuals or entities.
  • Provides documentation of the process.
  • Simplifies communication through a user-friendly, visual format.
  • Enables faster decision making due to faster communication.
  • Improves employee performance and job satisfaction.
  • Helps businesses comply with ISO 9000 and ISO 9001 standards.
  • Efficiency vs. effectiveness in business: Why your team needs both

Please contact us for your process mapping project or for help with any other lean consulting services.

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