In manufacturing and other technical industries, process maps (or flowcharts) are commonly used. In other industries, however, it may not be as familiar. But, this tool can be very useful for many business workflows. For example:

  • making a change to your company website
  • improving your customer’s experience placing an order
  • defining responsibilities in your recruiting process

Process mapping is used to define the current workflow. A process map can be used to replace or enhance a written procedure. It can also be used to map out a future, improved workflow. Process mapping forces you to see what you haven’t seen before, to consider new patterns and connections.

How can our current workflow be improved?

Cross-functional processes

When a process affects multiple functional groups, a cross-functional or swim-lane process map can be very enlightening. 

Swim-lane process maps make it possible to specify roles, documenting responsibilities in a more accurate manner. Where are the redundancies? The inefficiencies? Is the right functional group completing a step? The following is an example of swim-lane process map for the recruiting process.

Creating swimlane diagrams_9You can see above that the diamonds indicate decision points, rectangles the process steps, and ovals the beginning and endpoints of the process. 

Cross-functional process maps allow you to see not only the workflow, but also where responsibilities are handed off from one functional group to another. It can help indicate where loss of information or delays are most likely to occur.

How to map one of your team’s processes

To develop the current process map, it is necessary to get everyone who contributes to the process in the same room. It may take several working sessions to map out the process. Determine how deep you want to dig. Agree on what process you’re mapping. (Think telling the time versus building a clock.) Make sure everyone in the room is on the same page. It’s easy to get bogged down in the weeds of the process and just start complaining. It’s also easy to start suggesting improvements. But, that comes later.

  • Start with a simple process
  • Grab some post-it notes or a whiteboard, and begin listing out the steps
  • Assign a facilitator (a neutral party) to keep everyone on track

These basic software tools can be used to develop a process map:

  • Visio
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint

Don’t discount paper and pen or a whiteboard and marker! That’s often the best way to begin.

Benefits of process mapping

Process maps help to identify and reduce the weaknesses in the process. In many organizations, a process can become convoluted and burdensome as they change over time. We’re often in a hurry to fix a problem, so it’s easier to add another step or a work-around, rather than re-looking at the process as a whole. But, when a process is mapped, it’s easier to see how a change will affect the other process steps and functional groups.

It’s not uncommon for an organization to want to improve a process but the current process is not standardized or not well understood. The first step is knowing and understanding the current state. 

I encourage you to try process mapping in your organization. Improved workflows help employees feel less frustration and a greater level of engagement. Process improvement through mapping helps employees take ownership of the process and be more empowered. In short, it helps everyone better understand the process and their responsibilities within it.

We’re here to help

Could your organization benefit from training in the use of process mapping? Lexington Writing Firm can train you or your group through a Lunch & Learn session or develop a training course tailored to your organizational needs.

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