Process Map


A Process Map is a diagram that visually displays a series of events, or steps that occur within a given process. There are several types of process maps; there is no wrong way to do a map. Maps are great visual aids that enable members of a team to collaboratively define and understand what is actually happening (instead of what is THOUGHT to be happening) and identify areas of potential opportunity to innovate.

Try to include the following in every type of Process Map you create:

  • Put the title of the process and the date at the top of the map
  • Define the process start and end points
  • Identify the customer of the process
  • Use square sticky-notes for steps & turn them into diamonds for decisions
  • If possible, identify times associated with steps
  • Identify value added, non-value added, and business necessary non-value added steps

“How To” Using Sticky Notes

Create a map by using post-it notes on a large roll of paper. Use different color post-it notes for action steps vs. decisions. It may be helpful to use a post-it note as a square for action steps and a diamond for decisions points. Each post-it note should represent a different step in the process. Note the diagram below:

Demonstrating empathy in this process is vital! Problems occur because of process, not people. Seek to understand by asking questions, reserving judgment and blame, and seeking input from the customer.

Next Steps

Ways to document the process:

  • Gather key stakeholders of the process to collaboratively document the steps. It’s okay if there are duplicates; they can be grouped – the most important is to get everyone involved.
  • It is also valuable to go out and “walk the process” in order to capture small things that may be overlooked, to capture photos of work being done and the physical environment at key steps, as well as capture the time to both complete certain steps in the process (touch time), as well as the time in-between (elapsed time).
    • Capturing the time helps to identify metrics for possible efficiencies with focused improvement work.

When the team has documented the current process, review the map to look for the following:

  • Duplication of steps (combine where needed)
  • Identify any unnecessary steps (based upon customer value/requirements)
    • Use different colored dots to define value, non-value but required, and non-value steps – creates a visual of potential areas of focus)
  • Excess movement or errors/re-work
  • Where are the opportunities to improve the process?
    • Use the value exercise, as well as the “8 wastes” to look for opportunities for process improvement and innovation
    • Mark these opportunities to help create a future state (different colored sticky notes to identify waste)
    • Don’t try to boil the ocean!  Pick an area of priority to focus improvement efforts

General Rules of Thumb

  • Left to right is notionally when steps take place
  • Boxes = Steps in a process (label “who” and use verbs)
  • Diamonds = Decisions (Yes/No, If/Then…)
  • Mark milestones and/or time to understand key points in the process
  • Document volumes of “widgets” that go through the process
  • When a map is done, use a different color post-it to identify innovation opportunities
  • You’re not going to break anything! Strive to ensure the map is accurate and reflects the work that is actually done!