Process Maps

What is process mapping all about?

The term ‘process mapping’ sounds terribly formal and conjures up images of huge gantt charts, graphs and documentation. In some organisations it can be like this – but it doesn’t have to be! Quite simply, process mapping is all about documenting your organisation’s job tasks. There are a number of advantages to be gained from doing this:

  1. Everyone is clear about who, what, how, why and when tasks need to be completed.
  2. The maps provide a clear reference point if anyone is uncertain about a particular task.
  3. New members of staff and existing staff moving into a new role, have clear instructions to follow which will help them to get trained quicker.
  4. Staff returning to work after a long period of sicknes can quickly refresh themselves about processes, without needing to undergo full retraining; the same is true of staff moving into a role to cover holiday absence.
  5. When tasks are mapped they can be grouped to form a Job Bible for particular areas of your business.
  6. By mapping processes it is often easier to see where cost and time savings can be made by trimming activities back.

How many processes should an organisation map?

The quantity and detail to which an organisation maps their processes is really down to management choice. That said, the task should always be driven by the benefits that will be gained from conducting the exercise.

It is particularly useful to map processes when you need to ensure consistency across a whole programme of work. For example, if a project manager needs to obtain financial sanction to order certain items of equipment. If this is consistent across a whole programme of work with multiple project managers involved, a simple flow chart could act as a timely reminder and save thousands of pounds by reducing wasted time.

Here is an example of a flow chart template (please click on the image to view it in a larger format). You will notice that it uses universally recognised flow chart symbols to indicate the role of different stages in the chart. What’s more, it is concise but uncluttered and fits neatly onto one sheet of paper. As such, this process map makes an ideal quick-reference aide; a more indepth, detailed process mapping may be advantageous for some tasks but always try to keep them as simple as possible; aim to include just enough detail but no more.

Another use of process mapping is to provide your team members with quick tips or troubleshooting guides such as the second illustration shown here.

What are BIG’s tips when it comes to process mapping?

Process maps can provide real benefit to an organisation but only if they are produced carefully:

  1. Keep it simple!
  2. Delegate responsibility for process mapping amongst members of your team; encourage everyone to get involved and to take responsibility for mapping different tasks.
  3. Ensure each process map is clearly labelled to show which process it is documenting.
  4. Add the process mapper’s name to the document; if anyone is still unclear they can refer back to that person for further guidance.
  5. Keep the document updated when processes change.
  6. Include a date and version number so you can be sure people are using the most up-to-date processes.
  7. Make sure the process maps are available to use every day; it’s no good simply filing them away for a raining day!

By getting everyone involved, process mapping can also have many secondary benefits. For example, you can use it as a management tool:

  1. As an exercise to identify ways to streamline processes to save time, effort and money for your organisation.
  2. As a device to give team members greater responsibility when they are given ownership of a particular task or tasks.
  3. As a means of improving teamwork by getting two or more people working together to map bigger tasks.
  4. To break down barriers between staff and management; when people are given responsibility for processes the perception is that it becomes their process rather than one that is dictated by management.
  5. As a measureable activity for which recognition can be given for good work. For example, over time it will become obvious how accurate the mapping has been and how well people keep those maps updated.

Don’t forget, process mapping does not need to be difficult – it can be as simple or as complex as you and your team want to make it!