Process Mapping is the basis of Process Improvement – you have to know what your process looks like in order to identify areas for improvement. So what exactly is process mapping? It’s easiest to explain it by talking about something we’re all familiar with – making a sandwich.
At the top level of Process Mapping, we have the “big chunk” steps:
- get ingredients
- make sandwich
- serve or eat
Think of these in your organization’s terms:
Now, each of these can be broken down to smaller steps. For our sandwich, we might decide to do a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Our choices could be what type of bread, what type of peanut butter – chunky or creamy.
For your organization’s ‘ingredients’, let’s take sales and break that down – is it incoming (calls in to a sales center) or outgoing (sales force makes calls to potential and current clients)? Each of these would then be broken down further, so we may have parallel paths — or, the sales team could make a call, and the client later decides to call in an order – so the two parallel paths may merge somewhere along the line.
In process mapping, you lay out the start and the stop of a process (“get ingredients”) and show decisions by use of a diamond, process steps by use of a rectangle (typically), and start/stop by use of an oval. So for our get ingredients process map, we’d look something like this:
sandwich ingredient process map
Even the step after the decision of “crunchy” or “creamy” could be exploded down further – I know my son had definite preferences on brand of peanut butter, and if I didn’t have the correct brand on the shelf, he wouldn’t eat the sandwich! So in my personal diagram, after selection of consistency, I would add “is correct brand in house?” and would then branch to “go to store” (no) or ready to assemble (yes)…
Once all of this is completed, you are ready to step back and look at how improvements to this process may change other processes as well.
- Does your organization see the customer fulfillment process as a series of interconnected processes, or are they in silos or separate kingdoms?
- Do you see how changing something in the assembly process may change other things in the procurement, logistics, or even sales/marketing areas? Will packaging and other customer-delivery options need to be modified?
By understanding your process through Process Mapping, you can then start to optimize the process for lasting improvements that will make the organization more agile and flexible.