Process Mapping

Process Mapping


Process Mapping done in a simple and visual way can be a catalyst for improvement in any work environment. It is probably the best way to engage a team and make sustainable improvements. All a leadership team has to do is map the process at “30,000 feet” and ask their teams to map the detailed view at “500 feet”. Reviewing the results and defining the areas of opportunity mean that benefits can be realised very quickly. A small investment of time can afford incredible results.

If you want to improve your organisation, one of the best ways you can do it is to understand how things are done today. The real situation is very often different from the perception of supervisors and managers and is usually not what is written in the procedures. But gaining a common understanding of how things work isn’t always easy.

The trick is to work out what people do, how they do it and how they decide what to do next. This means understanding both the technical system (comprising the computers, machines, infrastructure) and the social system (why different people do the same things in different ways).

The best method for making the current situation visible is Process Mapping, and it’s a tool that works for any process within any organisation, whether it be Production, Retail, HR, Finance, or Facilities.

My approach is to map all of the processes and gain a complete picture of what is happening, where the problems are and what the priorities are for improvement. This includes how to avoid the common mistakes made in process mapping.

We can describe all work as a series of individual tasks or steps, and the point of mapping these steps is to make them visual, making the connections and feedback loops obvious, with the aim of improving the overall process.

I always started Process Mapping  with a “30,000 foot view” of the entire process, gaining an overview of the whole process, end-to-end in 4-7 steps. The next stage is to drill down into the detail, what we call the “500 foot view”, marking key information such as times, variation and whether each step is value added or waste.

A useful exercise is to define the key processes as Strategic, Core or Support. This allows everyone to see how the processes link and depend on each other and makes any gaps or overlaps in the processes obvious. This helps to ensure correct prioritisation of limited improvement resources. The steps involved in process mapping are shown in the following process map…