How to Choose The Right Process Mapping Method


There are many different approaches to process mapping, and choosing the right one depends on the type of work you do. Different process mapping methods lend themselves to different aspects of a process and you may find that you need to use more than one to outline the job.

Use a basic flowchart to show one step to the next and to include basic information such as who performs a particular step or how long a step is meant to take. Basic flowcharts can be used for any type of process or system and it can be used as a training aid to explain how something works.

Create a swim lane diagram when you want to show very clearly who does what. Sometimes called deployment maps or cross functional flowcharts, swim lane diagrams build on the basic flowchart to provide a visual representation of handoffs and different departmental roles. Swim lane diagrams are most useful for demonstrating the roles, responsibilities and interactions in an organization.

Commonly used in Lean and Six Sigma initiatives, value stream maps are primarily used to identify problems and opportunities for improvement in a process. Value stream maps are typically much more complex than a basic flowchart and provide a great deal of information. such as process times, wait times, inventory levels and defects. .

A SIPOC diagram is a high level process map that provides an overview the entire process, from supplier to customer. It is commonly used in Six Sigma projects to provide an understanding of a process at the macro level. The SIPOC diagram consists of five columns: Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers. SIPOC diagrams are best used to capture the big picture.

Spaghetti maps show work flows through various departments or areas. Spaghetti diagrams are most useful for finding inefficiencies in the layout of a shop floor or office, but can also be used to show unnecessary handoffs in digital environments.

Tips & Warnings

  • Different process mapping methods lend themselves to different aspects of a process. It is often wise to use more than one method for representing a process.
  • Process mapping is useful in any number of business applications and is a great skill set to hone.

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