The 10 Commandments of Process Mapping
These commandments may not have been revealed by divine intervention, but they do offer up a list of rules to live by if you want to develop effective process maps.
Commandment #1: Thou shalt have no process maps that gather dust
Process mapping should not be an exercise in documenting everything in your business and then putting those documents away in a binder, never to be seen again. Make sure that there’s a clear purpose to the process maps and that you will be updating them to reflect process changes over time.
Commandment #2: Thou shalt not make unto thee any overly complicated image
Process maps should be relatively easy to understand by anybody in the business. Make your process maps as simple and clear as possible.
Commandment #3: Thou shalt not attempt to map the "perfect" process
There's no such thing as perfection. Sure, you could keep incorporating details and working things out until you’ve drawn what you think is the perfect process map. But, why bother? Map the process to the level of detail that you require to identify opportunities for improvement and don’t get bogged down chasing perfection.
Commandment #4: Remember your business improvement objectives and keep them clear
Why are you mapping this process in the first place? Focus, focus, focus!
Commandment #5: Honour the mapping notation standards (or at least be consistent)
Process mapping notations such as BPMN exist to help eliminate confusion over what different symbols mean. Don't go drawing whatever you feel like on the day, ensure that whatever notation you use - even if it's your own personal one - is consistent across all process maps that your company uses. (And there’s a real advantage to learning the standards others have developed so that you're not reinventing the wheel!).
Commandment #6: Thou shalt not forget to include key stakeholders in the process
Make sure that you've got all relevant people involved in the process in the room (figuratively, as a minimum) when you are mapping a process. If you leave out key stakeholders you might miss off critical information or steps.
Commandment #7: Thou shalt not assume that you'll find all answers to process improvement within the process map
There are many things that impact a process – e.g. departmental structure, lack of clear roles and responsibilities, misaligned metrics or performance bonuses - that won't necessarily show up on a process map. While process mapping is often the first step to process improvement, you also need to make sure you are looking at the bigger picture to understand what really affects the process performance.
Commandment #8: Thou shalt not employ process mapping willy-nilly
Not everything in your business can and should be mapped. Equally, process mapping may not always be the right solution in order to identify improvements in every situation. In 4 Common Process Mapping Mistakes, contributor Shu-wing Pang argues that it "tends to be more effective on transformational and transactional processes. Performing process mapping on a high-level and open-ended decision-making process may not yield the best results in identifying improvement opportunities." Make sure you're using process mapping for situations where it is most likely to drive results.
Commandment #9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against what’s really going on in your business
Process mapping should expose the good and the bad about what’s happening in your business and shouldn't gloss over the "bad" or unexpected things. It’s by surfacing the truth about what's happening that you'll be able to identify what needs to change.
Commandment #10: Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s process mapping software
Whether you choose to use process mapping software is a matter of choice (see Do You REALLY Need Process Mapping Software? for more on this) as you can certainly get started with pen and paper or a basic Microsoft tool. It does have some really useful features but you can't expect software to be a silver bullet if all the other elements for creating great process maps are not in place. Follow these commandments and you'll be well placed to be creating powerful and effective process maps for your organization.