Why You Should Be Process Mapping

Processes tend to live in our heads and passing along the information to others that need to understand it, usually looks something like this…

“Hey Llyod, how do we handle x, y, and z? I heard you’re the expert…”, “Harry, you know this is how I handle x, y, and z.”

We tend to keep the info in our minds as if we hold the key to some secretive information. But, taking some time to evaluate, articulate, visualize, and document your processes, gives the processes life outside of your head. Once these processes are clearly defined outside of your mind, now you can clearly pass off information faster and give better insight to those who will need to refer to your processes, making it more effecient. That is why you should be mapping your processes.

Before we get into the details, we need to understand that processes are not functions. This is important because these two terms get mixed up.

Individual building block
Blueprint that either shows how the individual blocks work together OR Series of activities that use individual blocks

The first place to start is to identify a top process you believe affects your business as a whole. If this is the first time you have ever done this, it can be pretty eye opening of how many are not documented and just living inside your head.

These processes can be big or small, cross functional or team specific. The best place to start are with ones that affect your business as a whole. Here are some examples:

  • Making a Latte
  • A/R
  • Sales and Estimation
  • Quality Assurance
  • Developing People
  • Recruiting
  • Marketing

Start with one and once you understand how it works, continue with as many processes that you would like to document.

The Building Blocks

Time to get into the details and you can utilize this worksheet. This is just to get your brain moving, so once we get to the mapping section, some of these things might change while you are working through the process.

1. Identify the Process: Place the name at the top of the sheet. It might seem redundant, but we are building the components. The name should never be listed in the process. If it is, that means it’s an action not a process.

2. Identify the Who: List the functions, departments and/or programs that will be involved in the process. Don’t list specific names. For example, if Riley is in charge of taking money at the register, list the function “Cashier”. If it is a department, list the department name. If it is software, list the function of it, not the specific. People and softwares may change, but the function is less likely to change in the long term.

3. Identify the Key Actions: A process is made up of a series of actions that result in a particular start and outcome. An action is an activity (noun or verb) or decision that needs to happen to move things along. These actions are performed by those identified on the "Who List” you created in Step 2.

4. Visual Vocabulary: A big reason for process mapping, is it gives us the ability to visualize the process in a way that isn’t just living in our minds. These are the visuals you want to use when going through the process. You can do this with shapes and/or color.

5. Gather Materials: 1. White Board, Large Post–It Pad, or Large Paper (taped to wall). 2. Post–It Notes: 1. Regular Size: Green, Red, Blue, Yellow 2. Small: Orange, Purple. 3. Visual Vocabulary 4. Dry Erase Markers 5. Great people who know the process.

Putting it Together

Once you have gone through the worksheet and gathered your materials, you are ready to start putting it all together. In this example, we are going to look at what it takes to make a latte.

1. Name your process. Simply write the name of the process at the top of your document.

1.Create Swim Lanes. Create horizontal lines to separate your actions. These are the lanes the person from your “Who List” is responsible for.

Process Mapping

3. Add The Who. Put the who is going to be involved in the process, one per swim lane.

Our Process for Process Mapping.

4. Add Actions. Put those actions in the swim lanes of those who are responsible. Remember, one action for one owner.

Our Process for Process Mapping.

Great! You just finished your first process map.

These processes are living and breathing, which means they need to be revisited on a pretty consistent basis. We want to ensure they are continually efficient and documented properly.

Once you feel it’s your documented process is in good shape, share it with those who are involved and store it in a place that can be easily referred to.

Have questions about Process Mapping or have good stories of how this has affected your business in a positive way? Email me at I would love to hear from you!

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