October 12, 2022

How to Use Decision Objects Within a Process Map

So you’ve built your basic linear process and you’re feeling good about it.

You’ve been able to map out the most efficient way to take the trash, you’ve shown grandma how to install an Iphone app in 3 easy and visually-appealing steps and you bedazzle your coworkers in the lunch room with process maps on microwave reheating and loading the dishwasher.

But then…you run into an issue! Someone has a question (the nerve!) deserving of a “yes” or “no” answer. What do you do? What if a decision needs to be made and it’s no longer a linear, “follow steps 1 to 10” process? Can you simply ask the user not to ask questions or is that “frowned upon” in the office? 😂

Fear not, process guru. There is a solution and it’s in the form of a diamond.

Here’s a short video example on how to use the diamond object for your process workflow decision steps:

The process mapping decision object, also known in BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) language as the “exclusive gateway” is your solution. Diamonds aren’t only a girls’s best friend. Process people like them too!

Using BPMN language, you’ll use a diamond with an “X” in it, like this:

If you’re not planning on using BPMN, let’s keep it simple and just build a process workflow. We’ll still use a diamond but we won’t bother putting an “X” in it. We’ll just use a label instead to make it obvious that it’s a decision step. Here are a few examples on how you might want to label it:

I tend to place the text label within the diamond unless there are too many words. I may then place it outside the diamond, under or above the object, paying attention to which location best avoids covering decision outcome connector lines.

Let’s put this diamond object to use with an example. Mikey likes cereal. Mikey really likes Life cereal. He eats it every day at work and puts his bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. What if the process is to load the dishwasher but then only run the dishwasher when it is full?

Here is an example of how you might build that process workflow:

That’s a simple yes/no scenario and it will get you through the majority of decision steps in a basic process.

If there are more decision steps, add more diamond objects.

However, you may also run into more complex scenarios:

  • what if two paths are supposed to be followed at the same time (in parallel), not just one?
  • what if the decision has 4 outcomes and not only 2?
  • what if there are 3 possible outcomes and they are not mutually exclusive? Maybe after the decision step, the user needs to follow outcome A and outcome C. Then what do you do?

These are all valid and real scenarios and there is more than one way to accommodate them. If you have a specific scenario you’d like to find out more about, leave a comment below or contact us.

Comprehend. Reimagine. Outperform.

Alwin Kwan
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Process Consultant

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