Process mapping is a visual tool that gives you a bird’s eye view of your business.
Process mapping allows you, the expert, to pull the “how I do things” out of your head onto the page in a methodical way. Then you can deliver a consistent service or others can replicate your level of service without asking you a million questions.
It identifies all the moving parts;
- the order in which you do tasks,
- who does each task,
- the decisions you make along the way,
- the things that slow you down (whether or not they’re in your control).
Process Mapping allows you to spot the gaps;
- the tasks you do/ checks you make/ mistakes you fix on auto-pilot but someone else might not know to do,
- the extra steps that are in the process “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”,
- the timelines that get you into trouble such as when you always ordering stock/ marketing materials late and have to pay higher delivery fees or book venues at the last minute giving you
lessoptions to choose from.
All of which allow us to improve the process.
But where do you begin?
You could just start scribbling some stuff down on paper, but a good process map will take a quick bit of planning.
Here’s the Kits and Bits guide to Process Mapping for Beginners. You may want a cuppa before you continue and if you don’t know how to make a cuppa, don’t worry, there’s a process map for making one further down.
Identify Your Process
You just need one to start. Focus on the processes that;
- Cost you money when you mess them up (ordering materials/ stock, client agreements and contracts)
- Stop you making money (administrative duties that you do every day/ several times per week and could delegate out to someone without your technical skills)
- Stop you taking money in (Invoicing, client bookings)
Do a SIPOC
A whatpoc I hear you ask?
A SIPOC helps you scope the process, by identifying the (S) suppliers, (I) inputs, (O) outputs, and (C) customers of the process and therefore what the specific (P) process is.
- Anyone internal or external to your business that supplies something you need to complete the process.
- Any service, resource, product, or information supplied to you.
- The activities which, if followed correctly, will lead to an input being converted to an output.
- What is delivered to the client as a result of following the process.
- The person, team, or organisation who receive your output, product or service (may be internal or external to your business).
If the Process is to make a cup of tea then your SIPOC might look like this.
Go Post-it ® (not postal)
If you’re like 70% of the business owners I know, any excuse to head to your local stationery supply shop will be welcome and if you can say “but Lynette told me I had to” to your bookkeeper, then so much the better.
Before you can begin you’ll need;
- A set of 5 standard coloured Post-it ® Notes
- Butcher’s/ Wrapping Paper
- A Classic Fine Sharpie
- Tac of some description
When you want to set up the process mapping session, you’ll need;
A nice bit of blank wall
A stool/ chair/ coffee table to keep your tools on
The people who work in the process
Sounds logical right, but you’d be surprised how many times this doesn’t happen – and it shows in the final product. As a manager, you can document what you think the process is, or what you’d like it to be but unless you’re the one doing it all the time, there will be tasks, issues, delays that you don’t know about.
A process minded buddy
Ideally, they’re someone you’re comfortable with and more importanly, comfortable with them challenging you. If they don’t know the process, even better, as they’ll be able to check all those steps you’ve taken for granted.
Write as many tasks as you can think of on a single
Use action verbs to begin your task and keep the description to just a few words. It will help you keep your task specific and stop you from wrapping up 15 steps in one.
- Add Milk
- Pour Tea
- Advertise Workshop
- Brief Designer
- Calculate Event Costs
Start laying your tasks out across your butcher’s paper. Don’t worry about aligning them perfectly, you’ll be moving them (I guarantee it).
Space them about half a Post-it ® apart,
Play Devil’s Advocate
Now come the questions. This is the critical part of the whole process and why you need a buddy.
Have your buddy ask you (or ask yourself if you have to) the following questions for each task;
- How do you know when you have to do this?
- Would someone else know where to find that?
- Do I need approval from anyone?
- Am I waiting on anyone else at any point?
- How long does that take?
- Is this something you have to take special care over?
- What happens if the task fails?
- Are there any other possible outcomes from this task?
- Who else in involved?
- Does it always happen this way?
If, this, then that
Show Decisions using a different colour Post-it ® turned on a 45 degree angle. These will lead to a separate “process path” of tasks.
Decisions will always be questions and should generally be answered with Yes or No or no more than 3 options (see Flowchart for Making Tea below). More complex process maps can include multiple “process paths” leading off a single Decision, but be careful about biting off more than you can chew to begin with.
- Has thingumajig happened?
- Do we have enough thingumabobs?
- Apples or Oranges?
- Savoury or sweet?
- Is approval required?
- Has approval been given?
- Do you have access?
- Is the widget ready?
- Is it up to date?
Why are we waiting?
Show Delays with a different colour again. Anytime you have to wait for someone to do something (pay an invoice, review a draft, answer a query), rather than lay it out in the flowchart, tack it on to the bottom of the task affected.
As you’re documenting your decisions, you may find you’ve got multiple processes in one. Now you can use another
Does a decision outcome mean you go off and do something else entirely? That’s a new process and probably one you follow for other process maps.
For example, you may have the decision “Is travel required?” on multiple process maps (‘Attend Conference’, ‘Run Client Workshop’, ‘Plan Client Meeting’ etc.)
If the answer is “Yes”, rather than repeating the travel booking process across all of the process maps, you can have a link to the “Travel Booking Process” on each of them.
This Is Me
Finally, you can use your last
If there’s only a couple of roles, you can tag them on to the bottom of the task, similar to delays.
If there are quite a few roles involved, you can lay them down the left-hand side of the map to create “swim lanes” and move the tasks and decisions to reflect who does them.
Review your SIPOC
Quite often, changing the SIPOC can significantly change the Process Map.
- If you have customers in multiple locations, does your supplier change depending on the location and if so, does that change the process?
- If you’re working with VIPs, does your process change?
- If you get a specialty product or service from a different supplier, does that change the timeframe from your normal ordering/ booking process?
The Finished Product
Once you’ve fleshed out your process(es), your paper will start to look something like this one I helped Home Integrity to develop before they documented their systems manual.
Tips and Traps for Beginners
It doesn’t matter which
Turning a Post-it ® on an angle for a decision may seem a bit ridiculous to begin with but once you see a full process map fleshed out, you’ll see how useful it is.
Tech and Software
I wouldn’t be a very good tech translator if I didn’t mention tech, so there’s a couple of ways you can include tech in your process map.
If you use software or apps that are not common use (standard email, document creation, spreadsheets etc), for example, if you send emails through a CRM or accounting system instead of your normal mail client), then you can map those in the process map.
Get some of those smaller Post-it ® Notes (50mmx50mm) and designate a specific
- Tag it on to the bottom of the task if flicking back and forth along the process path, or
- Include it in the process path if a number of tasks are completed in that system).
Lynette embodies an intrinsic ability to save business owners money by delivering back the all-elusive “spare” time so they can use it to do what they love. She puts these principles into practice in her own business – Kits and Bits. Lynette is an avid genealogist and tango dancer.Lynette Delane
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