1. Choose a process that EXISTS TODAY.
  1. Determine the frame or boundaries of the process.

Note: All maps start as a simple macro-flowchart showing only enough information to understand the general process flow. Final process maps can range in detail from a simple macro level to a micro level of detail that shows every finite action and decision point. During planning, you usually decide what level of detail is required to effectively reveal problems areas.

  1. Begin mapping at the most MACRO LEVEL to show the transformation from INPUT to OUTPUT. Don’t forget to title the map and date it (as processes have a tendency of changing sometimes on their own!)

  1. Add DETAIL ON ACTIONS AND PEOPLE. This type of map is sometimes called a Relationship Map. A relationship map shows the steps in the process as well as who performs them. Relationship maps point out opportunities and probability of errors during transactions or "hand-offs."

Note: To ensure your maps are accurate reflections of what is actually happening today, you may want to combine an observation technique called "shadowing" and a one-on-one interview technique. Shadowing, or following a person while they are completing the actions, may be sufficient if you are already familiar with the process. If you are not familiar with the process, you will likely need to interview the people involved to understand what they are thinking/doing during each action.

Note: Process mapping can also be done in a group brainstorming session. Start by agreeing on steps 1 and 2 above. Then have the group brainstorm all of the actions that take place during the process. Use a post-it note for each step. Then, as a group, sequence the steps on a relationship map and add transactions, until the group is satisfied with the results. In most cases, this should still be validated with a shadowing or observation technique (if practical).

Example of a Relationship Map

  1. Use SYMBOLS to describe (map) the process steps you observed. Map the process flow from left to right to describe sequence, direction, and time flow.

An oval denotes points where inputs enter or outputs exit.

Rectangles denote a process (action) step.

A diamond denotes a decision.

Arrows show the direction or flow of the process.


  1. Name each action and decision step. Use KEY WORDS that are clearly understood. Use the following naming convention: ACTION WORD followed by OBJECT OF ACTION.

  1. Note, mark or annotate steps or transactions in the process that are suspected causes of variability. Variability can be possible errors in action, time wasters, errors in transactions, unnecessary repetitions, iterative loops, etc.

For Example - Suspected causes of variability for processing a lab sample might include:

  • Variability in inputs: types of requests, deliveries, method of contact, lack of information, inadequate lead time, wrong tags
  • Variability in handling: 4-5 people may handle sample
  • Variability in testing: old equipment, not enough instrument support, calibration time, lab climate, cross training
  • Variability in results: improper data entry, computer down, rush requests, slow turnaround or transfer of data into computer
  1. Brainstorm suggestions for process improvement and/or process re-design.