TaskMap: Processes Made Easy

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Process Mapping Articles >> Process Analysis

How to make processes easier to read and comprehend


Part 1: Analyzing the contents of documented processes.

As Winston Churchill once quipped, “I am sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time to pen a short one”. I probably mangled that quote, but his point was important. The more precise and concise we want our message to be, the more effort it takes. Advertising executives understand this perfectly. It’s the reason we pay them a lot of money to come up with tag lines and messages which are memorable and clear.

The same can be said for processes, and certainly process maps. In order to ensure that others understand our process maps here are some useful pointers:

  1. Check the task descriptions are in “verb/noun” format. Simply put, if you don’t make it clear the task is the activity or decision to the reader, it might not be one! Using the verb first is a great test to ensure it really is an activity, and not a result or need for the next task to occur. e.g. Create the new report; Build the list of materials; Submit an expense report …

  2. Inconsistent use of Resource or Role names. Ensuring resources and role names are consistent across the process maps is important. In some instances a different role name can cause confusion, even the wrong assignment to be made. Similarly make sure resources have the same description in all instances in the process.
    Inaccurate Task or Process descriptions. Find a subject matter expert to check to make sure all the descriptions of both the process and the tasks that make it up are correct. It’s amazing how many processes get published without this final check. Avoid the embarrassment and errors that result is missing this vital check.

  3. Incomplete Process maps. A number of factors make up an incomplete maps. One that is not finished because of a deadline, or ommision, or the final quality check was not made. A sequential check for the following items will help avoid problems.

  4. Missing results the outcomes of tasks are often not clearly documented. This leads to either confusion or the next step not being executed correctly. Use your task links to show what happens when the outcome is desired, or what the result is when the outcome fails.

    This will lead the reader to the next stage in the process to continue or get assistance

  5. Missing hyperlinks: Few process maps describe exactly and precisely what needs to occur without some reference to other materials. Use the hyperlinking functions in your process mapping tool to create links to policy and procedure manuals, images, applications and email addresses which support these tasks and resources.

  6. Missing graphics It’s pretty easy to show how images can improve a process map. Just add them into the location for the relevant task and both value and clarity for your readers and users.

Materials dervied from Process Analysis Training course courtesy Harvard Computing Group, Inc.