Process mapping is a procedure whereby the steps in a process are clarified in writing, using a flow chart. Information about the process is gathered by a business or project leader, compiled into a standard written form and analyzed.
The people who conduct a process are consulted to document the steps that they actually take in performing the process. Documenting variation and exceptions is just as important as capturing the way a process is normally done.
Creating the Map
The steps are laid out from left to right and top to bottom, with specific shapes used to denote specific process components. A start or stop point is designated with an oval or rounded rectangle, a regular step is a rectangle and a decision point is a diamond. All steps are connected by lines and arrows.
A deployment process map can be used to specify which individual or group is doing each step in a process. An opportunity map is used to highlight steps which add value as opposed to those that represent waste and inefficiency.
A process map gives leaders a means of understanding the details of how a process is actually performed. It provides a way of identifying problems and sources of inefficiency so that performance can be improved.
Process mapping is a standard part of Six Sigma implementations, particularly process improvement projects. It is also beneficial when changes to a process are made or any time managers aim to understand problems in a process.