Process Mapping

Have you ever made a process map? You know, a pictorial representation of the steps and arrows and decisions that make up your processes? I think it’s an undervalued and underutilized tool.

I add layers to my process maps — certain questions I want answered at every step of the process. I’m a Human Performance practitioner — I want to know where the human risk lies. So asking questions at each step, like “what performance mode is the operator in during this step?” — the performance mode influences the types of errors that could be made or the types of behaviors to expect.

Another good question to ask at each step of your processes is “what is the criticality of error at this step?”, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. If an error at that step is critical to the success of the process, you should have the right supports in place to ensure error-free execution.

I see people gravitate to those questions often, which is good, but I’ve never seen a process map or been part of a process-mapping exercise (other than my own) where this question is even asked: “what are the human risk factors present at each step?” — you know:

  • Distractions or interruptions
  • Documentation activities (electronic or manual)
  • Operator mindset, focus
  • Operator multi-tasking
  • Etc.

These questions and others are key to unlocking a truly helpful and complete picture of the human risk map related to your processes. Making human (or other) risk more visible is a fantastic, but underused possibility with process mapping. Try it out for yourself!

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