By Lauren Brugger, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt
A process map is a visual tool that documents a series of steps taken to achieve a result. Because they are visual, process maps convey information more effectively than written procedures or descriptions of processes. Process mapping can portray the current state, used in the Measure phase of a project, or future state, used in the Improve or Control phase of a project. A current-state process map shows the process as it works today to create common understanding and consensus around a process, while a future-state map shows the process in its improved state after changes have been implemented.
Looking at a current-state process map can help someone quickly understand what is happening, when it’s happening relative to other steps, how long it’s taking, and who is doing the work. Process maps are useful for identifying bottlenecks, rework loops, redundancies, duplication, and non-value added steps. Because a facilitator will rarely know a process in its entirety, it is very important to make sure that the right people are involved and in the room during the creation of the process map. Engaging the people involved in the process ensures that all critical steps are documented; it is also an effective way to generate improvement ideas for the future.
Once the right people are involved, the scope can be determined by identifying the start and stop boundaries of the process. From there, use the team’s knowledge to map the process step by step. Sticky notes are a useful tool for mapping process steps, as steps are frequently added and switched around. Process maps can be created in varying levels of detail; it is up to the team to determine what makes business sense for each process.
After the map is created, the team should take a step back and verify that it makes sense. If possible, walk the process step by step to confirm the map and revise where necessary. Once this is complete, review the map with relevant stakeholders. With a completed visual and consensus among the team, you are ready to utilize the process map and improve! Use your process map to determine opportunities for improvement, areas where more data may be required, and as a guide for your team as it works through a project. Lastly, develop a plan to implement improvements and reduce inefficiencies.
If you think a process mapping exercise would help you or your organization and would like assistance with facilitation and development of your process map, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.