Process maps are representations, often visual, of the steps people follow to complete tasks in an organization. These can be broad overviews or step by step instructions. They provide a way for everyone to understand what is going on and where everyone fits in a process.
It’s important to know what you are doing in order to make improvements to that process. Process maps can help you visualize what is really going on in your organization and identify areas that could be improved. They can range from simple linear overviews of one person’s job or long complex, granular chains that outline multiple steps across several departments. It all depends on your business needs.
You can build process maps with just a few basic shapes. Here are a few that you can use to get started:
Figure 1 Is a screenshot from the Microsoft application Visio of the basic shapes that you can use.
Mapping out what your organization does gives everyone a clear picture of what is expected of them. Managers can see everyone’s role at a glance, and everyone can know where their role fits in the process.
Figure 2 is an overview of the article writing process using basic flowchart figures.
These kinds of maps allow you to see who is doing what and where work might be duplicated or missed. It lets people know exactly who is responsible for which tasks. Just like a normal map, once you’re oriented, it’s easy to figure out where you are going.
There is, or should be, a reason we do most things in business. There’s an outcome we’re looking for and there are certain steps we take to get there. In fact, looking at the ending point can be a good place to start your process map. Then look at where you begin and analyze the steps you need to take to achieve that desired end.
Not all tasks are completed in a straight line and you process maps can be as complex as your organization. Sometimes there is handoff between departments and some task may need to be repeated as other issues become apparent.
Figure 3 is an example of a process map for documentation. This map involves multiple departments and also calls for regular review of information.
Here are a few steps to help you get started:
- State the starting and endpoint of the process you’re mapping. What’s your goal?
- List out the steps you take along the way. Order isn’t so important in the beginning. Just get the information down. What are the important steps along the way?
- After you have all your steps figured out, then it’s time to hammer down the order. When should everything happen?
- Once you have your process written out, review and make sure everything is correct.
We build process maps to give visibility to the tasks we complete on a daily basis. They help everyone in an organization understand the big picture and where they fit in as well as standardize and repeat processes. You’ll be able to easily identify shortcomings and make corrections.
Maps have always been intended to help us find our way. Two continents are named after a mapmaker (North and South America are named after the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci). Just goes to show you how important maps can be.