Process mapping is a useful tool for what can be summed up as “seeing the big picture and little pictures at the same time”.

Process mapping is the act of creating a workflow diagram to gain a clearer understanding of how a process works.

Mapping out business processes is a great way to understand all the steps needed to complete a workflow. With process maps, employees can easily gain an overview of how processes are carried out, how they can be improved or constrained, and how many of the steps taken are necessary to drive the process to its end.

Generally, process mapping is done to establish company execution standards or procedures. Some organisations use process maps as guides or diagrams for procedural tasks, and to direct employees to follow the steps of a workflow in the correct order. Process mapping allows an organisation to track the amount of time it takes to complete a process, find process bottlenecks, enforce execution standards, automate work, identify resource wastage, streamline and improve processes, plan projects and build understanding. 

This is a very useful tool to enable deep work. Process mapping can clarify the time needed to set aside for deep work. When a process is clearly marked out, employees have a bird’s eye view of what a piece of work entails. This can drive efficiency as the key steps are stipulated and other unnecessary steps can be excluded. Process maps help employees understand the important characteristics of a process, allowing them to produce helpful data to use in problem-solving. Process maps allow employees to ask important questions that help improve any process.

Process mapping is also an extremely useful tool that can be used within teams. In 2008, Facebook was swiftly expanding. As the number of users increased, the design team was struggling to keep up. Issues were beginning to emerge such as when to ask or not ask for approval on certain products. This loose design process led to great ideas not being executed, frustration amongst the team members and products of different quality levels and production speeds. As more people began to join the team, there was a need to set expectations on how collaboration would work. Upon examination, the root cause was found to be the absence of agreed-upon processes. In response, Facebook created a process map. This helped reinforce role clarity within the team. Once all the processes were mapped, working groups were created who were responsible for specific areas in the process. This created clarity in terms of what was expected, the timeframe allocated and how their work fitted into the bigger picture.

Your team may need a process map if any of the following applies:

  • Two people on the same team describe the “official team process” very differently;
  • Managers come in at the last minute and make changes to projects before they go live;
  • People get pulled on and off projects midstream;
  • Projects get cancelled halfway through;
  • People get frustrated because they don’t know who made a decision and why they’re prioritising one thing over another; and
  • People are surprised to learn of work their teammates are doing or even find out about it only after a project has been completed.

References:

Blumenfeld, B. (2017). Clarity in the design process: How to create a process map for your team. Retrieved from https://medium.com/bridge-collection/clarity-in-the-design-process-how-to-create-a-process-map-for-your-team-fce240d19f4d

Gallia, A. (2019). A practical guide to increase productivity with process mapping. Retrieved from https://www.process.st/process-mapping/

Salemme, I. (2018). A step-by-step guide on process mapping. Retrieved from https://www.pipefy.com/blog/business-process-management/how-to-map-your-processes-a-step-by-step-guide/

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