Map Your Process For a Better Understanding

Posted by on Mar 27, 2022 in Flow Chart, IPO Diagram, Process Mapping, SIPOC, Swim Lane Diagram, Value Stream Map | 0 comments

Going to Gemba is the first step in understanding what is going on in the process you’re trying to improve.  The next step is to document the process.  There are different tools you can use to do this.  Here are a few of the more common ones.

IPO Diagram

A simple IPO (Input, Process, Output) diagram is an easy way to start understanding the outputs of a process and the necessary inputs required to achieve that output or requirement.

In addition, as you walk Gemba and observe what is going on, the inputs can be classified as either noise, controllable, SOP (standard operating procedure), or critical.


Use a SIPOC to:
• Define project boundaries
• Determine where to collect data
• Identify suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders
• Identify important inputs and outputs of the process and their respective requirements

Don’t forget, a SIPOC can also help you:

• Understanding the gap between the output and what your customer expects
• Understanding the gap between the input your supplier provides and what the process requires
• Can help you identify team members for your project
SIPOC Steps:
1. Start in the middle of the template with the process, identify the beginning and ending boundaries, and other main steps.
2. Next identify the outputs of the process and the customers of those outputs.
3. Identify the customers’ requirements for those outputs.  Be specific!
4. Next identify the inputs required by the process and the requirements for those inputs.  Again be specific!
5. Identify the suppliers of those inputs.
6. Conduct a gap analysis on the outputs to determine if the process provides what the customer is asking for.  Any gap that exists is an opportunity to improve and a potential project.
7. Conduct a gap analysis on the inputs to determine if the supplier provides the necessary inputs required by the process.  Again, any gap is an opportunity to improve and a potential project.
8. Lastly, review your SIPOC to determine if any customer or supplier should be a member of your project team.
SIPOC Do’s and Don’ts
• Do be clear about where the process starts and ends.
• Do involve your whole team in developing a SIPOC.
• Don’t get into too much detail at the stage.  Keep it high-level!


Flowcharts typically provide a high-level view and usually do not get into the details necessary to make improvements. I generally use a flowchart when dealing with business systems or databases to help me understand the connection between the various components.

How to make a flowchart in a few simple steps:

1. Define the boundaries of the process (where does it start? where does it end?)

2. List the steps of the process

3. Put the steps in the correct order

4. Draw the flowchart using appropriate symbols

5. Test for completeness and accuracy

Construction Tips:

• Work in teams – and involve the right people

• Brainstorm steps and decisions

• Make sure everyone contributes

• Write steps and decisions on “sticky” notes

 – One step to a note

 – Arrange and rearrange notes until the team agrees

• Allow plenty of time

• Validate the chart

Swim Lane Diagram

Swim lane diagrams are helpful when a project involves multiple functions and cuts across department boundaries. They help a team understand what each department does and how the different tasks flow between the various departments. The hand-offs between the other functional areas are critical and usually the source of confusion.

Value Stream Mapping

The term value stream refers to all the activities your company must do to design, order, produce, and deliver its products or services to customers. 

A value stream has three main parts:

• The flow of materials, from receipt from suppliers to delivery to customers.

• The transformation of raw materials into finished goods.

• The flow of information supports and directs the flow of materials and the transformation of raw materials into finished goods.

 Several value streams operate within a company; value streams can also involve more than one company.

A value stream map uses simple graphics or icons to show the sequence and movement of information, materials, and actions in your company’s value stream.

It helps employees understand how the separate parts of their company’s value stream combine to create products or services.

Developing a visual map of the value stream allows everyone to fully understand and agree on how value is produced and where waste occurs. 

Creating a value stream map also provides the following benefits:

• Highlights the connections among activities and information and material flow that impact the lead time of your value stream.

• Help employees understand your company’s entire value stream rather than just a single function.

• Improves the decision-making process of all work teams by helping team members to understand and accept your company’s current practices and plans.

• Creates a common language and understanding among employees through standard value-stream-mapping symbols.

• Allows you to separate value-added and non-value-added activities and then measure their lead time.

• Provides a way for employees to quickly identify and eliminate areas of waste.

• Provides management with areas of opportunity and potential projects.

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