Practitioners who think process mapping can be completed in a two-hour session with a group of subject matter experts, a white board and some sticky notes are likely to end up with a nice piece of paper with a bunch of squares and diamonds. This is because process mapping is not for wimps. Creating a process map that tells a full, data-based story requires a decent amount of time and effort by those individuals involved in the process.
A great process map should show, with certainty, where improvements can be made, where cycle time delays exist and where smooth handoffs are not taking place. Creating a process, or value stream, map should be the first act a company performs when seeking to make process improvements. If they start more advanced process improvement methodologies without completing a value stream map first, organizations may make a slower start on their road to improvement. Of course, practitioners should not avoid these advanced methodologies. But they will benefit from beginning with a process map, which can make an immediate impact – immediate in the sense of less than three months.
Again, process mapping is not an easy undertaking. It is the perfect combination of business acumen and art. It takes special talent to interview individuals and get them to explain exactly what they do in their job every day, as well as share their pains and express their wants. In fact, it takes the ability to connect with many different types of people and personalities, the know-how to ask questions that will effectively prompt the interviewee and the listening skills to understand what a person is saying – without judgment or prejudice.
A skilled practitioner may ask some of the following questions during an interview to capture process owners’ pains and wants:
But what about the data-based story component? Well, to perform a true value stream mapping exercise, data must be collected in conjunction and concurrently with the interviews. Questions to collect this data may include:
Gathering data is the real power of performing process mapping. The master plot, the final map with all the details, is great for showing people the process, but the juicy stuff is in the data that is collected.
The figure below is a picture of an end-to-end sales process; in real life it is eight feet long. The green boxes represent steps where cycle time delays exist. The yellow boxes are manual steps where automation can take place. The lines coming in and out of the circles (multiple systems) indicate data that comes in or out of a system.
One of the practitioner’s challenges is to identify exactly how many handoffs there are in the process, and how many inputs go into a system but never get taken out. However, the absolute biggest benefit comes from taking steps out of the process. Once changes have been made, practitioners can calculate a return on investment and assign value to each step in the process.
The following are some tips and tricks for process mapping any process in an organization: