How to make a process map

Written by robin tyndall
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  • Introduction

    How to make a process map

    A process map provides a visual rendering of what your process looks like from beginning to end, including the steps, sequence of steps, handoffs and other interactions. Being able to "see" your process from start to finish can be a powerful way to find where things are working well, where the work does not flow well, where steps may be unnecessary or redundant, where steps are too complex, or where the process contains endless or unneeded loops. Process maps offer a basis for identifying improvement actions and make a process more efficient and effective.

    Example of basic process map ()

  • 1 / 5

    Using your resources (your own knowledge of the process, team members, documented procedures, etc), write each step of the process on a separate index card or Post-it note. The steps can be as basic or as detailed as you need. Note: The more detailed the steps are the more complex your process map may become. (For example, if you were mapping the process of getting ready for work in the morning, step one could be as simple as "Wake up" or as detailed as "Hit alarm, open eyes, sit up, get out of bed." They both describe the same activity.)

    An oval signals the inputs or beginning of the process. Consider: What triggers the process to start? ()

  • 2 / 5

    Move around the cards or notes to put the steps in sequential order as they actually occur. If you are working with a team, make sure the team has a consensus on the sequence.

    The rectangle is one step in the process. A step means one task or activity is complete. The next step has a separate rectangle. ()

  • 3 / 5

    Draw the process. Any of the applications mentioned has an "Insert" command. Chose "Shapes." The most common shapes used in a basic process map are oval, rectangle, diamond and connector arrows. Describe the step inside of the shape. Refer to the illustrations for details.

    The diamond signals a decision must be made at this point in the process. Decisions should ideally be expressed as yes/no decisions. Diamonds create at least two separate paths...consider the paths as "if/then" statements. One decision leads to a different step or steps. The other leads to a different path. ()

  • 4 / 5

    Review the process map. Compare to how your references described the process. Does it have a defined beginning, sequential steps and end? Are there relevant decision points? Make sure the process map matches what was originally described, or get team consensus on its accuracy.

    Connector arrows link the shapes to form a flow. The process should flow from the beginning oval to the end oval. ()

  • 5 / 5

    If this process map will be official documentation for your organisation, review your final map with the person responsible for the operation of the process, or the process owner. Usually this is a manager of the department who executes the process.

    The oval also marks the end of the process. What does the process produce---what is the output? ()

  • Checklist

    Things you will need

    • Index cards or Post-it notes
    • Application that provides basic flow chart shapes, such as MS PowerPoint, MS Word, Visio, Smartdraw, etc.
  • More information

    Tips and warnings

    You can make the steps in the process as high level or as detailed as you need, but be sure the level is consistent throughout the map. If the process you are mapping extends outside your area of expertise, you need to ensure that whatever you document is consistent with what the outside party or parties are actually doing. It is best to have agreement to the steps before beginning your flowchart; when the map is completed, review with any parties who participate in or have a stake in the process.

    Make sure your process map reflects what is actually occurring in the process, not what you think is occurring or what you'd like to see occur. The value of a well-documented process map is to see the "as is" state.

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