10 Deadly Sins of Process Mapping

Barry McIntyre

Process Mapping"I didn’t know you did it that way" or "why don’t we try it like this"; these are typically heard on a daily basis in most offices, but they are also the bedrock of implementing a process map together.

The purpose of process mapping is a basic one within the lean six sigma world, but as a result of its simplicity, a number of steps are often overlooked.
But first... what is Process Mapping?
It’s a measure and illustration of the flows of operations and processes within an organization. The workflow map enables a business to identify any inefficiencies or errors to stamp them out and increase effectiveness, communication, collaboration and innovation.
Process Mapping is a great way to make a process visible and to help drive improvement within an organization. Put simply, it is an analytical tool commonly applied to provide a structural analysis approach and assess the capability of delivering systematic outputs.
By mapping out real-time operations and analyzing processes, a process improvement professional can visualize the inputs, interactions, deliverables and parties involved in an organization’s operation and decision-making. It also assists when identifying process inefficiencies, disjoints and improvement opportunities.
Once a map is created for everyone to see, everyone starts to ask questions, such as "Why do we do that?" or "why have we made this so complicated?" or "surely there must be a better way?" However, there are pitfalls to process mapping which you should be aware of…
The effectiveness of process mapping varies dramatically and is affected by how it is selected as the method of analysis, how it is planned and executed. If the true scale of operational processes is not met by the practitioner then there is a myriad of issues and the real underlying problems will not be discovered. Here we detail...
10 Deadly Sins:

1. The detail is too complicated

The use of too many technical symbols and language alienates many within an organization from not only understanding the overview, but also hinders them from taking part.

Start with an overview of the process, the "30,000 foot view" as many call it. This should be mapped in simple steps to allow everyone to understand the process at a glance and understand The Big Picture.

2. Not Walking the Walk

It is possible to map a process at 30,000 feet while in a training room, but to get down to the 500 foot view it is critical to go and see the process and engage as many of your employees in the process.

3. Lack of Collaboration

The best ideas usually come from the people who work in the process, who face the problems every day. It is these people who work on the process that really understand how the process works. Tell them what you are doing, explain the reasons for conducting process mapping and involve them.

4. Warts and all (Mapping what you want to see, not the actual process)

The real process is usually not the same as the one written into the procedure that exists in the supervisor’s head. You want to understand the current process, warts and all. This also links with reliance on the manager in charge of the process. For employees, they need to understand that if their manager knew the warts and all of what was going on, then process mapping wouldn’t be taking place. When engaged, be honest and mindful of the small details that could ultimately highlight a number of inefficiencies.

5. Explain what you’re doing

Despite highlighting the benefits of process mapping your operations, your staff may get suspicious, at worst turn nasty. Finding the right balance of delivering this message is key. A "cost saving initiative" may make your employees smell their redundancy papers, and as a result they may not collaborate or be completely honest with the process.

6. Not identifying value-added and waste steps

Muda, the Japanese word for waste, was a key concept in the Toyota Production System. It is critical to identify the main wastes in any improvement program, to increase efficiency and profitability. The wastes should be clearly identified on the process map. Usual convention dictates that red is used for waste steps and green for value-added. This makes the map even more visual and useful enterprise-wide.

7. Not being clear on the scope

Process maps should be about building a common understanding of the current situation in order to drive improvement. Therefore the map must be visual, visible, and understandable. Timeframes need to be put in; otherwise you won’t know when to stop.

8. Forgetting time

Conducting a process mapping initiative takes time. It’s invaluable, but also expensive when thinking about diverting employees working time to take part and collaborate in the process.

9. Not doing anything

A cardinal sin would be to not do anything with the output from the process mapping exercise. There’s little use for the map to be left in a folder or computer never to be seen again. It’s not a piece of paper for audit purposes, it should be implemented into your future strategy and investment plans.

10. Failing to drive improvement

There is little point in mapping a process, investing all the time, effort, and money, if no improvements are made. Don’t jump to conclusions yourself. Analyze the results thoroughly before reacting or making swift decisions. Seek additional advice from a consultant or fellow managers to discuss the results. Form a team and task that team with identifying the main problems displayed by the process map and then fixing them.