process map

Learn the 7 Steps to Creating a Detailed Process Map in Record Time!

I have sat through countless process mapping sessions in my career as a Lean Six Sigma practitioner and I will draw a picture in your minds as what those sessions looked like.

One person (we will call the Scribe) was volunteered to stand and write the steps either on post-it notes or directly on a flip chart taped to a wall.

The rest of the team was sitting at a board room table calling out steps. Heckling the Scribe if he made a mistake or couldn’t keep up with the steps being called out.

This is a process dominated by “those that yell the loudest”. In a process mapping session like this, many people will disengage.

This method of process mapping is also very siloed. All information flows through the Scribe. This leads to frustration.

The whole Lean Six Sigma Project Team is not optimized to produce an effective process map.

I’m going to show you a method to developing a process map that will blow your mind in the speed of development and the amount of information produced!

First, we need some supplies:

The process map you will develop is a part of the SIPOC which stand for Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer.

We use a single Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad, 25 x 30.5 Inches for Suppliers and Inputs and we use another for Outputs and Customers.

On a wall in a training room or a board room, write “Suppliers” and “Inputs” on a single Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad, 25 x 30.5 Inches. Place on the left side of the wall (see picture below)

On a wall in a training room or a board room, write “Output” and “Customers” on a single Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad, 25 x 30.5 Inches. Place on the right side of the wall (see picture below)

In between the in between the single Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad with “Suppliers” and “Inputs” and the single Post-it Self-Stick Easel Pad with “Outputs” and “Customers”, unroll the Kraft Paper Jumbo Roll and tape to the wall. This is where we will put the “O” (or Output) of the SIPOC (see picture below).

Step #1 – Developing the O&C (Output and Customer) of the SIPOC

process map

When defining the “Outputs” of the Process:

  • Use nouns not action words (for example, Taste, Texture, Time, Length)
  • What does this process produce?
  • This shouldn’t be written in the Positive (like “Good Taste”) or Negative Sense (like “Bad Taste”) only in the Neutral Sense (like “Taste”)

When Defining the “Customers” of the Process:

  • Who are the “Internal Customers”?
  • Who are the “External Customers”?
  • Who will benefit from this process?
  • Who will be upset if this process doesn’t work as required?

Step #2 – Developing the S&I (Suppliers and Inputs) of the SIPOC

process map

When Defining the External “Inputs” into the Process:

  • The External Inputs are those Inputs are fed to the process for the process to work
  • These “External Inputs” are external to the “Process” that our Six Sigma Project is Focused.

Defining the External Inputs is a Critical Element of the SIPOC.

I like to use the example of Mowing a Lawn to describe the SIPOC and particularly the “I” in the SIPOC. The Scope of “The Process” of mowing the lawn is the “P” in the SIPOC. The “External Inputs” (left of the Process) are those things that have to be fed to the process in order for the process to work.

Let’s say that the Scope of The Process of Mowing the Lawn starts with: You are standing behind the lawnmower, it is running and ready to mow the lawn. What is fed to The Process in order for the Process to Work?

  • Someone (or Something) to push the lawnmower
  • A Lawnmower
  • Knowledge of how to work the lawnmower
  • Proper Weather

Why is it important to understand our Internal Inputs?

Our focus during the Lean and Six Sigma Project will be on the “P” in the SIPOC. What if we are focused on the wrong process?

By understanding our External Inputs, we might find one or more External Inputs have a significant effect on our “Process Output”.

By not addressing that External Input, we may not make a significant enough improvement to our Process Output.

One of the Most Powerful aspects of a SIPOC is to help a project team determine if they have the right focus.

Step #3 – Generating the “P” in the SIPOC (the Process Map)

process map

Step #4 – Generating the Process Map – Individual Task Descriptions

In this step the team is going to write out on a notepad how they “see” the process being performed.
I like to get my teams to do this days before we have the process mapping session. I ask them to spend time at the process watching the process in action.

Below are the steps to for the project team to define the process as they “see” it.

  1. INDIVIDUALLY and SILENTLY (Do not talk to each other or compare notes)
  2. On a Notepad write a List of Each Task (Minimum: Verb and Noun) that you do in this process OR that you know that someone else does in this process
  3. A task can be ANY ACTIVITY that occurs between the start point and end-point you defined in the previous step
  4. Just list the task, NOT who does it.

Step #4 – Generating the Process Map: “Round Robin”

  • Choose the Most Experienced Person in the Room
  • Have that person read each of the tasks in order from their list of tasks
  • Others on the team can interject and add, Nod in Agreement or BRIEFLY Ask for Clarification (30 second limit)
  • If that exact task is duplicated on a team members list, cross it off your list
  • Once everyone understands the task, write the task on a Post-it Note
    • Write the task on a Post-It note according to its Value Add Activity (Red = NVA, Yellow = BVA, Green = CVA).
  • Continue until all tasks on all lists are documented
  • Place all Post-It notes in the middle of the table

Step #5 – Generating the Process Map: Affinity Grouping

process map

In this step, we group the post-it notes by their relationships (or Affinities) to each other. For Example, there may be a group of Post-It notes that are Inspections or Vetting of a Product or Transaction. In this case, we would put them together in a group called “Vetting”.

Below are the steps to for the project team to group the steps by the relationship (or affinity) to each other.

  2. Group the Post-it Notes into logical “clusters” that belong together
  3. Team Members may change the groupings
  4. If the same task truly belongs in more than one cluster, make a second copy of the Post-it note and place in the second cluster
process map
  • Group the Clusters by their affinity (or Relationship to each other)
    • Example: The affinities could be functions (i.e. QA, Design, Production, etc.)
  • Name each Cluster of activities
    • These will eventually be the Swim Lanes in a Swim Lane Map (Process Map)
  • Create a large Post-it note for Each Clusters Name
process map

Step #6 – Generating the Process Map: Final Process Mapping

Now that we have the grouping of the Tasks, it is now time to put Post-it’s on the wall.

  • Place the Clusters in “Swim Lanes” on the wall vertically
process map

Next step is to add the tasks in time order from left to right. This is what we call “building the skeleton” of the process map.

process map

The next step is we call “Adding the Muscle to the Bones”. In this step we will fill in Decisions, Add Paperwork, Screen Shots and any other Complexities to the Process.

process map
process map
process map
process map

Step #7 Identify Key Process Steps

This is a critical step in generating the Process Map. Once we have the detail populated on the Process Map, now it is time for the project team members who work in the process (or process owners) being investigated to define the critical inputs (or critical tasks).

Below are the steps for the process owners to define the critical inputs:

  • Each Person gets Three Red Dots to vote on their biggest perceived problem areas
  • Each Process Owner Puts the Three Red Dots on the Tasks that you believe the Problem Areas are located
  • You can place one dot on three different tasks or you can place more than one dot per task
    Optional Activity
  • Place Three Green Dots on the Area’s that you believe the “Process Improvements” are located
process map

Once you have defined the Critical Inputs to the Process, you can know use Root Cause Analysis tools like the Fishbone or FMEA to dig deeper.

Let us know in the comments about your experiences using this process mapping method. Did it increase the speed of process map development? Did the process map give you a deeper level of information?

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