Take Charge of Your Process: A Framework for Process Mapping

Jeff Greenaway, chief consulting CIO for CIO onDemand
Business Growth MAP Alliance, March 7, 2018 (rescheduled from Feb. 21)

To fix operational problems and improve results, many companies turn to new software systems. But don’t spend money on software without mapping out your work process, said Jeff Greenaway, chief consulting CIO for CIO onDemand. To ensure consistency, trackability and focus toward a shared goal, you need a well-documented process.

“Often, if you map out and improve your process, you’ll find you can make your current system work—which will save you thousands of dollars in the end,” he said.

Process mapping is used to chart a company’s workflow to understand, analyze and improve productivity. The benefits include lower cost of operations, increased revenue, staying on schedule and budget, and better teamwork. According to Greenaway, these benefits result from removing unneeded tasks, identifying areas for improvement, gaining a clear picture of how your business works, clearing a path from the present to the future goal, and a having a shared understanding of the process as a whole. 

To begin mapping your company’s process, Greenaway recommended four tools: Post-Its in five different colors, a fine-tip Sharpie, Scotch tape, and a large Post-It easel. Then try this easy seven-step framework for process mapping:

Step 1: Identify your flowchart team

Flowchart teams consist of two people, the facilitator and the subject matter expert, or SME. The facilitator is the mapping expert, paying attention to analyzing the job as a whole and charting the process. The SME knows the daily operations of the job. To avoid confusion and distraction, Greenaway advises recruiting only one SME per area. 

Step 2: Initial mapping session

Using your Post-It notes and the large Post-It easel, begin to draw out the SME’s process one step at a time. Document improvements on a separate piece of paper, not on the flowchart. Use a note labeled “Parking Lot” for any area that is out of scope. At the end, walk through the entire flow again and draw lines connecting the process. 

Step 3: Record mapped process in electronic format

Enter the paper process into an electronic format using the same color system as the Post-Its. Print to a PDF and send the process to the entire team and the SME for review. Use software such as Visio, Lucidchart, SmartDraw or Draw.io for this task.

Step 4: Validation

Once everyone has reviewed your first draft of the process, arrange a meeting at which the SME walks through the live process without looking at the map. The facilitator and the other team members for that department You  need to mark down any needed changes and add them to the flowchart. 

Step 5: Record validation changes in electronic format

Correct your electronic version. Print it in PDF format and send it to the team and SME for one final review. Once the SME signs off on the revised flowchart as a workable process for that job, save it as the final version. 

Step 6: Improve

Review each task in the process. Look for any non-value-adding steps that can be removed or modified for more efficiency. Perform a sanity check to see if this step makes sense in the process. If not, make any necessary changes. 

Step 7: Review the results

Your process will now have three phases. The first draft should be rough, with what the SME thought the process looked like. The second draft should be more finely tuned, with more of the team’s input. The final draft should be shorter and more precise, with the entire process documented and simplified. 

Once you’ve completed these steps, move to another area within the company and begin again until every area has a well-documented process. “Start small and go big,” said Greenaway. 

“There are many reasons why companies go off target in their vision,” he added. “By identifying your process, you’ll find areas of improvement which will lead to more productivity, streamlined performance and a less stressful work environment.” 

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