If you work in the field of project management, you have likely heard of process mapping before. Process mapping is an essential aspect of the Lean Six Sigma principles. This process will also likely appear on your PMP exam if you plan on earning your certification! In this blog, we will explore the ins and outs of process mapping, and how you can use this technique to make yourself a more skilled project manager.
Process Mapping – What’s The Point?
Similar to how you would plan to write an article back in grade school, process mapping involves flow charts and brainstorming. Process mapping can help you to improve the quality of your final deliverable for the customer, and also make more effective process decisions along the way. Process mapping can help you better communicate the steps needed in order to get the job done correctly. Your project team, key stakeholders, and fellow project managers will greatly appreciate having this outline before they embark on their next project!
Process mapping has grown and popularity over the past couple of years due to:
- The maturity of projects requiring extreme planning
- The desire to better communicate tasks in a visual way to people who are completing the deliverable
A process map can help visual learners on your project team be more successful. A process map can display:
- Who each deliverable belongs to
- The relationship between different departments
- The involvement of both internal and external entities, such as the project team and stakeholders
Your process map does not need to be an official document:
- Having even a rough outline of what the project should look like your help your project team get on board with the process faster
- In a more formal setting, it might be harder to convince your project team to become excited and passionate about the deliverables
A well-done process map will include:
- Clear communication of why the project is being completed
- Focus on realistic processes that must be taken, and challenges that might occur during the project process
- A step-by-step systematic guide on how project team members can get started on their deliverables, as well as a key to help identify any jargon on the process map
Guidelines for beginning your process map:
Sometimes, project managers can think negatively but process nothing. This is because it is sometimes seen as an unnecessary step and a waste of time! However, just like writing a paper in grade school, every project deserves appropriate planning prior to beginning. Or in order to help legitimize the process for you and your project team, it is important to establish some expectations that can be applied when making process maps. It’s all about finding what works best for your specific team and what will be the simplest to use.
Flowcharts in Project Management
There are a few different process mapping techniques you can choose from, depending on the complexity of your project. One of the more common methods of creating process maps is generally referred to as a flow chart. Keep in mind, flow charts and process maps are not one and the same. Process mapping is a more systematic way of separating tasks that need to be completed in a specific order. Flow charts are less systematic and do not necessarily need to be completed in a certain order.
Types of Flowcharts to Explore
- Document flow charts show the flexibility of planning memos, office mail, and HR essentials. This chart will include every employee and their department or business unit on the team. Document flow charts are not meant to be formal, and they can be as simplistic as you prefer.
- Data flow charts show how data is used during a project process. You might need to include a key to identify symbols and jargon that your project team might be unfamiliar with. The data flow charts are made to track how data is used throughout each department in a project process.
- Next stop our system flow charts. System flow charts show the why when it comes to what decisions were made prior to assigning certain inputs. These are not the same as data flow charts, because they show the reasoning behind why certain decisions are made. System flow charts can be used in virtually any industry, such as active elements, construction, and IT.
- When working to give your project team a better understanding of how programs work within a project process, program flow charts can be a great asset. Program flow charts are typically larger and more robust. This is because they show a high-level overview of an entire project process.
Using Written Procedures for Teams
When creating procedures for teammates who are less visual, written procedures can be proven to be very effective. Written procedures are not unlike a booklet, where team members can read front to back about everything they should expect during the project process. Written procedures will show every stuff that needs to be taken in order to complete the final deliverable. Written procedures are typically written in an instructional tone, and are short and dry.
Keep in mind that not every process needs a written procedure. It is not necessary to create full procedures for simple tasks, you must trust your project team to utilize their own knowledge and get basic tasks done! It is important to create written processes to show focus on certain actions and can be used to help support team members who lack attention to detail.
Typically, project managers will only create a written procedure if it is completely necessary. For example, if key stakeholders are adamant about having a written procedure presented to follow along with each task of the project, this could be a very valid reason to create one. Four routine processes, however, writing a formal written procedure should only be done if each team member must have extreme attention to detail.
Instructions for Project Mapping
Work instructions can be another helpful part of leading your project to you. They are not unlike written procedures, where they describe how to successfully complete an activity.
Work instructions help to show teams exactly how to successfully complete a task. For instance, a work procedure can be made to show a step-by-step guide on how to test certain login procedures for an app. Then, app developers can test the product using the guidelines included in project mapping. These instructions are typically very specific to the particular industry in which the project manager specializes in. You can feel free to use manufacturing guides, technical manuals, and other resources to help you create the very best work instructions.
Symbols in Flowcharts
As you create a flow chart, it is important to specify symbols and jargon so that even team members outside of your department understand the chart. This is crucial to using an effective flowchart, as it can be shared with external stakeholders, team members, and other project managers.
As you can see in the figure below, there are certain symbols that are used more often than not in flow charts. If you are an Excel user, you can find these symbols under the navigation table. There are also other process mapping tools you can use to assist you in this process. Using a specific program to help you create the perfect product map can grant you more time to get to work and spend less time explaining!
We hope this article gives you a better understanding of process mapping, with important tips and techniques to help get you started. Whether you start with a flowchart, written instructions, or standard process mapping, we hope that this methodology will help you lead your team to success.
Understanding the information in this article is an essential part of project management and a vital part of the PMP exam. Improve your project management skills or prepare for the PMP Certification exam by taking a quality online PMP exam prep course.