My Favorite Visual Tool: Process Mapping

Minitab Blog Editor | 4/6/2020

Topics: Project Tools, Minitab Workspace

We all have our favorite tools, tricks, methods and ways for completing, tracking and improving our work. Personally I'm a visual learner, so I’ve always been drawn to process mapping and flowcharts. 

Even before I knew what process maps were officially called, I would write out my action items or next steps in random shapes and just connect them with arrows and lines with no rhyme or reason. 

After I joined Minitab, I learned there are official rules and methods to process mapping correctly and while they might seem complex at first, it's actually very easy and a good way to start tracking or improving a process.

By visually depicting the sequence of events in your process, you’re better able to see and understand the process step-by-step and then identify important decisions, pain points and waste. Drawing a map for your process also makes it easy to communicate it with others and see relationships both for people and actions.

Here are a few tips for creating a good process map:

Process Mapping 101

1. Make process mapping a team effort.

They say teamwork makes the dream work, right?

You should leverage this idea to your advantage when building your process map. Assembling a team of individuals involved in various steps within the process not only gives you insights and perspectives you might not naturally think about, but it also gives each person a  sense of responsibility and inclusion in tracking and improving this process.

Ultimately, process mapping can also be a great way to bond - everyone likes to complain a bit about things that don't work, but fixing them in a team setting where everyone can voice their thoughts and listen to each other can bring people together.

2. Always walk through the process to ensure accuracy.

You've gotten together a suitable team for process mapping and written out the general steps of the process, but are you completely sure you've included all the steps? Even if you and your team think you've covered everything, it's always a good idea to double check and completely review the entire process a multiple times from start to finish using a couple different test scenarios. 

In manufacturing, the idea of reviewing the actual work process in-person is called the Gemba Walk. A concept originally developed by Taiichi Ohno in Japan, its purpose is to allow managers and leaders to observe the process in real-life, engage with coworkers, gain knowledge about the process and explore ideas for continuous improvement. "Gemba" is Japanese for "the real place" meaning where the real work actually happens; those participating in Gemba Walks in manufacturing would leave their desks to visit the factory floor to see and ask questions while respecting the people within the process. 

Whether you're in manufacturing or not, the Gemba Walk can be applied in any industry and used hand-in-hand with your process map to ensure accuracy.

Process maps made easy thanks to Minitab Workspace™
Learn about the Visual Toolkit for Process and Product Excellence

3. Create and revisit process maps over the course of your project.

When is the best time to create, revisit or revamp a process map? Honestly, anytime during your project.

Drawing a process map before you start your project can help you scope the project out, define its focus, establish a beginning and end or identify potential areas of the process upfront that need improvement. 

Creating a process map mid-project can also be helpful for teams to brainstorm new ideas and recap what’s been learned initially, as well as reconvene and adjust the current process map.

Updating your process map at the end of your project to include any process changes or improvements is also good practice. If you have the new process well-documented, it may help it to become more quickly adopted or assist with similar projects in the future.

Where Do I Start?

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating process maps!

You can begin drawing on a white board or with just pen and paper, but for a polished process map that is worth sharing with your team and leadership, we recommend Minitab Workspace. Our visual toolkit ensures process and product excellence in an easy-to-use interface with an abundance of helpful tools in one place right at your fingertips to help you visual, optimize and map your business value and achieve greater impact better than ever before.

Ready to make a process map for yourself?
Download Your Free Trial of Minitab Workspace