At Fireside Insights, we like to share tools that we constantly use in our work lives. As someone whose job revolves around conducting gemba walks and sketching process flows, I have gotten to become more proficient at building process maps which are diagrams that display the workflow of a process or series of processes. Just as you would present quantitative data in a visual format that is easier for your audience to ingest and interpret, the same should go for qualitative data. Instead of a numbered list detailing each step, a process map can more clearly show the relationship between processes and any concurrent or dependent steps.
Microsoft Visio is the go-to software to build process maps, but for those with employers do not have licenses, you can easily–if not more efficiently–create maps using Lucidchart. Here are my tips to build a clean process map that conveys information well.
When collecting qualitative data about a process, it is helpful to write detailed notes or record your gemba walk to refer to when making the process map.
Before creating a process map on the computer, roughly sketch it out on paper. Doing so sparks my creative juices and doesn’t pressure me to focus on the aesthetics of the map and, rather, on the content.
Familiarize yourself with the types of shapes and what they mean.
If possible, make all elements the same width and height. When resizing, Lucidchart will automatically “snap” the flowchart shapes to the same size as the closest shape. Alternatively, you can duplicate a shape and edit the text within it.
Alignment matters! When possible, align your shapes vertically center and to the left of each other. Doing so creates visual structure and conveys a sense of order.
Add a descriptive title with the creator’s name at the top and the latest revision date on the bottom.
Decide whether you will print on a legal or letter sized paper and if it will be oriented in portrait or landscape. This will eliminate any headache when trying to re-orient a process map to make it fit into a smaller canvas size.
When exporting it as an image, save it as a .png format.
Use colors–albeit, sparingly–to group processes or signal the beginning and end of a process. For example, in the map below, I used three different colors that correspond to processes that occur within different stakeholder groups.
If your map is laden with text, consider using Arial Narrow font to fit more text into the shape. For legibility purposes, font size should be at minimum 11 and bolded.
Depending on what you are mapping, consider dividing series of processes vertically and adding “swimlanes” to distinguish what stakeholders are conducting the processes. This will help guide the audience when reading your map.