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.

Guidelines

  • 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.

How-to

  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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