Process Maps

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

Process maps illustrate a process by displaying the actual flow or sequence of steps that a product, service, or piece of information follows. It is a powerful tool for reaching consensus on the actual steps in a process, as well as depicting issues.

Process maps are way of visually communicating what is actually occurring in a process, provide the basis for the process analysis, and visually highlight areas of inefficiency. The maps show areas of complexity, redundancy, or unnecessary loops, handoffs or approval steps, where simplification and standardization may be possible.

How to Apply It

  1. Determine the boundaries of the process and observe the process being performed.
  2. Work with the group to identify all the steps in the process; include inputs, outputs, decision points, and related material or information flows.
  3. Arrange the steps in order using sticky notes to allow rapid editing.
  4. Check for completeness by following people, requests, and products through the entire process. Make sure feedback loops are closed and key decision points or branches of logic are included.
  5. Finalize the diagram by ensuring all team members agree that the diagram is accurate.
  6. Enrich the map with data such as touch time, backlog size, error rate, etc., to help identify opportunities.
  7. Note: Arranging the process map so that the steps align with roles in the organization results in a “swim lane” diagram, illustrating who does what in the process and highlighting hand-offs.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Capturing details like sub-steps and rework loops makes it easier to identify waste that may be hidden in a less detailed map.
  • Be sure participants clearly understand what the objectives of the process mapping session are and set sensible deadlines to allow enough time to complete the exercise properly.
  • Don’t worry if the current state process map looks messy – it is!

Example: Simple Process Flow Map   

Includes Approval and Feedback Loop

Simple Process Flow Map

Key Tips

  • Consider mapping at a high level first and then adding detail as you engage more people and learn their role in the process.
  • Performing your mapping on work area walls allows many people to interact with the maps, both learning

Example: CDLE WC Disputes Swim Lane Process Map

CDLE WC Disputes Swim Lane Process Map