Are you finding the task if mapping out a workflow daunting? It needn’t be. This article takes a practical, step-by-step approach to workflow mapping that breaks the entire process into manageable chunks. Along the way, we also identify some common pitfalls and show you how to sidestep them.
- Business process mapping can quickly stall if made too complex.
- Follow a step-by-step process to ensure your process mapping retains momentum.
- Use a reproducible system for documenting.
- Avoid changing maps while documenting.
- Validate with multiple sources to find the actual, not the ideal, process.
Documenting your lead management workflow makes financial sense, but it is easy to become bogged down in the mapping process and never end up with a useable product. It seems like the more you look a workflow, the more involved it becomes. The following steps make reaching an endpoint possible.
Step 1: Be Clear on What You Are Trying to Achieve
A process map is a visual representation of an existing workflow. It provides a shared understanding of the participant’s roles and activities as well as inputs required for various stages and outputs or deliverables expected. As with any practical map, we want the fastest route, not the scenic route.
The key is that you are mapping the workflow that already exists not what you intend to make it. Even if the problems are clear, map the reality, not the ideal. During mapping, you are NOT trying to improve. You are simply recording. The fastest way for your mapping exercise to unravel is to try to create the perfect process. Process optimization is another step altogether. Right now you simply want to be clear that you are mapping what exists and ignoring everything that is just a “good idea.”\
Example: We are going to record our lead intake process as it exists today so that we can make measurable improvements in the future to increase practice revenue.
Step 2: Identify the Start and Stop Points
Your workflow takes you from point A to point B so begin by defining what those two points are. Most likely your lead process begins when you receive a lead.
Deciding when the lead workflow ends will be less straightforward. In most cases, the lead becomes a patient at the first medical visit, so they are entered into the EMR at this point. However, in particularly complex intake workflows you may elect to continue tracking the leads until they reach another endpoint such as completion of surgery. What you decide will depend on your reporting and benchmarking requirements.
As you define the workflow endpoint, keep in mind that eliminating or minimizing any duplicate effort is important so that your team’s workload remains manageable. Maintaining data in two systems is difficult for your team.
Keep your workflows as short as possible. It is better to make an endpoint too early in the process and then expand the process later than making it too long in the beginning. As you map between points A and B, resist the temptation to branch out into other workflows. Complete the first map and then work through the entire process again for the next workflow you identified.
Example:Our starting point is receipt of a contact from any source, and our ending point is the first physician appointment.
Step 3: Identify the Tools You Will Use to Map
If you are a hospital undertaking a JCAHO project and mapping your internal processes, you need a robust process mapping solution. But if you are mapping a small to midsize medical practice, all you need is a whiteboard, a variety of colored Post-It notes; dry erase markers and a cell phone with a camera.
Step 4: Identify the Interviewer and Interviewee
The most critical decision you will make—the one that defines the success or failure of your mapping project—is determining who will talk about the process and who will listen. If you are a manager or administrator, you are the right person to create and analyze the final map, but you are the wrong person to create the map of the current situation.
It is only natural that your staff will want you to see them as efficient and productive. There is almost no chance that they will tell you about what shortcuts they have taken or which tasks they omit when they are busy. If you do the interview, you will end up with the ideal map, not the real one you need.
Step 5: Conduct the Interview
A simple method you can use to get an accurate map of a current lead management process without the risk of idealized input is to use an existing staff member or new hire to cross-train with the interviewee for a few hours. If more than one person performs the lead management workflow, have the trainee work with each person.
Provide the following instructions:
- Write down everything as they learn it.
- Create a step-by-step list of instructions on how to manage a new lead.
- When several people perform the workflow create a new set of instructions and list for each person
Use the step by step instructions to create your baseline workflow process map.
Step 6: Create Your Process Map
Take a pad of the same color Post-It notes, and write a step on each note. Make sure your step contains a verb. Stick them sequentially on the whiteboard.
In process mapping, there are four shapes you will need to know to make a meaningful map.
|Circle or rounded rectangle – start/stop|
|Rectangle – activity or process step|
|Diamond – decision point|
|Arrows – connect shapes in direction of activity or data flow|
Building the map
- Start your map with a Post-It note with an oval drawn on it.
- Place each activity in the sequence inside a rectangular note;
- for a decision point, turn the Post-It 45 degrees.
- Connect the Post-Its with arrows drawn on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker.
Simple mapping rules
primary input and outputs for the process.
In a lead management process, the starting input is a contact, and the ending output is either a patient or a lost lead.
Task input and output for each step
Record the input and output for each step to ensure that you have the correct sequence in your steps. For example, if the step is to telephone a lead, the input is the phone number, and the output is conversing with the lead.
Critical decision points.
Points in the workflow where a question is asked and answered is a decision point.
For example, the decision point is “Is the lead qualified for this program?” and the decision responses are “yes” or “no.”
There are points in most workflows that require input from another process. In some cases, the workflow ceases until the input becomes available. These are potential choke points in the workflow that delay completion of the dependent processes.
An example is sending a verification package to insurance and waiting for its approval.
Step 7: Validate Your Map
With your newly constructed process map on the whiteboard, it is time to meet with all of the participants for a map review. The purpose of this stage is to, once again, determine what is real and what is ideal. Be careful not to make corrections you think will improve the workflow instead of just recording it.
It is natural to want to fix issues that you find, especially if they appear to be simple. Resist that temptation. As with any change, unless controlled and measured, you run the risk of making the process less efficient, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
If the trainee’s experience differs from that of the trainer ensure that you identify what happened during training and not document the ideal state the trainer would prefer discussing. Ask questions to obtain as much detail about the process as you can. Anywhere there is a potential misunderstanding, look more closely to find the pain point. What is it about the step that makes it difficult or undesirable to complete? How do other team members overcome this issue?
At the end of the meeting, you should have an accurate map that clarifies the process as it is understood by your team, what is occurring, and where pain or choke points occur.