Process mapping

Process mapping

A process map is a picture of a person's 'journey' through a particular health or social care service.

They can be used to understand the experience of care from the perspective of people using a service and to identify issues, gaps and duplication in the process.

A process map gets people talking and listening and gives everyone a broader perspective of what is happening. For example, it can capture how long or how often a person has to wait, how many visits they make to hospital and how many different members of staff they meet.


  • Time to do: up to 4 hours
  • Staff: at least 1 facilitator and 1 scribe
  • Cost: £
  • Equipment: large roll of paper, sticky notes, pens, sufficient wall or table space for people to access the paper easily
  • small groups
  • large groups
  • face-to-face

How to do it

  • Agree the scope of the process to be mapped. Is it covering an entire journey at a high level, or focusing on key aspects in more detail?
  • Identify participants who represent each stage of the journey, including users of a service, carers, clinical and support staff.
  • 'Walk' the service user's 'journey' (either physically or virtually). Identify all the stages and parts of the service that they will experience.
  • At the workshop, display a large sheet or roll of paper in a prominent and accessible place, either on a wall or a long table
  • Participants use sticky notes to record individually, and from their own perspective, each step in the process. Concentrate on what happens most of the time. Keep the steps small.
  • Participants stick the notes to the paper in turn. Duplicated steps should be placed under one another.
  • Capture issues or questions from participants on a separate flipchart, as they will prove very valuable later.
  • Wherever possible, use photos and pictures of places, objects, staff and equipment. This brings to life your representation of 'how things are'.
  • The facilitator should go through the entire process at the end to check nothing has been overlooked.
  • Analysis of the process map involves asking questions like:
    • How many steps are in the process? Do we need all of them?
    • Are we doing the steps in the right order?
    • How co-ordinated is the person's journey?
    • Is the right/best person involved at each step?
    • What information do we give to people at what stage? Is the information useful?
    • How many times is the person or their documentation passed from service, or member of staff, to another?
    • What is the approximate time of, or between, each step?
    • Where are possible delays and why?
    • How many steps do not 'add value' for patients?
    • Where are the problems for patients and staff?
  • Once participants share a common understanding of the problems with a current process, they should generate jointly agreed solutions, and capture these on a different flipchart.


  • Relatively quick and cheap to use
  • Includes different perspectives and encourages shared interpretation
  • Generates many ideas for improvement
  • Enables team building
  • Builds shared understanding of the issues, which reduces resistance to proposals for change


  • Can be difficult for people who were not part of the discussion to appreciate the detail
Last Updated: 29 September 2021