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What is Process Mapping in Six Sigma? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

process mapping six sigma

Let’s say you are a project manager responsible for leading a new corporate project. You have all the resources, expertise, and team members to complete the project, but you need to figure out how to organize and manage it efficiently and effectively. This is where process mapping in Six Sigma comes in.

Process mapping is a critical tool in the Six Sigma methodology for identifying inefficiencies and waste in a project and streamlining it for maximum efficiency. It can be learned through online Six Sigma training. By mapping out each step in the project plan, Six Sigma practitioners can better understand how a project works and identify ways to optimize it.

Let’s explore the world of process mapping in Six Sigma and how it can help you optimize your business processes.

How Does Process Mapping Work with Six Sigma?

Process mapping is a visual representation that provides a detailed description of how we carry out a process. It allows individuals to view the process closely, aiding them in decision-making. The graphical representation helps identify the process’s strengths and weaknesses, including each step’s contribution. Furthermore, it helps reduce cycle times and defects while increasing productivity.

Process mapping is a crucial tool used in Six Sigma methodology to spot inefficiencies and waste in a process and streamline it for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. The process mapping exercise is designed to provide a clear picture of the process under examination, including inputs, outputs, controls, and the steps involved.

What Is a Six Sigma Process Map?

Process mapping is a graphical representation that describes how things get done. It helps people visualize the details of the process and guides them in decision-making.

Why Do You Need a Process Map?

Organizations and businesses use process mapping to lessen waste and improve efficiency. Process maps give insight into processes, help teams brainstorm improvement ideas, increase communication, and provide process documentation. Additionally, process mapping will identify bottlenecks, repetition, and delays.

Also Read: What Is Lean Six Sigma? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Methodology

The Benefits of Process Mapping in Six Sigma

Process mapping is a robust tool that helps businesses improve their operations. Here is how process mapping in Six Sigma benefits your business:

Improved Understanding of the Process

Process mapping offers a clear and visual representation of the process, which helps the participants understand the process better, including inputs, outputs, and the steps involved. It helps individuals identify areas that need improvement, making it more straightforward to identify inefficiencies and waste.

Increased Efficiency

Process mapping allows individuals to streamline the process, reducing cycle times and defects while improving productivity. The graphical representation helps identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and unnecessary steps, allowing individuals to identify the root causes of inefficiencies and devise strategies to eliminate them.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

Process mapping can help individuals develop strategies to improve product or service quality by identifying inefficiencies. This can increase customer satisfaction, which is critical for building and maintaining a loyal customer base.

Cost Reduction

Process mapping can help identify areas of waste, such as overproduction, waiting, and unnecessary processing. Eliminating these inefficiencies can reduce costs associated with the process, improving the organization’s overall profitability.

Improved Communication

Process mapping provides a common language and framework for discussing the process and improving communication and understanding among the participants. This can result in better collaboration and more effective decision-making.

Types of Process Maps in Six Sigma

Six Sigma has several types of process maps, each serving a specific purpose in analyzing and optimizing a process. Let’s dig into some of the tools experts use for process mapping in Six Sigma.


SIPOC (Supplier – Inputs – Process – Outputs – Customer) is a simple, high-level process map that establishes the basis for subsequent mapping. Although it may not be considered an actual process map, it identifies the key players and shows what the process accomplishes. The center of the SIPOC contains the high-level process steps, while the required inputs and their providers are listed to the left, and the critical process outputs and their recipients are listed to the right. The SIPOC defines the project’s scope and focuses on discussing the process. Creating a SIPOC for every project is recommended because it helps discuss the process with others and is simple.


The SIPOC-R is a modified version of the SIPOC map, which lists the requirements or specifications for the inputs and outputs, typically under each item. This additional detail can provide insight into potential problems to solve. If a problem exists even after all input requirements are met, the issue is either in the process or a missing need. On the other hand, if a condition is not met, the cause should be investigated. The SIPOC-R helps ensure all relationships between inputs and outputs are visible and assists in examining the process and identifying essential connections.

Spaghetti Diagram Six Sigma

Spaghetti diagrams in Six Sigma track the movement of people in the work area while they are completing processes. It measures the distance between areas and the time it takes to move between them in manufacturing or other transnational processes to enable organizations to determine where improvements can be made to create more efficiency.

High-Level Process Maps

High-Level Process Maps provide a top-level view of the process and its major components, which makes them an excellent tool for quick insights. These maps help communicate the process to stakeholders not interested in the details. High-level maps expand the “process” from the SIPOC into five to ten more detailed boxes, showing where all the inputs go and the outputs are created. They are usually constructed with the help of managers and don’t require deep knowledge of the process. High-Level Process Maps are a practical starting point for understanding a process and identifying areas for improvement.

Detailed Process Map

A Detailed Process Map provides a comprehensive overview of a particular process step. This map is necessary if there are any issues with that step. For example, if we are interested in exploring the Purchasing step, we can follow the input to that step and repeatedly ask, “What happens next?” until we produce the output. It’s essential to selectively dive into detail, as it’s a lot of work creating a Detailed Process Map. Starting with a High-Level Map and letting the project’s needs dictate when to go into more detail is usually sufficient unless we plan to streamline the process radically.

Swimlane Map

Swimlane Maps are process maps that separate the steps into lanes based on who performs each activity. By aligning the steps of each participant in a horizontal row, the map makes it clear “who does what” in the process, including handoffs between participants. This map is handy for establishing work instructions and training since it clarifies each participant’s role. However, Swimlane Maps are not space-efficient and can become cluttered when there are many handoffs. As a result, it is best to use high-level and detailed maps during the project work and reserve the Swimlane Map for the improved process.

Relationship Maps

Relationship Maps depict the flow of information, materials, or paper between participants without detailing the work done. Although not widely used, Relationship Maps help explore high-level processes to identify participants. They are instrumental when there are many participants. After creating a Relationship Map, it can be used to complete a process map by ensuring that the arrows originate from the steps creating the unit and end in the correct location. Creating a Relationship Map is unnecessary if there are only a few participants.

Value Stream Mapping in Six Sigma

Value Stream Maps display material flows, information flows, WIP, cycle time, etc. They are used in Lean applications to show the current state of the process, including improvement opportunities. They require more skill to build than simple process maps but provide great information. The material moves from left to right, information from right to left, and work time and wait time are displayed on a line at the bottom. Improvement opportunities appear as starbursts. The diagram shows the process’s inefficiencies, making it useful for planning improvements.

Also Read: Demystifying the Theory of Constraints

What is a Sub Process?

In process mapping for Six Sigma, a sub-process is part of a more extensive process that can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. It is a step within the primary process with specific inputs, outputs, and steps to complete.

Sub-processes can be depicted within a more extensive process map and are often used to provide more detail and clarity to the overall process. The goal of breaking down a more extensive process into sub-processes is to make it more efficient and easier to manage by breaking it down into more manageable parts.

What’s the Difference Between Any Process Map and a Six Sigma Process Map?

The factor that separates a Six Sigma process map from the typical process map is the same thing that sets the Six Sigma methodology apart from the rest. Six Sigma focuses on removing waste and reducing variation in the manufacturing, service, and design processes. This improves overall production quality and efficiency.

The Six Sigma process map reflects this methodology and is used to help teams work together to achieve a common understanding of the process and how it works.

Process Mapping Examples

We’ve already covered a sampling of process maps. Let’s enhance our knowledge by checking out some typical process mapping examples.


Flowcharts visually represent the process and are among the most popular process maps since they’re simple.

Swimlane Diagram

Swimlane Diagrams are the next logical step after flowcharts. They lay out the process segments and steps based on who’s responsible for what.

SIPOC Diagram

SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. This diagram provides more structure than flowcharts typically offer.

Value Stream Map

Value Stream Maps offer a bird’s-eye view of the process from start to finish. Additionally, it showcases value-added and non-value-added activities.

Process Flow Diagram

Process Flow Diagrams add a layer of complexity to the basic flowchart. They show the steps involved and highlight the inputs, outputs, and resources needed for each step.

BPMN Diagram

The Business Process Model and Notation diagram is a detail-rich, high-definition version of process mapping.

Process Mapping Tools

Here’s a sample of a half-dozen process mapping tools available today. There are many other iterations of process mapping software to explore, but this list offers a solid representation of what’s out there.

How to Create a Process Map in Six Sigma

To create a process map, define the process boundaries and the level of detail required.

  1. Identify the steps in the process, including significant inputs, outputs, and decisions.
  2. Arrange the process steps in sequence by diagramming the current process.
  3. Use the appropriate symbols for each element, such as ovals for inputs/outputs and diamonds for decision points.
  4. Ensure the map is accurate and comprehensive by testing it with an external review.
  5. Analyze the process map to understand if the process is being run effectively, identify areas of complexity, and determine how it differs from an ideal method.

A detailed and accurate process map is critical to process improvement as it provides a clear understanding of the process and can lead to better solutions.

Choosing the Right Type of Process Mapping in Six Sigma

When choosing the suitable Lean Six Sigma process mapping to utilize, there are a few things to consider.

  • Understand the goals and objectives of the process improvement effort: Are you trying to streamline a complex process or identify bottlenecks and waste in a production line? Are you looking to optimize information flow or reduce cycle time?
  • Consider the level of detail needed for the map: High-level process maps provide an overview of the process, while detailed maps provide a more granular view.
  • Consider the map’s audience: Some maps, such as swimlane maps, are ideal for communicating process details to stakeholders, while others, such as relationship maps, are better suited for the initial exploration of the process.

Finding the correct map may require trial and error, but you can make an informed choice with a clear understanding of your goals, level of detail, and audience.

Where can you go wrong with Lean Six Sigma Process Mapping?

Choosing the wrong Six Sigma process map can lead to several issues in Six Sigma projects. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

  • Using a process map that needs to be more detailed or more detailed.
  • Focusing on the wrong process.
  • Not involving the right people.
  • Not reviewing and testing the process map for accuracy and completeness.
  • Using the appropriate symbols leads to clarity and interpretation of the process.

Also Read: Value Stream Mapping in Six Sigma

Process Mapping in Six Sigma is a Critical Skill for a Rewarding Career

Process mapping in Six Sigma is a crucial tool for Lean Six Sigma experts, as it allows them to identify and improve processes, eliminate waste, and streamline operations. You can drive process improvements and achieve better results by mastering process mapping.

Whether you’re a professional looking to improve organizational efficiency or an aspiring Lean Six Sigma expert, gaining a Lean Six Sigma certification can be ideal for your career growth.

A Post Graduate Program in Lean Six Sigma, like the one from Simplilearn, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, can help you fast-track your career in quality management with hands-on industry projects and business mentoring from industry experts from KPMG. The program offers insights into Agile Management, Digital Transformation, Lean Management, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Minitab, and quality management.

Are you interested in becoming a Lean Six Sigma expert? Enrolling in this program can provide the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in this field. Get started now!

According to Salary.com, the median salary for Green Belt Lean Six Sigma professionals working in the United States is $115,800 and over $128K maximum. Whether you want to begin a new career in Six Sigma or just upskill your skill set, this post-graduate program will provide you with the valuable Six Sigma training that today’s business world seeks. Sign up today!


Q: What is process mapping?
A: Process mapping is a technique for visually representing processes and workflows. It involves creating process maps, also known as flowcharts, process flowcharts, or workflow diagrams.

Q: Where is process mapping used?
A: Process mapping is a tool used across various industries, specifically any organization that wants to improve efficiency and eliminate waste.

Q: What kind of process mapping tools and process mapping software are available?
A: Process mapping software tools include:

  • GitMind
  • Microsoft Visio
  • ClickUp
  • Pipefy
  • Creately
  • Lucidchart

Q: Why do we need process mapping?
A: Process mapping is vital to communicating processes among stakeholders and showing areas that need improvement.

Q: Who should do process mapping?
A: The centralized team typically handles business process mapping for describing all processes.

Q: Is process mapping a skill?
A: Yes, but it’s more accurate to say that process mapping is a series of skills, including:

  • Research
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Tenacity and determination

Q: Is process mapping a framework?
A: Yes, process mapping is considered a framework.

You might also like to read:

A Deep Dive Into the Five Phases of Lean Six Sigma

Six Sigma Methodologies for Process Improvement

Ultimate Guide to Six Sigma Control Charts

DMADV: Everything You Need to Know

Describing a SIPOC Diagram: Everything You Should Know About It

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