Prepare to Map your Process

Once you have been to where the work is being done, walked your processes, and listened to your employees (as discussed in the previous two postings) you will have a good idea of what can be improved.  The question now is where do I start?

In order to truly understand your process and identify where improvements can be made, you will need to map your process.  Before this process can begin there is a little prep work that must be done prior mapping.   It is important that you fight the temptation to just jump in and start fixing.   Be patient, you might just find that some of the things you think you can fix might not be needed at all.  Below is a list of additional items that when defined and analyzed, in regards to the process you walked, will help you identify what can be improved, and what you can leave alone:

  • What is the Mission (of the organization)?
  • What is the Objective (of the process)?
  • What aspects are Critical to Quality (CTQ’s)?
  • What are the processes constraints?
  • Are there any known issues within the process?
  • What are the strengths of the process?
  • How do relationships with stakeholders affect the process?
  • How does the process affect relationships with stakeholders (within the adjacent steps and/or the entire process)?
  • Does your organizational structure drive process or does your process drive your organizational structure?
  • How is the process affected by your organization’s culture?
  • How is your organizational culture defined by the process?
  • Who are your suppliers and customers?
  • What is you strategic alignment with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders?
  • Has the voice of the customer been assessed and level of analysis determined?

When you are done answering these questions you should have a much clearer view of your process.  The next question that you should ask is “do we really need to be doing this?”  If the answer is yes, then the next decision whether key changes can be made to fix the process or if a total restart is necessary.  If the answer is no, shut it down.

When you are done with the exercise and you have identified steps in the process that can be improved, the next step is prioritizing your improvements and deciding what it will take to make the changes.  Is this a just-do-it, a Rapid Improvement Event (RIE), or a full blown project (i.e. Green Belt, Black Belt)?  More often than not, you will be faced with a combination of all three.

If you decide to rebuild the process from scratch, consider using Design for Six Sigma (DfSS) so that you can more easily assess your projects efficiency once you get it back up and running.

While it is tempting when you finish your process walk to just jump in and start making changes, fight the urge to fix it now.  Following the process will give you much greater returns and has been proven for generations.  Once again, none of this should be new, but it is simple.  Maybe even common sense.

So remember, take your time and plan for success.  This extra step does not take that much time when considering the benefits of getting it right the first time.

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