How to Create a Process Map: A Step-by-Step Guide

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If you are unfamiliar with the concept of process mapping, this article is a light walk-through of the subject where we discuss how to create a swim-lane map and what benefits can be realised.


A process map is a diagram that shows a visual flow of work, demonstrating the actions to be taken by those responsible for moving the process forward and achieving a result.


The functionality and simplicity of their design not only provides any member of your workforce with the ability to follow a process from start to finish, but it also highlights any improvement opportunities or risks that need mitigation in line with standards such as ISO 9001:2015


This article will outline step-by-step (using a sample process as an example), the actions you can follow when creating any process map.

1. Identify the process or problem

To begin process mapping, the process or problem must first be defined. The need for a process map could be that the process comprises several complex steps, stretches across several departments, requires improvement, or all three.


Our example will be based on recruiting a new employee. The process comprises several stages, with different departments being involved and strict protocol being followed. By mapping this process, we will clearly define ‘who does what, where and when’, ultimately streamlining the process where possible.

2. List process actions

The second step is defining the actions involved within the process from start to finish. Where the process requires the involvement of multiple departments or project teams, holding a facilitated session encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing.


Recording the process’s steps visually allows users to identify wasteful routines and duplication.


In terms of our example of recruiting a new employee, the disciplines involved would likely be the hiring department and HR representatives, such as the HR manager or executive. Therefore, the list of actions could typically be:


  • Identify & Approve Recruitment Requirements
  • Identify Candidates
  • Interview Candidates
  • Offer & Acceptance
Two people discussing planning a process map on sheets of paper
List process actions

3. Plan and organise the actions

Now is the time to list the steps sequentially from to start and finish the process in the correct order.


While this may seem like a simple task, it allows you to get an overview of the process and determine whether you or your colleagues missed anything before designing the process map.


During this step, those responsible for creating the process map must take a process-oriented approach to planning. This involves focusing on the people’s roles, scheduling adequate resources for the process, and allocating an estimated timeframe which the process should be completed within.

4. Designing the swim-lane process map

The swim-lane process map format is ideal for companies who operate in highly regulated, safety-critical industries where the workforce can easily understand their responsibilities.


The steps of the process should be placed in vertical swim-lanes, displaying which stakeholder handles each stage of the action and how the completion of their responsibilities flows onto the next dependent. 


There are numerous benefits of using swim-lane diagrams such as:


  • Visibility of current ‘as is’ process, allowing the improvements to the introduced to the ‘to be’` process
  • Streamlining each process by removing waste and duplication, leading to increased process efficiency
  • Managing Compliance while mitigating risk
  • Identification of all participants and their responsibilities
  • Creating a consistent best practice approach that can be applied to your processes
A swim-lane process map from the Agility System showing the steps of a recruitment process
Recruitment process as a swim-lane process map

5. Review with participants

After completing the process map design, the next step is to review it with the participating disciplines. In contrast to step 3, the increased visibility will allow for any missed actions or inaccuracies to be identified and corrected before you confirm ‌the process map is complete.


6. Review and Improve

They say, ‘stand back from the canvas to see the painting’. It is important to critically review the map for completeness and accuracy.


This could involve highlighting inefficiencies, adding new stakeholders, or even removing actions from the process map that are causing bottlenecks.

The result of process mapping

Once you have implemented and shared your process maps with the relevant stakeholders within your organisation, ‌you will ‌see the following results:


  • Improved decision making: Having the ability to show the process rather than having to explain helps stakeholders’ decision making, particularly if the process needs to be altered
  • Streamlined employee training: Visual aids such as process maps allow for simplified training of existing and new processes to be delivered to the workforce
  • Process improvement: Process maps can serve as a tool to measure the efficiency of your processes, allowing you to manage and improve them

Begin mapping your processes

Using this guide alongside a process mapping tool will help you effectively begin mapping your processes. The Agility System’s integrated management methods revolve around the use of easily built visual swim lane diagrams.


Book your demo today and one of our business analysts will provide a no-obligation visual demonstration of the functionality and how it can benefit your organisation.


Peter Shields
Peter Shields

With extensive experience of Quality Management, Risk & Compliance in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence industries since 1979, Peter formed BusinessPort in 1996 to specialise in Process-based Management Systems delivering both Performance and Compliance.

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