November 9, 2018

Dan’s First Rule of Process Mapping

The first rule:  The process map should be easily understood by a naive person. What is the purpose of a process map? I believe it is to show the flow of work and information through an organization. Obviously, there can be a variety of paths that work and information can take, even in one process. Imagine what happens when we put all the variations that can happen on one map. It can look like spaghetti and meatballs. I have seen these maps and could not make any sense out of them. What is the value of the map if everyone gets confused?

Hence for the sake of clarity, do not pack every variation on one map. Instead put each variation on its own map. I title every map with the name of the process and the variation being shown. For instance, the map might be titled Sales Order Process, Order Validation Correct. While this might cause a little extra work for the mapper, it makes it much better for the person trying to understand it. Variations typically occur at reviews, inspections, or decisions. For instance, the reviewer asks, “Does it pass?” The answer could be “yes or no.” Each of those paths is a variation.

When I start mapping a process, I ask “Which variation of this process do you want to map?” We might start with what is considered “typical.” When I get to a decision or review, I ask “What typically happens here?” The person might say, “It typically passes.” I will not be mapping the “does not pass” route. That would go on another map.

Since I am on this topic, another issue surrounds “do loops.” In this case something does not pass an inspection and it gets sent back several steps in the process to do over. The do loop process can happen multiple times. Imagine a situation that the do loop can happened three times. You might indicate that with a 3 on the loop. What I suggest is to copy the do over steps as often as they occur. Why? The visual of all of the steps being repeated is a powerful message of the waste occurring. The do loop actually hides the impact of repeated work. Showing all of the steps as they occur makes the waste jump out.

My next entry will be on my second rule, which is: The problems in the process should be easy to see.

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