November 9, 2018

Process Mapping, Functional-Activity Flow Chart

The last post described the big picture process map, which I call the Macro. The next level down in detail is titled the functional-activity level flow chart. Function means job title, not department title. Activity means the task the person is doing. Here we can see who does what and when it is done. These maps are often called “swim lane” maps or in Visio, they are called cross-functional maps.

It is at this level when the “lenses of analysis” can be applied. The lenses include the following:

  • Customer Report Card
  • Worker frustration
  • Timeliness
  • Cost
  • Quality

In future posts I will talk more about the lenses of analysis.

The map you create will be one variation of the process. Remember if we put every variation on one map, it becomes very difficult to understand the map. Time is flowing from left to right. That means we can not have arrows that go from right to left, which would indicate we went backwards in time. Arrows can go straight down, which means two activities happen very close together in time.

Here are the steps to complete a functional-activity flow chart.

1.  Name the process, write it at the top of the page. Remember a time in the past when this process was performed, or create a map on what typically happens. Remember this is an “as is” map, not a could be, should be, or might be.

2.  Begin mapping. Your map will start with a job title. Write it on the upper left side of your flip chart page. Now write the activity that person performed. The process starts on the left and flows to the right. Use verb-noun combinations to describe the activities and questions to describe the diamonds.

3.Continue mapping as the flow moves from left to right. Add new job titles as the work flow moves to the next person.


4.  Separate job titles by horizontal lines.  Connect all of the boxes and diamonds with arrows which indicates the direction of the flow.

5.  Number each box and diamond.

Here is an example of an Insurance process where the application was complete and the review was done by an underwriter.

 Imagine we put every variation on the map, it would look something like the following.
















While is may seem like more work to break out the variations, it really helps the reader to understand the map when one or two variations are on a single map. Remember, the goal is to make the map easily understandable. If you want to practice on creating these maps, join us for our seminars in San Francisco.