Use a process map to illustrate the sequential flow and the relationship of steps in a process or procedure.

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Process maps help you to understand and to communicate the activities, or steps, in a process. They also help you to see the relationship between inputs and outputs in a process and to identify key decision points and uncover rework loops.

A process map
Answers the questions:
  • What areas of the process show the greatest opportunity for improvement?
  • For a specific project, where does the process start and where does it end?
  • What does the actual process, not the assumed process, look like at the start of the project?
  • What are the inputs and outputs of each step in the process?
  • For a specific project, which inputs have little impact on the output of interest?
  • Which steps are the bottlenecks and sources of defects?
  • Which steps have a direct impact on customer requirements?
  • Can you simplify, combine, or eliminate steps in the process?
  • What does the actual process look like at the end of the project?
When to Use Purpose
Pre-project Identify potential projects and isolate areas of the process that need improvement.
Start of project Scope the project. Define the start and the end of a process segment that is the focus of the project.
Mid-project Identify steps in the actual process along with their inputs, outputs, activities, and constraints.
Mid-project As a team exercise, set aside inputs that have little influence on the output of interest.
Mid-project As a team exercise, simplify and eliminate process steps.
End of project Document changes in procedures for the improved process.


This tool has no data requirements because you use it only to collect and organize process steps.


  • Create a process map with a team of people who have various jobs related to the process. A cross-functional team can help you to identify activities, inputs, outputs, or process data that you might fail to see from a single perspective.
  • Always "walk the process" to ensure the process map is accurate.
  • When you use a process map to identify potential inputs, focus on one step at a time.


  1. As a team, determine where the process starts and where it ends, and then walk through each step of the process.
  2. Identify the data associated with each step of the process, including:
    • Activities: Names of the steps in the process map.
    • Inputs: X variables that might influence the output of interest, either directly or indirectly.
    • Outputs: Y variables that depend on X variables.
    • Process data: Information that further defines the characteristics of a process, such as the yield or DPMO at each step.
    • Lean data: Information that is typically used to identify and eliminate waste, such as resource utilization or cycle time at each step.
  3. Record the collected information in a process map.

For more information, go to Create a process map.

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