How Process Maps Increase Productivity

October 19, 2012 | Posted by Libby Black | Training

You have an objective to achieve. Time is short and you know your organization should be taking consistent action, but there are just so many possible paths. And how do you coordinate all those necessary steps?

Process maps might have a stuffy sounding name, but they can be a real lifeline for companies trying to turn a complicated bureaucratic mess into a streamlined and productively functioning “machine”.

What defines process mapping?

A process map depicts the exact functions of an organization or business unit. It specifies who does what and what standards the process should meet, and it defines what a successful outcome looks like. The map can be high-level or very detailed, but either way the goal is the same - to understand and control the processes at an organization. These processes are then illustrated, sometimes with detailed graphics and other times with simple icons.

The Benefits

“Process mapping can be a powerful tool in performance improvement,” shares Dana Meyer, an instructional designer with Alteris Group. Process maps identify performance improvement needs and the causes of problems. “When going through the process map, you can see if there are any inconsistencies or overlaps of duties among employees,” Meyer adds.

Not only do maps identify places to improve, but they also communicate those opportunities in a visual and easily accessible way. They show the relationships between roles as well as timing for each project. “The visual element makes the biggest impact,” Meyer says. “You take something really complex and break it down so it seems simpler and easy to understand.”

Process maps can also identify relevant content to include before creating an instructional course or curriculum. When an instructional design team has a “blueprint for content”, workers get clearer instruction to perform their part of the process.

How do you create a process map?

For the team at Alteris Group, the first and biggest part of making a process map is the upfront planning. It’s like creating a map for the map. The designers define the process to be mapped and identify the triggers, outputs or consequences they want to communicate. Then they determine which organizational levels to include. Some might focus only on one business unit or department while others are company-wide. By defining these variables, the instructional designers determine the approach, the specific steps to show and the level of detail. Next, they determine the end format, which can be anything from a Word document or a PDF with hyperlinks to a website.

“We think through all of that upfront, and once the planning’s done, it boils down to conducting interviews with our subject matter experts, analyzing all of the information and creating the map,” Meyer shares.

Types of Process Maps

A process map can look like a standard flow chart with basic steps, decision points and flow line icons, or it can have more complex graphics. Three types of process maps Alteris Group frequently uses for clients are high level, low level and cross functional. “The high level is key tasks and key features that need to be done and the relationships between the steps,” Meyer explains.

Low level process maps contain greater detail and indicate what steps need to be completed within the larger process steps. The third type of process map, the cross functional map, shows relationships between roles or needs.

Process Maps at Alteris Group

Often clients will use process maps created by Alteris Group to communicate a new process or program being implemented. “It’s easy to walk through; it’s easy for people to pick up and understand what they’re supposed to be doing,” Meyer says. “They really look to us to help simplify the process in a way that others will be able to latch onto and understand.”

Alteris Group’s designers make an effort to keep that simple-to-understand quality even with complex projects by using strategies such as embedding links within maps or creating programs with multiple pages where the first page is a high-level graphic and the second has more detail.

In the end, process maps are a tool that can help almost anyone. “It would work for anybody who has employees, workers, a process and documents that need to be completed,” Meyer says. “It doesn’t lend itself to one industry more than another. It’s more about the people and processes of a business.”

Contact us for more information on process maps and your company.