Mapping the Inefficient Sub Process

When I prepare a high level process map for any organizational process, there is usually a need to prepare at least one more map for a sub process. The sub process selected for review is always one that immediately surfaces as inefficient. But whether I am mapping a high level or sub process, the steps for mapping are the same.

These seven steps are:

  1. Name the process. For example, if you’re mapping the high level process of financial management, you would name the process “Financial Management.” If you’re mapping a sub process of Financial Management such as invoice payment, then you would name this process “Invoice Payment.” I think you get the idea.
  2. Identify the start and stop points. Every process must have a start and stop point and it is very important to identify them. Because these points will impact your project scope. For example, the financial management process will start with, perhaps, development of the chart of accounts and stop with year-end reporting. The invoice payment process would start with receipt of invoice for payment and stop with payment issued. By knowing your start and stop points of the process, you are at the same time identifying your project scope.
  3. Identify the output of the process. When naming the output of the process, it should be with an unqualified noun. For instance, say “payment issued, but not “big payment issued.” Distinguishing between the two will impact your project scope. Using a qualifier limits your scope and may exclude true areas of inefficiencies.
  4. Identify the customers of the process. Every process must have at least one customer; otherwise, you need to ask why the organization is doing the process in the first place. When identifying customers, be sure to identify all levels of customers. For example, for the invoice payment process, the customers would include the vendor (as the primary customer), but the organization would also have internal customers such as the manager that approves the invoice for payment, and other accounting staff that may be required to code, review, and approve the invoice before the payment is issued.
  5. Identify the suppliers of the process. For example, in the Invoice Payment process, suppliers would include banks with whom payment transfers need to be coordinated, printing companies that supply printed cheques, and there could be others. It is important to identify all suppliers because once the process is mapped, you may notice inefficiencies that are directly attributable to suppliers.
  6. Identify the inputs of the process. This is information that the supplier provides. For example, the bank is the supplier and the bank provides the means to transfer funds. Perhaps the IT Department is also a supplier since they provide the systems that enable efficient communications. Inputs can occur at any stage of the process and more than once in the process – at the beginning, middle or end. It all depends on the nature of input.
  7. Identify 5 to 7 highest level steps in the process as it exists today. A common mistake that is made by teams during process mapping is to map a process the way it should be instead of the way it is. They do this because they want to improve the process right away as they are mapping it. However, restraint is important here. You need to map the entire process as it is before you can step back to start identifying areas for improvement.

A final point about process mapping is to use common symbols in the map. An oval is used to indicate start/stop points, a diamond shape is used for decision points (such as yes/no, go/no go), rectangle shapes are used to describe the step in the process and arrows are used to indicate the direction.

Whether you’re mapping a high level or sub process, the process map is a powerful tool to help you visualize at a glance areas that can be reviewed for improvement. Benefits of process mapping range from: identifying opportunities to significantly reducing expenses to simplifying work flow to improving cross-functional communication to identifying root causes of problems and more.

Even if you think your organization’s processes are running smoothly, map out a process every few months and see how much you can save in time and money – I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you’ll discover non-value-added tasks and costs. And by removing them, you’ll be boosting your organization’s efficiency, productivity and bottom line.