What is Process Mapping?

Process mapping is a tool that visually describes the flow of work from an input to an output in an organization. In essence making the invisible visible. The activities in the process are documented in a sequential order making it easy to see where value is being added and reveal where a process should be improved. It generally focuses on a single value stream and shows who and what activities are involved in a process. A value stream is a sequence of activities, that an organization performs to deliver a product through to the customer. The product can include anything from materials, information, documents, requests or services. In this article, we will discus how to run a Process Mapping workshop.

What is the purpose of Process Mapping?

  1. To increase understanding of a process. Process mapping provides insight into the current process, the relationship of process steps and provides a holistic view across entire value stream.
  2. To determine value and identify inefficiencies, wastes, non-value added activities and opportunities for improvement. These include repetition, delays, bottlenecks and constraints in a process.
  3. To analyze how a process can be improved and to increase efficiency and streamline processes. Teams work together to eliminate waste in a process. They also brainstorm ideas for process improvements and define a vision of the ideal future process. Common solutions include, increasing communication, defining process boundaries, process ownership and process responsibilities.
  4. To create process effectiveness measures (metrics). Through process mapping you can quantify the current performance of the process to measure future improvements against and devise target metrics for the future to help sustain the process improvement initiatives. “If it’s not measured it’s not managed“.
  5. To communicate the important details of a process. Process mapping is a visual tool that shows others how a process is completed, increases understanding of a process rather that writing directions and can be used to improve communication between individuals engaged in the same process.

Image 1. Process Mapping Example:

In Image 1., there are three main steps in the process of manufacturing pharmaceutical tablets: 1) Manufacturing 2) Quality Control 3) Quality Assurance. The start and end of the process are identified first. The start of the process are the “Raw Materials” and the end of the process is “Quality Assured Finished Batches of Tablets”. The inputs and outputs of each of these activities is documented. The people (teams) who are responsible for the tasks at each of these activities is assigned.

Image 2. Process Mapping Example with Swim Lanes:

As shown in Image 2., the tasks are then divided into “swim lanes”, each lane representing an individual team with tasks in those swim lanes the responsibility of the teams.

Image 3. Process Mapping Key

The color-coding and shape are important as depicted in Image 3.: Pink rectangles represent the different functions in the process. Green ovals represent the start and end of the process. Yellow rectangles are any task/activity. Blue diamonds are places where information is checked against established criteria and decisions made on what to do next. Purple semi-circles are any time information is waiting before the next process or decision i.e. waiting to be batched.

Pre-requisites for a Process Mapping Workshop:

  1. Identify the subject matter experts.
  2. Identify the organizations value streams.
  3. Prioritize and choose your value stream based on customer impact and organizational strategy.
  4. Establish an executive sponsor to champion and provide leadership to implement the process.
  5. Empower the team to make important changes that will transform the organization.
  6. Agenda and logistical plan.
  7. Final Prep – Q&A session before workshop, setting up space, book conference room, colored post-it notes, sharpies, erasable markers and whiteboards/writeable walls, camera.
  8. Develop workshop charter.
  9. Kick-off meeting with executive sponsor review workshop charter, logistics, training and pre-work assignments.
  10. Conduct the workshop.

Running a Process Mapping Workshop

  1. Present and finalize the workshop charter. Get all members to sign and date the charter
  2. Gather the subject matter experts around the white board or writeable walls with post-its, sharpies and erasable markers.
  3. The first step is to use the green post-its to document the start and end of the process.
  4. Next, use the pink post-its divide the process into swim lanes by functional areas.
  5. Use the yellow post-its document each of the individual tasks in the process. Place arrows in between the yellow post-its to denote direction. There will also be arrows up and down between Swim lanes.
  6. Map out the whole process using the yellow post-its. For decision points use the blue post-its, for any delays or bottlenecks use the purple post-its.
  7. Create a “parking lot” area on the whiteboard to document issues, out- of-scope information, acronyms, terminology etc and to keep the process flowing.
  8. It is helpful to gather additional data as you go along through the process. Document the cycle time in minutes i.e. the time taken to complete the activity and the lead time in minutes i.e. the wait time before starting. Document the capacity e.g. batch sizes etc.
  9. If possible quantify current baseline metrics through data analysis of process mapping

What happens next?

  1. Once the process has been mapped from start to finish, the next step is to analyze the process map:
    • Identify value-added activities, those that transform materials and information into products or services that the customer wants
    • Identify Non-value-added activitiesthat use resources but do not directly contribute to the end product or service
    • Identify Non-value-added activities necessary steps, those that are mandated by regulation, rules or statute that can not be changed unless the regulation is changed
    • Identify waste, rework, handoff and things eliminated to make it simpler and of more value to the customer e.g. waiting for an activity to start, defects, bottlenecks etc.
    • What are the roadblocks? Technology 
    • Where is the Process slowed down?
    • Where are the People the solution?
  2. Discuss the ideal future state. Get the team to walk the process map, brainstorm and either highlight the areas that are waste or are in need of improvement with a red star shape called “Kaizen burst” or map out the future state process map
  3. Create a transformation plan to achieve the future state. Use lean best practices to remove waste and increase efficiency e.g. 5S, 7 deadly sins, value-stream mapping, Kaizen burst events, “Do-it”, levelling, flow and standard work and technology platforms. For each of the improvement opportunities, assign owners, estimate implementation plan for each improvement and timeline
  4. Execute the plan, implement improvements, establish metrics and measure
    • Conduct workshops, events, projects
    • Create an environment of continuous improvement 
    • Conduct Process Mapping Alignment Meetings
  5. Transcribe the process maps into process mapping software such as Microsoft Visio, Xmind, LucidChart

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