Process Mapping for Performance Improvement

Make the journey visible

Business Process Mapping is a powerful tool in continuous improvement simply because it does exactly what it says – it provides managers  and teams with a map of the journey that their materials and information travel in order to deliver products or services to where they are needed.

More importantly, the process map reveals the numerous checkpoints, delays, and detours that are sometimes hidden in the process. When the process is made visible through mapping, the team can work out a more efficient and effective route to achieve the required output.

Invest in Clarity

Some clients I have worked with have been reluctant to invest the time needed to generate process maps, making the argument that “we know what’s going on in this process, let’s just make the improvements”. While there is certainly some merit in addressing the issues that are already understood by the business, there is also significant risk from those issues that are hidden and poorly understood.

Creating a complete picture of a process creates a clear understanding of how the process is functioning, and identifies where there are interdependencies across teams and departments. Without this understanding there is a risk that improvements made to one area of the process could in fact have a negative impact on another area/department, and overall the business could be worse off, despite investing effort in trying to improve.

So how do you create a process map?

A good process map is the outcome of a series of workshops attended by a cross functional team, consisting of:

  • process experts who actually implement the process,
  • people who don’t run the process but are aware of the purpose of the process and possibly key considerations such as regulatory or quality requirements,
  • and an objective facilitator who can steer the team through generating the map, and occasionally ask a question that those close to the process might not think of (someone like me!)

Process mapping will reveal multiple issues that can be improved or resolved – probably more than the business has capacity to address at any one time. This picture allows the business to create a roadmap of continuous improvement, with teams selecting areas for improvement, implementing the changes, and then updating the process map to show the improved state. As improvements are completed, work starts on the next set of issues.

And so the Continuous Improvement journey for the business is mapped out and executed over time, with improvement opportunities made clearly visible to all involved.

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