“Most people don’t understand the process. They get frustrated by it. Don’t Be. Focus”
― David Sikhosana

What processes have you gone through today? You brushed your teeth, put on your shoes, drove to work and checked your email. We go from one process to the other, often on autopilot, to get through our days. What would an everyday process look like if you wrote it out? Pick up toothbrush > Add toothpaste to brush > Apply water to toothpaste > Brush teeth in small circular motions, and so on. You’d be articulating brushing your teeth as a workflow.

Laying out a workflow gives you the chance to analyze and improve. Would it be more efficient to put water on your brush before the toothpaste? You’ll never know if you can’t visualize it. It’s a bit strange to think of finding efficiencies in toothbrushing, but what about in the office? What about in a routine filing process you repeat 20 times a day? Saving a minute could there could net real savings.

You don’t need specialized training or fancy software to get started. You need paper or a whiteboard (bigger the better) and a lack of interruptions so you can do something completely different: focus on one task.

How to Build It:

Don’t rush this. The magic of mapping happens when you get granulart with the details. That’s when micro-level wastes start to emerge. Whiteboards are ideal because you’ll be erasing a lot. You’re visualizing the life-cycle of a process. Start with a simple one and work up from there.

Here are the basic symbols we will use as an example:

Connector Line Process MappingConnector Line: connects 2 steps and shows the direction of the process
TerminalTerminal: This is a “start” and “stop.” There may be several in a process; they happen whenever the flow stops.
Work BlockActivity: The basic “work” block, indicating a step in the process.
DecisionDecision: When a decision must be made.
DelayDelay: When the process comes to a halt but doesn’t stop completely. Think “yield” sign.
Storage icon smallStorage: Something is stored for a period of time. Try to indicate how long.
transport in process mappingTransport: When something needs to be moved. Indicate the origin, destination, and travel time if possible.


Process Mapping

One of the 8 Wastes (https://hlhcpa.com/the-deadly-wastes) can hide in any one of these types of steps, but they like to linger in the latter 3 the most.

Process Mapping as Money-Saving Tool:

Once you have the basic idea, bring in other stakeholders, whether it’s appropriate staff, suppliers, or even customers for their feedback. Walk out the process literally if that helps to visualize it.

Study the visualization and look for opportunities to find efficiencies. Are things being stored in a far-away location? How long do files sit on desks before decisions are made? How often does the process either stop or yield, and can this be avoided given the amount of energy it takes to build forward momentum again?