Mapping operational processes creates a foundation for organizational performance improvements. It creates a common language and understanding for team members and workers, and it helps identify processes needing improvement as well as the critical performance measures. Created properly, process maps can bring clarity to diverse ideas, create a shared vision across the organization and help identify where the organization can best focus its resources.
Before leaders start work on any operational or process improvement work, they must clearly and fully understand why the changes are required and how the organization will benefit. If the leaders fail to identify targets that have a greater impact, or fail to prove the impact itself, the resulting performance improvements will not be satisfactory. The consequence is low return on investment and lack of sustainability.
For process mapping to be successful and deliver the desired performance improvement results, the identified areas or processes for improvement must be aligned to the organization’s strategic initiatives normally defined by its balanced scorecard. Alignment of business process initiatives with business strategy is key to ensuring senior management commitment and buy-in and support in the form of resource and capital investment. Furthermore, in order to experience little resistance to change across the organization, leaders must build a solid case for change and have an influential implementation team in place to lead the change project.
The choice of the process map to be created depends on the organization. Different types of process maps that can be drawn and modeled include; Supplier, Input, Output, Process, Customer (SIPOC), Value Stream Map (VSM), Supply Chain Operations Reference Model (SCOR®), Program/Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) and Program Logic Model (PLM). Having aligned the goals of the process improvement with the goals of the organization, regardless of which type of map you are creating, the next step would be to create a first pass map. This map captures the big picture of the process and documents the larger processes, their metrics and interrelationships.
Creating the first pass map requires walking through the process to each person involved and each work area. The best way to walk through the process is have a knowledgeable person interview participants and record process steps, metrics, choke-points and waste. It is therefore important that the person tasked with performing the walk through possesses great interviewing and communication skills. To ensure you get the desired big picture of the processes, it is crucial that you review the first pass map with people who are familiar with the process. This will help identify and normalize any areas or metrics you may have missed. In other words, the first pass map provides a foundation on which more detail can be added and performance improved.
Once you have reviewed the first pass map with the people familiar with the process, you should then create a second-level map. This map gives you additional detail for sub-processes, detailed metrics, target values and ranges, additional areas of waste and employee’s ideas of where improvements can deliver the greatest impact. It is important that you involve a large group of knowledgeable and influential people when creating these maps. Having their contribution can help influence their buy-in and ultimately your success.
Concluding Thoughts: Process mapping is key to maintaining and delivering process improvements. In order to improve or maintain your organization’s processes, identify the tasks that are most critical, have the greatest return, where their choke-points are and where their risks are greatest and map them accordingly. For the process improvement process to be a success, you must view it as an organizational change process with all the people and cultural issues present.