Operations Management: How to Build a Process Map Video

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  • 0:00 Definition of Process Maps
  • 1:35 Determining the Process
  • 2:45 Flowchart Symbols for…
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

Process maps are important management tools. They help us understand how work flows when completing a task, such as a product or service. This lesson looks at process maps, their benefits, specific symbols, and an example of how to use them.

Definition of Process Maps

Have you ever been the editor of a newsletter? Let's say you have limited time, and during a meeting for new staff, you need to explain how employees can contribute to the newsletter. You decide that the best way to explain how to get published is to do a process map.

Process maps detail the flow of work needed to complete a task. These maps are visual representations of a process. A process map may detail something simple, like how to make a bed, or something much more complicated, like when to drop a bomb on an enemy target.

Process maps are used to identify workflow, which includes key steps, delays, duplications, decisions, and rework steps. Rework steps are those times when the process is bogged down from improper workmanship or faulty inputs. The work slows down the process because it has to be redone. The benefits of using process maps are that:

  • Pictures can represent something visually that would be difficult to do in words
  • They stimulate discussion about problems in the process
  • Areas of noncompliance can be identified
  • They can identify places where improvement is needed
  • Most trainees learn faster when using visuals

Process maps tend to evolve over time. They can be helpful when streamlining operations. Companies can develop them for things like strategic decision-making or product development. You may have one that is current and want to compare it to one you aspire to in the future. The key to developing a process map is to identify the process correctly.

Determining the Process

The most important part of developing a process map is to get the process steps correct. The steps are the parts needed to complete the process in question. To do this, you may need to use job descriptions, observe workers, talk with employees, and interview supervisors.

You begin to develop your process map for creating a quarterly newsletter. You want employees to understand what it takes to get something published. So, we start with the steps. You might not consciously think of this as a process, but it is. Your steps are likely:

  1. Newsletter proposal is received.
  2. Articles are written.
  3. Articles are checked for plagiarism.
  4. Determine if the article is acceptable for publishing. If yes, the draft is approved, and you move to the next step. If no, the article goes to a rework loop and is referred to a specialty editor. If the editor accepts edits to the article, the draft is approved, and you move to the next step. If the editor does not, the articles are declined.
  5. Newsletter is published.

This is the beginning of your process map. Once you have the steps to a process, you can move forward by assigning flowchart symbols.

Flowchart Symbols for Process Maps

Process maps use specific symbols to define certain operations and flows. Let's look at some of the more common symbols and what they mean. We'll do this using our example of developing a newsletter.

When creating a process map, a rectangle is used as a process symbol. Processes are actions that occur during a process. The rectangle is the most commonly used symbol in process maps.

In our example, these processes are:

  • Newsletter proposal received
  • Write articles
  • Plagiarism check
  • Refer to editor
  • Decline articles
  • Approve drafts
  • Publish newsletter

Another common symbol is the decision symbol. This indicates a place in the process where a decision must be made. It's typically a yes/no option. This can be described as a diamond. In our newsletter process map, decisions have to be made as to whether a draft of an article is acceptable. If the article draft is acceptable, it's either approved as is or moved on to an editor for changes. After an editor revamps the article, a second decision has to be made as to whether the article is now acceptable.

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