Last Updated on 9 September 2023
A core part of process improvement is knowing how the process is currently working. Process mapping is a vital part of this, and will tell you a lot about the current state.
In many cases, the process map is a simple flow chart. This is just a diagram showing the flow of tasks and product around your process. You can often draw it using only four different types of symbol:
- Terminal / Start / End – This marks the first and last steps of the process
- Process – Any time an action is taken, you write that action in a process rectangle
- Decision – whenever you use the word ‘if’ in a description, it will likely need a decision diamond. This is where there is more than one path that can be taken through the process. A common example is a quality check where the product may need to repeat a previous process.
- Connector– this shows the direction of travel between processes; usually it goes left to right.
You can have more complicated flowcharts, which I’ve explored further in the flow chart page.
There are other process maps that can be used, such as:
- Swimlane diagrams, for when the process covers several departments; this can easily show the movements between those sections.
- SIPOC and COPIS diagrams are very high level diagrams concentrating on the inputs and outputs of the process rather than the process itself. These are frequently the first process map made, usually the only one made in the Define phase.
- Spaghetti diagrams are a map of the movement in the process, which can be helpful for improving efficiency
- Value stream maps are usually the most detailed maps, often used during lean improvement projects. They are very helpful for looking at excess waste in the system, such as unnecessary steps, movement or waiting.