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Developing a process map

Process Mapping

Process mapping is a technique used to illustrate graphically the sequence of steps involved in a process and is a valuable technique to help understand how complex and potentially confusing a process is.

Process mapping is an easy technique to use and enables individuals or a team to develop and analyse a process in detail. Once you, or your team, have a detailed understanding of the process this can be used to inform developments and improvements to achieve the desired outcome.

There are two steps in process mapping; high level process mapping to provide an overview followed by a more detailed mapping. These are discussed below:

High Level Process Map

This should be generated by a team and used to gain overview and identify problems. It is important at this stage to keep complexity to a minimum to avoid getting bogged down with too much detail. For this reason it often helps to limit the amount of time available to complete all the steps, for example 20 minutes.

Detailed Process Map

This looks at the detail behind each step including complexity. For example the detailed map helps to establish if there are any bottle necks or loops in the process that potentially lead to repeats and delays. The detailed process map helps to establish roles and relationships within the overall process and can be used to illustrate the benefits of process redesign.

How to do it

  • Define where the process starts and ends. For example the process may start with the doctor requesting a blood test and end with the doctor reviewing and taking action on the blood test result.
  • Consider who you need to involve in the process mapping exercise
  • Use post-it® notes to record each activity/step
  • Place the post-it® notes in order to reflect the journey (remembering that some steps may occur in parallel)
  • Do not get distracted by issues and complications. Consider what happens 80% of the time. Some authors suggest having an ‘issues park’ where you can acknowledge that issues exist but leave them for another time.

Analysis of Process Map

When you have compiled your map you should begin to analyse the steps. Before analysing each step however, it is important to verify the map and ensure that it is representative of the process. The easiest way to verify the map is to ask a colleague who hasn’t been involved in compiling the process map so far to review it. One you have verified the map, then consider:

  • How many steps are there in the process?
  • Are there any duplications, if so how many?
  • How many hand-offs (in other words how many times does the patient leave the pathway you have mapped for another purpose to then return to the pathway you have mapped).
  • What is the approximate time for each step to be completed and also the time in limbo between steps?
  • Where are the delays in the process? Consider any bottlenecks such as a step that takes a long time and slows the whole process down and/or is there a step that requires a resource (for example an item of equipment) that is used by more that one process.
  • Are there any steps that do not add value for the patient and hence can be removed?
  • Where are the issues for patients’ (service users) and staff? These can help to identify the steps containing areas for improvement.

An example of a completed process map can be seen in the Downloads below.


Prepare a high level process map for your innovation. Use the comments section to post questions if you come across difficulties and use your positive experience to post comments to assist others.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Innovation in the Healthcare Sciences

Manchester Metropolitan University

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