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How Good Are Your Process Maps?

By Ben B. Graham
The Ben Graham Corporation
© Copyright 2016, The Ben Graham Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Most process maps that are used for analysis don't provide much more than a high-level idea of the process...a flip through the chapter headings of the process story. Of course, good folks work with what they have and can deliver good results anyway…it just means they have to dig in to the process details with only a hint from the process map. There are also process maps available that provide the details, step by step, that eliminate the need for this digging. Process maps that include the following features help the folks working with them deliver great value, quickly and continuously.

How Good Are Your Process Maps?

Storage and Delay

Graham Process Maps identify every storage and delay… the bane of most information work processes because delays usually account for MOST of the processing time. Unfortunately, most of the mapping methods used today to document information processes don't show the delays. Why is that? The reason is pretty simple. Most methods used for documenting information process are focused on developing new processes - the steps that are necessary to complete the process and not those pesky, time-consuming periods of non-activity that fill in the spaces between the actual work activities, (usually the time between one person finishing their portion of the work and the next person picking up their portion). These maps were designed to explain a new process, but were NOT intended for analysis. They focus on the activities that are required to achieve a desired result, rather than on reality (that includes delays currently and will likely include the same or similar delays in the newly developed workflow if we don’t call attention to them).

The Documents

The documents are the things that flow through the process, the things on which information is captured, transmitted and stored. Electronic and hard copy: email, spreadsheets, forms, applications, databases… These are the things that the people who do the work relate to. Yet most process mapping methods group the documents into activity boxes or list them outside of the flow, and leave it to the improvement team to figure out what they are and what happens with them. Graham Process Maps identify every document at the point it appears in a process.

If you want to understand where you are now (actually see, in detail, what steps are contributing to the desired goal and what steps are getting in the way), the processing detail of every document is invaluable. Likewise, if you are developing a new process, accounting for non-productive and time-wasting activities before they are implemented can be invaluable. The ability to capture these things in an untried workflow becomes second nature for an analyst/developer who has worked with a tool that accounts for these things.

Well before TPS, Lean, and Six Sigma, manufacturing companies were introducing excellent improvements in their manufacturing workflows (often valued in millions) using a tool called a flow process chart. (Of course they used other tools as well, but for workflow, the flow process chart was king.) The flow process chart followed the flow of a part through its manufacture and used a simple, yet extremely powerful symbol set that showed value-added and non-value-added work steps, work inspection steps, transportation steps AND delay steps. This was the beauty of the flow process chart. Simplicity. It followed one thing (a physical part) and described what happened to that thing using a fundamental set of symbols that were mutually exclusive, comprehensive, and universal. They still are.

If we want to change reality, we need to understand reality. We do this by mapping the flow of real things and showing what happens to those things. If we have a detailed, reality-based process map, and periodically review and update it to reflect changes in the work, we maintain a solid understanding of what we are doing today, and we can continually be better tomorrow.

Of all the tools available today for documenting information processes, only one traces its roots back to the flow process chart. It was developed specifically for analyzing and understanding information processes. It focuses on the physical items that flow through the process and what happens to each item (where value is added, where non-value-added steps occur, where the work is inspected, where it is transported from one location to another, and where it does nothing (delay).

If you would like to find out more about this powerful process mapping method (that was introduced to businesses in 1944, and, like the flow process chart, is as powerful today as it ever was) visit

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