A process map is a visual aid that shows you how a procedure is done. A process map is an excellent tool to help break down a complicated process or procedure into clear visual steps. By breaking it down, you can see how a system flows into another and thereby assist you in determining where to streamline processes and how to improve other areas of the organization.
Writing out a process map takes research, an open mind and critical thinking. Here’s how to prepare a process map.
- Choose what process you need to map out. For example, if your company is a mail order business, a process map can show you visually all the steps it takes how one order is processed. So if you want to see how your delivery process works, lay it out on a process map. You can show what happens from the time when a customer calls your service number and places an order to the time the package reaches his doorstep.
- Determine your goal. You have decided what specific procedure you would like to focus on. Now figure out exactly what you would like as a result of studying the specific procedure. For example, do you want to decrease delivery delays and cut down turn around time from 5 days to 2? Or do you want to cut back 20% off your procedural costs? A process map can help you find the gaps.
- Gather the team that will help you fill in the details of the process map. In the above example, you will need someone knowledgeable about the call center process, the warehouse procedure as well as the delivery system being used.
- Prepare your materials. You will need a big space to write on, perhaps a black board, a big white board, or sheets of drafting paper. Use pencils, erasers and colored pens. Post it or sticky paper is also a helpful too in covering different parts of the map and writing new ideas on it.
- Start at some corner, or the very top or bottom and work your way out. You are making a flow chart so be mindful of the space you use. Start with step one of the process all the way through the end. Begin with a successful transaction. Then do one that isn’t.
- Now that you have the basic, start adding to your process map, the alternatives. At every step, ask yourself, what happens if this step fails, then draw out a separate line for an alternative procedure. For example, in the example above, when the order is given to warehouse, what happens if the item is out of stock? You will then need to write out a new flowchart for that scenario that will be beside the scenario wherein the order was fully completed n delivered.
- Be detailed at every aspect of each process. Review your process map to see if you made any mistakes or omitted some steps.
- You can now use this as your basic process map and work out different scenarios. Once you make corrections, write out a new process map of your alternative and discuss it with management.
A process map provides invaluable insight into different procedures by a company to make it more efficient and improve productivity. It may take more than one map before the entire process is complete but the information should prove most useful.