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A process map visually describes workflows or the events that produce a particular outcome. Process maps can be helpful in identifying challenges, determining opportunities for innovation, or modeling complexity. Process maps are also useful in defining boundaries and accountability. 


  1. Brainstorm the activities involved in the process. To do this:
    • Imagine describing the process to someone who has never completed it before.
    • Take the perspective of different actors in the process and write out the steps of the process from their point of view.
    • To ensure nothing is missed, work backwards and forwards from each step. 
  2. Determine the boundaries of the process – where or when does it start and stop?
  3. To create the map:
    • Place each step in order.
    • Connect each step with an arrow to show a flow.
    • Outline each step with a shape to symbolize the different types of actions.


  • Unified modeling language is an international standard for drawing maps. If it’s helpful, consider the symbol key here:
    • Ovals for the beginning or ending.
    • Rectangles for an activity.
    • Arrows for the directional flow.
    • Diamonds for a decision point (Arrows coming from a diamond indicate the possible choices).  
    • Parallelograms for an input or output.
  • To digitize a process map, consider the various chart styles in the Microsoft suite or using a process mapping software like Lucidchart
  • When creating process maps, it can be easy to refine focus to a point where the level of specificity detracts from the tool’s utility. Decide on the optimal level of detail early to prevent over complication of the process map.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders to create the process map and avoid omitting key steps


Downloads & Links

Process Map Example: MN Family Investment Program (MFIP)