Whether in business or for reports, process maps are a great way to show how actions can be decided based on premises and possible decisions. Process maps can seem difficult to make, however, especially if you have never done a map before. Here’s how you can make sense of all the symbols and create an efficient and functional process map.
- Outlining. Start by creating the outline or draft of the process map. There are plenty of programs that you can use to create the process map, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Visio. One of the problems that people face, however, is when the process map is made right then and there in the computer. Instead, you should stick to the basics – go with pen and paper first. Sticky notes are great for creating the outline, since you can rearrange the sticky notes if you notice that a process needs to be edited. Place the sticky notes on a whiteboard, so that you can edit the flow lines as well.
- Ovals. The two main ends of the process map are the start and the stop points. You can indicate this by using ovals or circles. This will help readers figure out where the process will begin. The other ovals will be the various outcomes, depending on what decisions or courses of action are taken in the process map.
- Rectangles. Rectangles or squares can be used to indicate the steps in the process. Here, you will add the items or instructions that need to be accomplished before an action can proceed to the next level. You should also determine other details such as quantity, quality, people who need to be consulted at the particular step.
- Diamonds. A detailed process map will usually give room for decision making. You can show the decisions or crossroads in a process map by using a diamond symbol. From the diamond, you will need to create at least two different options or courses of action that can be taken. Each course of action will eventually lead to a different result or final outcome. In some complex process maps, the number of decision points can reach dozens, which will also mean that the outcomes are more difficult to predict. It is not uncommon for some decision points to lead back to a prior stage.
- Arrows. Arrows should be used to indicate direction. The arrow head should always be pointing at the next step, to guide the reader where next he will need to go depending on the process steps and decisions that are taken.
Apart from using various symbols, you can also use color coding to make it easier to decode a process map. If you will use colors, make sure that each type of symbol has a different color, otherwise the readers can get confused. Whether you use symbols alone or add in color, be sure to add in a legend at the end of the process map to help readers easily analyze and decode the map.