Process Mapping Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them

Mapping is a crucial part of process improvement efforts. It looks easy but there are some pitfalls. In this video we look at what they are and how to avoid them.

The most common process mapping error people make is diving into improving the process before they have finished mapping it. It is natural to want to fix the problems as you uncover them – but it’s better to define the existing or “as is” state before you try and improve it. You need to see the whole picture before you can make informed decisions about what you want to change.

When you are conducting a process mapping session, the participants will naturally bring up process exceptions and typical ways things go wrong. It is easy to get bogged down. But be firm, make a note but table these issues until you have the basic process mapped out. Then you can go back and look at exceptions and errors.

The only people who can tell you what the issues are, and what changes will and will not work, are the ones who use the process. They are also the people who have most at stake in the process. So make sure that all of them participate, not just one or two representatives. Unless everybody is there you will not create the sense of ownership and control the process users need in order to make successful changes.

Processes are changing all the time. If you record and print a process out on paper and store it in a binder on the shelf in an office, it won’t be long before it is out of date and ignored. But documenting processes online, allows you to have a living document. There is only one version to update and everyone can have access to it.

Map the “as is” process in small groups on a big map. Use a wall or a whiteboard where all the participants can see it simultaneously. If it looks temporary and sketchy, good. People will feel OK about changing it. If you try to capture it straight to computer in some fancy graphics package, it looks formal and official on the screen and somehow, nobody wants to mess with it.

And finally, don’t forget to collect examples of all the documents associated with a process. That means forms, policies, checklists, tutorials, FAQs, any document that is used in the process. It’s not just about the map.

Process Mapping Steps:

  • Map the process “as is” first.
  • Don’t get sidetracked by exceptions
  • Involve the people who do the work.
  • Document processes online.
  • Use a big map
  • And … collect examples of all the documents associated with an activity

So this has been an overview of some of the typical process mapping pitfalls. I hope that this helps you with your own process improvement efforts.  Find more on workflow diagrams in the Process Mapping and Process Maps section and find more business process mapping videos here.

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One Response to Process Mapping Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them

  1. Sean October 24, 2016 at 12:04 am #

    Good one! Thanks

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