A SIPOC is a very simple tool. It’s easy to build, easy to understand but not always used optimally. Watch this 1-hour intermediate webinar on this “must-use” tool to be sure that you are leveraging it to its fullest capacity by understanding all the ways that it can help you, your team, and your process improvement project be more successful.
5 Ways to Use a SIPOC:
- Visualize, understand and communicate the high level process
- Identify customers and their process requirements
- Plan a Process Walk
- Manage detailed process mapping
- Identify useful measures for your project
Tools & Templates
Tracy O’Rourke, Managing Partner & Executive Advisor
Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.
Karlo Tanjuakio: Hello everyone. Welcome to GoLeanSixSigma.com’s webinar. Thanks for spending some time with us today. Hundreds of people have joined and we are really excited that you’re all here.
Lean and Six Sigma are the go-to improvement methods used by leading organizations all over the world to delight customers, minimize costs, maximize profits, and develop better teams. It doesn’t need to be difficult to use. So we’re here to make it easier for you all to build your problem-solving muscles and achieve your goals.
So today’s webinar is titled 5 Ways a SIPOC Helps You Understand and Improve Your Process. And our presenter is one of our managing partners, Tracy O’Rourke.
Our Expert: Tracy
Tracy has 20 years of experience helping organizations and virtually every industry achieve their goals with Lean Six Sigma. She began her career at GE as a Black Belt and she is also an instructor at UCSD and SDSU. She has an MBA from Pepperdine University and a BA in English Literature from San Francisco State University.
How’s it going, Tracy?
Tracy O’Rourke: Pretty good, Karlo. How are you?
Karlo Tanjuakio: Excellent. Excellent. Thanks. It’s a great day out here in Hawaii. And I’m sure it is in San Diego as well.
Tracy O’Rourke: You know, really it’s unfair to talk about Hawaii and San Diego to everyone else because it might not be as good weather there.
Karlo Tanjuakio: Right on. So Tracy, as I mentioned is an executive adviser and a managing partner with GoLeanSixSigma.com. And my name is Karlo Tanjuakio and I’m a managing partner as well.
How to Interact
So the first thing we’re going to go over today is some housekeeping and we’re going to show you how to interact. So on the right side, you’ll see your control panel and you can ask a question in the question section. And we’re also going to be inviting you to participate by answering some polls.
So our first activity is checking out where everyone is joining us from today. So, on the right side, if you wouldn’t mind, please share where you’re from. So we have Jeremy from Montreal, Elizabeth from Oregon, Florida, hey, Cory, Halifax, Megan, Vancouver, Kirk, Toronto, Paul from Oregon, Mario from Serbia, John from Fort Worth, North Massachusetts, Ronnie from New Zealand, Ron White from Olympia. And it looks like we’ve got a really, really great mix of people. As I mentioned, hundreds of people have joined us today so we all appreciate you taking the time to learn with us.
All right. Tracy, I’m going to hand it over to you.
Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you, Karlo. And thanks everybody for joining us. Actually, one of my favorite parts of the webinar is hearing where everybody has been calling in from for this webinar. So thanks for joining us today.
Who Is GoLeanSixSigma.com?
So, a little bit about GoLeanSixSigma.com, we try to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscle. That is our vision. And we really want to try to make it as practical and easy to understand and enjoyable to Lean and Six Sigma.
And so, we believe that complex concepts just confuse people. And we really try to just make it easy to understand and apply. So we hope you see that too. And we actually have created a place called the Bahama Bistro which is where all of our training occurs. It’s a dreamy, relaxing training facility. Who wouldn’t want to go to the Bahamas to learn? It sounds enticing, right?
So, that’s really our goal, is to make it easy for everyone everywhere. And guess what? A lot of people agree with us.
We’ve Helped People From…
These are some of our customers that have been using our products. And you can see that we’ve got brick and mortar, we have administrative, non-manufacturing transactional processes. We have even industry-specific organizations from healthcare, government education, financial services, and more.
And guess why? Because organizations always have problems to solve and they actually always need problem-solvers, people that are really good at problem-solving and understanding process-related root cause analysis. So then, how do we improve those? So it’s really an integral habit and skill to build. And a lot of people agree that our stuff is pretty easy to understand and easy for people to apply.
So, what we’re going to learn today is about a SIPOC. And we’re really going to talk about the 5 ways a SIPOC helps you understand and improve your process. So, here are some of the things we’re going to talk about. What is it, first of all? How to construct one very simply? And then the 5 ways you can use a SIPOC because what I have found in my experience is people use the SIPOC but sometimes through the learning, they don’t quite understand all of the benefits that a SIPOC can help project people understand their process.
So a SIPOC is I believe highly underutilized. So we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can use it to help you understand your process and ultimately improve your process. So we’re going to talk about visualizing and communicating using a SIPOC. We’re going to talk about how it helps you identify customers and the requirements, how a SIPOC can help you plan a process walk which is a really important step that you should be doing with all of your improvement efforts, how it can help you manage detailed process mapping and finally, identifying useful measures not just output measures but measures that you might use in the future to track your process improvements. So that’s really the agenda.
What Is a SIPOC?
So first, let’s talk about what is a SIPOC? So the joke is that SIPOC is kind of a dumb name but it’s a really good tool. It’s really an acronym. It stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Output and Customers. And basically what you’re doing is you’re identifying what those things are at a very high level.
And so usually in a SIPOC, it’s a bird’s eye view. Picture yourself in a plane 30,000 feet above the process and everything looks little, little cars and little trees and trucks. You’re not in the weeds. And actually, this could be very hard for people who are in the weeds, they do the process every day, to step back and actually think about the high level process map. We’ve done SIPOCs before where people go, “I don’t see myself in this process.” They go, “Oh, I’m in this one box.” So, it could be interesting to see the picture or the view of the process from that high of a level.
But again, it helps you see the process and the relationships between inputs, outputs, and suppliers. It also helps you establish process boundary, so that can help with scope. So the beginning, my improvement effort starts with where the process starts here and ends here. So that can be very helpful.
And then also, it helps you identify some key customers which can be really important and sometimes it’s very – people don’t know who their customer is. And so, SIPOC can help a great deal with that.
So this is actually one of my favorite tools in the toolbox. I almost always when I’m helping improvement teams do projects, I always use a SIPOC and I help them get started with the SIPOC the very first thing. It’s an easy tool. It can then tell you a lot about what the process is. I think the first thing people recognize is sometimes they say, “Well, I can’t do a SIPOC.” Well, sometimes that might mean that your issue that you’re trying to solve isn’t process-related. Sometimes people say, “Well, it’s a policy. I’m trying to change this policy.” Oh, OK. So it’s not a process.
Not every problem you’re going to run into is a process issue or that you’re going to apply DMAIC or even Plan, Do, Check, Adjust. So I think sometimes that is a – sometimes attempting to do a SIPOC makes you realize you actually might not be using the right approach to solve the problem because a lot of people try to force process improvement when it really isn’t a process issue. So that’s really one of the first things that sometimes can come up when you’re doing a SIPOC.
How Do You Construct a SIPOC?
So, how do you build a SIPOC? Let’s go through that. And this again is very brief explanation of constructing a SIPOC. So basically like we said, it’s an acronym. It stands for Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer. And these are the questions that are associated with the SIPOC. So often, we read it from left to right. We don’t typically build it that way, which I think is sometimes interesting. So let’s talk about what these are first and then we’ll talk about how to build it.
So first, you would identify who provides inputs into the process. So often, what we find is someone wants a loan. Let’s say, they are trying to get approved for a mortgage or a loan. And so, they are actually supplying an application or completed information into the process. So that could be the customer is a supplier. In a lot of transactional processes, we do see customers as the supplier of something. And so, who provide the things that are going into this process?
And then what is the information that they are actually supplying as an input? That goes under the input’s column. Like I said earlier, an application could be an example of that.
And then what is the process? So how is this product or service produced? So again, we say, what is the high level, 30000-foot overview of the process? So we’re not going into great detail. Usually, I don’t see more than 8 boxes of process steps in a SIPOC. And so people say, “Well, what if I have more boxes?” Well, you’ve got to zoom out, is what I tell people.
Remember, you’re on a plane and everything looks little. And so often, if someone has a process step that says, “Send email to this person,” well, that might be a little too detailed for a SIPOC. So a lot of times, we are actually getting the right level set when people are developing a SIPOC.
Remember, you’re on a plane and everything looks little. And so often, if someone has a process step that says, “Send email to this person,” well, that might be a little too detailed for a SIPOC. So a lot of times, we are actually getting the right level set when people are developing a SIPOC.
Finally, what is the output and the customer? So the output is what’s the thing coming out of the process? It could be a product or it could be that the service is completed. So for example, if you are getting your TV fixed at home, the output might be TV is fixed. So that is the service that’s completed.
So a lot of people think, “Oh, this doesn’t apply. I’m not manufacturing. I don’t have a widget coming out of the process.” But a completed service is also an output. So, those are the things that we want to identify is what is the thing coming out of the process.
And finally, who receives these products or services? Who is it going to?
So, those are the things that you’re thinking about when you’re constructing a SIPOC. You’re really identifying what the process is, what’s going into it, what’s coming out of it, who provides the inputs, and who is it going in terms of the customer. So those are basically the construct of a SIPOC.
You’re really identifying what the process is, what’s going into it, what’s coming out of it, who provides the inputs, and who is it going in terms of the customer.
So I said earlier, we read it from left to right when you see a SIPOC built. But often, we don’t start that way so sometimes people do struggle with building a SIPOC. And so often what I see is people will start with the P, the O, or the C when they build a SIPOC.
So for example, often people will say, “Well, what is the process that we’re actually looking at anyway?” And they might start right in the middle. They might start building the steps of a process out first, and that can create some clarity.
I have also seen people start with the output. They say, “This is the thing that is broken. Let’s figure out what the process is that this thing coming out of a process goes through.” It might be an application that has come out.
We actually – I just worked with a group two weeks ago and it was a contract, a contract, a completed contract where an awarded contract was the output and they wanted to understand what the process was to get that awarded. So that can create a lot of clarity for people when you actually have identified what is the thing that is specifically coming out of the process that we’re hoping to improve or identify.
And then finally, some people start with the customer. They have a customer that’s very upset and they say, “This is the customer that we really want to focus on and this is the things that they’re receiving out of the process.” So sometimes we work all the way back from the customer and then try to build the SIPOC that way.
And so, there isn’t – there’s no wrong way or even right way to do it. Ultimately, start where you think it’s going to be easiest for your team to put this together. And I’ve seen people start in all those different places. And I’ve actually even seen people start with supplier too.
So, take a stab at it. When we do these in training, constructing a SIPOC, this actually does not take very long. It could take maybe 30 minutes to put one together as long as you have the right people. And again, it’s so high level that leaders don’t have a problem doing this or managers, or even high-level executives don’t have problems with constructing a SIPOC.
Actually, who I think struggles with the SIPOC is the people that are very detailed and work in the process and have a lot of detail in their process. Sometimes they have a harder time putting together a SIPOC.
So, this seems to work very easily though for people that are supervisory level, management, those kinds of things for constructing a SIPOC.
So, now that you understand what a SIPOC is and the basics on how to construct a SIPOC, let’s talk about why you would want to do it. Let’s talk about what it can do for you.
So the first one is, it can first of all communicate, help you communicate the high-level process that you’re actually looking to improve.
1. Communicate High Level Process
So, here is an example from our training at the Bahama Bistro of a SIPOC. It’s the lunch order to delivery. So you can see that this is a completed SIPOC. You’ve got your suppliers, your patrons supply a lunch order, the grocery, farmer, vendors, distributors supply food ingredients and raw food and spices, and then we have paper goods manufacturers that supply packaging, bags, cardboard holders, those kind of things. And again, this is the lunch order to delivery pickup process.
So the process is that the customer arrives or calls. We take the order. We deliver it to the kitchen. We prep it, make it, and cook it to order. We package it. And then we deliver the order or pick it up. They pick it up. So, what’s the output? The delivered lunch order. And who does it go to? The lunch patron.
So, that’s an example of a basic SIPOC. And again, why this is an important is not as I said earlier, not every problem is process-related. And so first of all, it’s a good check for you to see if this actually a process issue.
But then also, think about the thousands of processes that exist in an organization. I’ve done a lot of work with lots of organizations but I will say that I worked for a government agency. It was actually a state and they wanted to understand all of their administrative processes within this certain department. And we did SIPOCs for all of their processes. We did 110 of them, 110 SIPOCs.
So, when you think about process improvement and you’re trying to communicate what process you’re trying to improve, SIPOCs work really well to explain what specifically, what process you’re looking to improve. And it helps to have a problem statement. And executives get it. They look at a SIPOC and they get it and they like it.
When you put a detailed map in front of an executive, that might not be the best tool to communicate with. They might glaze over or not sure what they’re looking at or they may not want to spend the time to know in great detail what this process is. So, a lot of times executives don’t want to get lost in the details. So a SIPOC speaks to their level. But it also helps you get grounded with your team in terms of what process that you’re really trying to impact, who is being served by that process. And so, it helps ground people to see that there is a larger process.
So, it helps you communicate with higher level executives, with your boss about what process that you’re trying to improve, but it also helps you communicate with your team, with what process that you’ve really determined that you’re going to be looking at as part of this process.
So it helps you communicate it and it helps others understand what processes that you’re trying to work on as well. So that’s the first, the very first thing that a SIPOC can help you do. And I really – I believe that when you’re working on a charter for your project, an improvement project, it has got your problem statement and your goal statement, I think a SIPOC is a great first thing that you do, that you build with your charter because I think it can help create a lot of clarity on what you’re trying to address with process improvement.
I think it’s a great tool to work with your leader. Like if your leader says, “I have a project for you. I think you should look at improving a process.” And you want to get a better understanding of what this process is, build a SIPOC with the leader. And again, they are pretty good at helping with this communication at that high level.
So that’s the very first thing a SIPOC can do is improve communication around the process that you’re trying to improve.
2. Identify Customers and Requirements
The second thing that a SIPOC will do to help you understand the process is it’s a great thing to do in terms of understanding customer requirements. So I will say that SIPOC is an acronym and sometimes people say – sometimes people will add an R at the end of a SIPOC so it’s SIPOCR, and that is really saying, “Don’t forget to get the customer requirements.”
So this is really important for an organization especially if there’s a lot of confusion around who the customer is. And you’d be surprised at how many organizations are confused around their customers.
So let me first start by looking at this example we have. So again, identifying customers and requirements. So we already did the SIPOC for the Bahama Bistro, the lunch order to delivery process. We’ve identified that the customer is the lunch patron. So what does the customer require from this process, for lunch order to delivery? And it is lunch time somewhere in the United States. As a matter of fact, it’s going to be a lunch time for me soon. I’m going to get hungry.
And so, you can visualize. What might the customer want from their delivered lunch order? Well, they want it to be accurate. They want it to be on time. They don’t want to wait too long. Actually, I hate that especially when I’m in a rush for lunch and I’m waiting a really long time for my order then I don’t even have time to eat. I actually had a situation where I ended up having to just tell them pack it to go because I didn’t have a time to eat one bite. I had to leave because it took too long.
We also want our food at the right level of heat. We want to deliver it at 100 – we may not say deliver it at a 155 or 160 degrees but we know – we actually do know when it’s not hot enough. And so, we may not know what the translation of that is in heat but we do know when it’s not hot enough.
And then again, we want it to be available. So don’t you hate it when you go to your favorite restaurant and they don’t have your favorite item available ever? That drives me nuts too.
…don’t you hate it when you go to your favorite restaurant and they don’t have your favorite item available ever?
So these are some of the requirements that a customer would have. And it’s a great exercise for a project team to really think about who is the customer and what do they really care about? Surprisingly, you would be surprised how many teams don’t do that. They don’t think about who the customer is and what their requirements are.
So, there are two steps to identifying customer requirements. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it on this particular webinar but it’s good to identify the category that the customer cares about, accuracy, on time, soup, I guess that would be the soup temperature, and then available.
And then you really want to say, so what does accuracy mean here in this particular process? What does on time mean in this particular process? Because in those 110 maps I told you that I did for an organization, lead time or cycle time was pretty much a category in almost every one of those. But the definition of that lead time was different for almost every process.
So as an example here, delivery in 16 minutes or less or 20 minutes or less for entrées. So these are very specific things. Customers want their salad as an example in 16 minutes or less. That is the target. They don’t want to wait longer than that.
And so, identifying what does on time mean for the customer in this process is a really important exercise for your team to go through because if you’re going to make an improvement to this process, hopefully, it affects the customer in a good way. And so, that’s why it’s really important to identify customers and requirements because we do want people on the team to be customer-focused. We tend to be department-centric sometimes. We tend to improve the processes to make it better for us, our own department, but sometimes we actually sub-optimize the process and make it worse for the customer. So we don’t want that to happen. So identifying customers and requirements is key.
We tend to improve the processes to make it better for us, our own department, but sometimes we actually sub-optimize the process and make it worse for the customer.
And here’s the other thing. Do you ever have a situation where two departments don’t like each other? Guess what? When you do a SIPOC, sometimes you discover that one of them is actually a customer. And you know what? They’re tired of hearing from the customer. Or, it could be that – so this happens too. Someone makes an improvement and they go, “Yay! The process is better.” And then the people downstream say, “No, you didn’t make it better. You just pushed that work to us. You actually just pushed it to us. So you took it off your plate but you just handed it to somebody else.” That’s really not process improvement.
And so, that’s why if you identify customers and the requirements and you look to make it better, one of their requirements, it eliminates the pushing the bubble of work to other people because guess what, you made the improvement in your department but it had no downstream effect. So that’s also a great check for process improvement teams. Are you actually making the process better or are you just pushing the work to somebody else? I’m sure many of you have had that happened before.
OK. Another opportunity is I’ve ran into organizations again like I’ve told you. They don’t know who the customer is. So I always tell people, always identify customers by process because you’ll find that you maybe a customer of one process but a stakeholder of another process. So if you do it by process, you get more clarity on who the customer is for that process and what they require.
So that brings me to the next slide which is a little bit about definitions because what I’ve also found is there are different definitions out there for customers and stakeholders. And I’m not saying they’re wrong because I’m sure it serves them well like I know that in project management, they don’t define the customer this way. There are different definitions for customers.
But for a process improvement, these definitions serve the process very well. So a customer is typically anyone who uses or receives a service or product from a process. They get the thing coming out of the process or they actually use it or they actually go through the process. So that is a customer.
A stakeholder is any individual or a group that has a vested interest in how the process performs but doesn’t receive anything out of the process or use the product or service. So there are a lot of stakeholders for example in government. And so, they’re always overseeing the process and there’s a lot of oversight in these processes. And the sad part is a lot of those processes are designed for the stakeholders, not the customers.
And so, I feel like when I work with a lot of government organizations, I’m reminding them of, “You have to serve both. You have to serve stakeholder requirement and customer requirement.” And that is to me the creative question that needs to be answered is, how do you serve both stakeholders and customers in government processes? Because you can’t just serve one. And people really like it. I think that they really have gotten a lot of traction in some of the processes I’ve seen with identifying who the customer is and trying to make – and trying to fulfill those requirements better.
And then we finally have process partners. Process partners are basically groups, agencies, entities that work together to provide a product or service to the customer. So you’re not the customer of another department. You actually are a partner working together. And so, you always see situations where two departments hate each other when really their partners, they got a partner, they have to have some aligned matrix to say, “OK, this defines success for both of us. How do we make sure we’re delivering this in this fashion?” And so, that can be a constant challenge as well.
But I think the definitions are really important to make sure people understand, who is the customer, who is the stakeholder? And do we have process partners, and that can help a lot with some of the dialogues about what requirements are the most important.
So, that is the second thing a SIPOC can help you do is to understand the process is defining who the customer is and what they require.
3. Plan a Process Walk
So we’re moving on to the third thing that SIPOCs can help you do, and that is plan a process walk. So this might not be something you’ve heard before. But I have found over the years when I developed and helping organizations plan a process walk, I bring up SIPOC. I bring up SIPOC and I say, “OK, here is the process that we’re going to be walking. Who are we going to interview?”
So if you’re not familiar with the process walk yet, we actually have lots of – we have two webinars specifically on the GoLeanSixSigma.com website that can help you understand what a process walk is a little bit more. You can just go to the search feature and webinar process walk and it will come up.
But a process walk basically is when you physically go to where the work occurs. You see the work happened and you actually interviewed people that do the process to help understand and build profound knowledge of the process. And so typically, not only are the people – so I think the important thing to remember here is the people that you interview were also walking the process with you.
You see the work happened and you actually interviewed people that do the process to help understand and build profound knowledge of the process.
So for example, if you’re interviewing the Bahama Bistro and you want to interview the person taking the call then you interview them and then they get up and walk with you for the rest of the process too. So interview with people that you interview also walk the process with you. And I think people forget that. They missed that part.
So SIPOCs can be great and an easy way to help you plan a process walk. So for example, here is our SIPOC that we used for the Bahama Bistro, the lunch order to delivery process. And you might sit down with a group of people early on to say, “OK, we’re going to plan a process walk. We’re actually going to walk this process and see it in action. Who should we interview?”
Well, who are the people that do these steps? And then you might actually have a few people that you’ve identified and you say, “OK, well, let’s list them and then let’s figure out who we’re going to use.” So you might say, “OK, well, we actually – it would be great to talk to a customer.” Because sometimes with process walks, it’s great to hear the customer. It really helps people get focused on the customer.
But again, some people are concerned. They say, “I don’t want a customer see how broken our process is.” And they don’t have to go the entire thing. People always – customers have always – a lot of times when you’ve identified a partner, they’re totally supportive of being interviewed. So you might identify a regular customer and you say, “Hey, do you mind if we ask you a couple of questions about our process? We’re trying to improve it.” So you might say, “Oh Julius, he’s a great customer. Let’s interview him.”
So now, who typically takes the order and delivers it to the kitchen? So again, you’re sort of brainstorming the people that actually do this process and you go, “Oh, let’s talk to Elizabeth.” And so, the criteria is going to change. Are they available to be talked to? How long have they been here? Do they want to participate? There are lots of things that you would to figure out who these people are that you might talk to.
And then we’re going to talk to Karlo because he works every day especially during the primetime busy hours and that’s when we see if we’re having issues. So maybe he has a lot of insight for us. And then we’re going to talk to Ana for packaging, order, and delivering the order.
So this can really help you organize the interviews for a process walk. Yes, you can have more than one person if you want to interview them. But a SIPOC is a great way to get a bird’s eye view and organize this process walk.
So I will say this. I have had people say, “Well, let’s just identify the department.” So Elizabeth, they may not identify Elisabeth per se but they might say, “Oh well, Lyn, she is the manager. We’ll just talk to her.”
I always kind of drive towards who specifically is going to potentially be interviewed because what ends up happening is if you don’t identify the very specific people to be interviewed and you just leave it up to the manager to decide, guess what happens. Sometimes the manager waits until the last minute and they go, “Oh, let me just see who is working today.” And the person who is being interviewed gets 5-minute notice. And that feels disrespectful and it feels unorganized.
So I would highly recommend finding out who is going to be interviewed as early as possible and making sure that they’re involved in the communication, they know what’s happening. Because I’ve seen it more times than I’d like to admit where people were not notified and they just – now, there are seven people staring at them and they have to walk through their process and that doesn’t feel good. So, SIPOCs are a great way to help you organize to do a process walk.
So I would highly recommend finding out who is going to be interviewed as early as possible and making sure that they’re involved in the communication, they know what’s happening
4. Manage Detailed Process Mapping
OK. So the fourth thing that a SIPOC can help you do, SIPOCs help you manage detailed process mapping. So process improvement is hard work. It really is. And the reason why it’s hard work, it could be fun but it’s hard work because most of the time, people are thinking in a way they don’t normally have to think every day. They’re working in the process normally. And now, we’re working on the process.
A lot of people have been doing their job for a long time and they know what to do. They know it like the back of their hand. They actually don’t even have to think. But when you work on the process, that’s a lot of work. When we do process walks, people say, “Wow! That was exhausting.” Because they’re actually doing something they’re not familiar with and it exercises, it expends more energy for people.
So, the goal is you want to be as efficient and effective as possible when you do process improvement. You don’t waste people’s time because guess what, they’re not going to want to participate anymore. If you feel like you’re wasting their time or if you feel like it wasn’t very productive, so we want to make sure we’re not draining people.
And I’m seeing this method happened a lot is people say, “Well, let’s map out the whole process.” And I call it marathon mapping. And that’s when we decide we want to map out the entire process in great detail. And I’m not necessarily sure that that is required.
So what I think can be helpful is if you do a SIPOC first and you walk the process and then you identify through the process walk that there are certain areas of the process that need to be detailed out more, you can hone in on that particular step in the process and map that out in great detail. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to map out the entire process.
The other thing is, sometimes you have no control over certain aspects of a process. So why are you going to detail map that out? And if you don’t have those people involved, they’re going to tell you it’s wrong anyway.
So if you are going to map out the entire process, it does require a lot of resources and it does require the right people there. I’m not saying that mapping out the whole process is a bad idea. I mean there have been times where it has been a great thing to do. But I just would say, make sure you are mapping it when it makes sense. Don’t do marathon mapping.
I just actually had a situation where someone said, “I want to improve these processes and I want to map out in detail all of the processes first.” I go, “Why would you want to do that?” Why wouldn’t you want – because that’s sort of like batching process mapping. Why wouldn’t you map one and improve it? Map another then improve it. Map another then improve it. That’s what we call single piece flow application of process improvement.
You map it and then use it right away to improve the process. If you map out in great detail and it takes a long time and you don’t use it right away, what happens? The map is obsolete when you go to use it. And you got to redo it anyway. So I would recommend if you’re going to detail map in great detail for improvement, map it out and use it right away because it’s going to change. It will change. If somebody will leave, and now the process is different, a new manager, a process change, a policy change, or technology change, something is going to change and you’re going to have to redo it. So, detail map, right away use it. And so that’s my recommendation.
If you map out in great detail and it takes a long time and you don’t use it right away, what happens? The map is obsolete when you go to use it.
So, SIPOCs can help you manage some of that. After you did the walk, you say, “OK, what step do we really need to detail map out and who do we need there to make sure it’s right?” Hopefully, that will help.
So let me ask you a question. This is our first poll. And that poll is, have you participated in a marathon mapping session before? It’s simple, yes or no on this one. So I’m going to launch the poll and go ahead and answer it.
Karlo Tanjuakio: And while we’re answering that poll, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to put them into the question’s area on the right side bar and we’ll have a Q&A session at the end of the webinar today. If we don’t get to all of your questions, we’ll have them published on the website. But we make sure that we’ll get to every question that is submitted. And there is also be recording as well. If you can, check out the webinar recording on our website in a few days. If you like to share it with any of your colleagues or just watch the session again, it will be available there.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And I’d love to hear if you want to write in the question window, what was it like for the marathon mapping? Was it good experience? Because I’m not saying that they can’t be good experiences. Or was it a bad experience? Would you have done it differently? If you would just want to comment on that in the question window, please feel free. And I’m going to check on your comments a little bit later. I’ll give you a few minutes to maybe type something up because we’d love to hear how things are going with that.
But again, these tools, they work great. SIPOCs work great. DMAIC is awesome. Six Sigma is awesome. Lean is awesome. And the tools really do work. However, sometimes the way they’re used or the way things are implemented can get in the way and it can be challenging.
For example, 5S. Most of you probably know what 5S is. It’s workplace organization, if you don’t. And you’re trying to make things organized especially in shared spaces. I’ve heard situations where organizations basically want you to put blue tape squares on your desk so that you know where the stapler goes. And what’s the point of that if nobody else is using your desk besides you?
So sometimes these things are applied and they go awry. And so ultimately, they work great. And so, how do we make sure we’re using them effectively?
All right. So, the poll says marathon mapping session and right down the middle for the most part, 52% said yes, they participated in marathon mapping and no, 48% said no that they didn’t.
So Elizabeth wrote, “Multiple process mapping sessions were draining but we’re able to see how complex processes overlapped.” Good. So I’m glad that there was some benefit there because I think that could be really helpful too. Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth.
Teegan said, “It can provide very obvious areas for improvement after the process is reviewed in great detail.”
This is true. Sometimes if people just don’t understand how complicated the process is, marathon mapping can show that. That’s for sure.
Jean wrote, “It was bad. Much of the detail we mapped was thrown out to get a high-level map. It was a waste of time.” So thank you, Jean, for sharing.
So again, really if you have this idea that you want to marathon map or detail map out, really make adjustments if you’re finding that the team is not seeing value in it or it’s not helping.
Brigitte wrote, “I think the team lost excitement because it took so long to actually see the process improve.”
Exactly. So, if you’re spending more than three days mapping, I’d say relook at how you’re spending your time. Three days is a lot of time to be detail mapping out. And I find that people just – they just are out of – they’re out of juice after that time. So thank you for sharing.
Karlo Tanjuakio: That’s really helpful, Tracy. One other thing that I’d like to just share is if anyone is interested in a SIPOC template and a bunch of other templates that we have for free on our website, you can check out the resources button in the navigation menu and we have hundreds of free templates, guides, other tools and webinars. So check that out if you have a chance. And then that will also be linked on the webinar post where the recording and the slides will be after Tracy’s presentation today.
Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you, Karlo. Yes, we have a SIPOC template that is very easy to use. And people really like it a lot.
5. Identify Useful Measures
So the last thing a SIPOC can help you do and there’s actually a few more but I have to cut it loose at least a little bit. These are the top 5 ways I see SIPOC being used, identifying useful measures in the process.
So, I think where people struggle a lot is how you measure stuff. They say, “Oh, it’s bad.” Well, how bad is it? “We don’t know. It’s just bad because people complain all the time.”
“We don’t know. It’s just bad because people complain all the time.”
And so, a SIPOC can be a great way to identify measures that could be helpful in your process. So, this is the same SIPOC I shared earlier, selecting measures at the Bahama Bistro. And these are all things that potentially could be measured in the process. So, I1 stands for input. It’s an input measure. P1 is a process measure. And O1 is an output measure.
So, you might be looking at for the customer, we care about – the customer cares about how fast it took the order lead time and how many defects there were. So it could be that we didn’t match their order or we didn’t get order right or something like that.
So some of the, I would say leading indicators or upstream measures if you will, are the process measures for cycle time. So if we care about order lead time, P2 through P5 are probably measures that are going to affect that. So those are leading indicators. So if you’re taking a long time to prepare the food, guess what? They’re probably not going to meet the lead time for the customer.
So, identifying measures in the process that can be useful I think can be very helpful. People don’t necessarily, “Oh, you identify.” We really need to measure from P1 to P5 to really understand lead time and currently, we only measure P4 and P5. So identifying measures are very helpful and then actually selecting those measures. So sometimes these measures don’t exist. Sometimes you say, “You know what? We have nothing right now that measures this.” And this is a real – this happened many times in a lot of places.
I’m working with a group for procurement purchases. They actually don’t have the ability to measure from when they received a proposal to when it gets advertised, as an example. And so, they’re working on it. But that is the true customer experience.
I had another organization, a financial organization that every department measured their own lead time but nobody measured from start to finish. And so, everybody say, “Oh, we’re hitting our measures, our internal department measures.” Everybody said that. Why is the customer so mad then? So, something wasn’t right.
And then we found out that if a department got an activity to work on, an application, and it was rerouted to them incorrectly, they would send it back to be rerouted to the right department and the clock would start over because they didn’t want to punish any of the departments. But guess what? Who is being punished? The customer. The customer was so mad because there was no urgency around these reroutes. And in their mind, they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to get dinged for that.” Well, who cares? Just fix it. The customer cares.
So, a SIPOC could have identified. Interesting. I mean we’ve got these very specific departmental measures but no measure to actually measure the whole process and the customer experience. So that can really show up on a SIPOC too.
And sometimes an action item is we got to create this measure or they actually find out it does exist. It is available but nobody knew. And now, they can add that to their dashboard. So, this could be a really helpful thing that SIPOC can help you do is identify useful measures in the process for not only improvement or process performance but also for control and monitoring plans.
So that is pretty much the last thing that I’m going to share about how a SIPOC can help you understand your process and improve it.
So, how many of you have used a SIPOC before in these ways? And this is just going to be in the question window now. So go ahead and type in the question window, have you done A, have you done B, C, D, E, or are you going to try to do one of these things? We’d love to hear what some of your feedback is.
And so, I think the hard part is that – there are a lot of tools that you can use out there and I always like to say, don’t just check the box on using a tool. What have you learned? What have you learned from using that tool about the current state?
The very first thing that you do in process improvement, your very first step besides identifying and honing in on the problem statement is build profound knowledge of the current state. What’s going on with the current state? That’s why we do a current state map. That’s why we do a current state SIPOC. That’s why we try to measure it. That’s why we talk to the customer. There are all these things, all these actions and they’re all geared around understanding current state. And that’s why you build the detailed map too.
And so, I’ve had people build SIPOC sitting at their desk and build detailed map sitting at their desk. And I say, “Who do you talk to?” Well, nobody. “Oh, what did you learn?” Well, I didn’t really learn anything. “OK. Start over.”
So, that’s really the key here is what did you learn? So Janelle says, “I’ve never used a SIPOC.” And so hopefully maybe now, Janelle, you will. I hope you see that there’s some value that you could use with using that. And she says, “Yes, I will now. I will do the SIPOC in the future.” Thank you. Good.
I’ll put E in the path, going to add E. I love it.
C, D, and E from Howard.
A, B, and C from Mike.
“I’ve never used it prior,” is what James said, “But I need to do a better job to get a view of the high-level process.” Great. That’s great.
Let’s see what else do we have here. All of the above for Daryl. A+, Daryl. You’ve used it all the way. That’s great job. Now, go tell others and help them learn.
Will it be possible to have a copy of this webinar? Yes, Riza. You can get a copy and it will be on our website.
“I’ve used SIPOC to manage detailed mapping,” is what Asim says.
“And I’ve often use the SIPOC for myself as a business analysis to quickly understand the business.” This is from Victoria. Thank you very much. That’s helpful. “And I have not used it for E.” Well, good.
I hope this was helpful for you. Again, like I said, SIPOC is one of my favorite tools and I think it’s the most underutilized tools that there is in the toolbox.
Today We Covered
So today, we covered what a SIPOC is, how to construct it, and the 5 ways that you can use a SIPOC to help you better understand your process and ultimately improve it.
I hope you felt like this webinar was worthwhile. And we’re going to go ahead and open it up to questions specifically about this particular webinar. And while you’re thinking about your questions, go ahead and put them in the question window. I’m going to share some more information and then we’ll get back to answering some of these questions.
So first of all, if you want to learn more, I would say get started with some of our training. We have a Yellow Belt training that is free and all you need is to put in as your email and you get access to the training for free. The certification, there’s a certain amount of money for that but you have access to free 8 hours of training.
We also have our Green Belt training, our Black Belt, and our Lean. And because you attended the webinar, you get a coupon of 20% off on any of our main courses. So, expires on Halloween or if you don’t believe in Halloween, October 31st. So go ahead and take advantage because that’s not available – that discount is not available for everybody.
We also have another upcoming webinar that Elisabeth is going to be facilitating: How to Build a Powerful Project Storyboard. So again, this is for your Green Belt or your Black Belt project. And I’ll just say that we see a lot of storyboards come through and some of them are very long. We actually had to shorten it. But we had people sending in project storyboards that were very long. And so ultimately, building a powerful project storyboard about knowing your audience and what are those elements that you should be putting in there and how do you share your findings in a very compelling way is what we’re going to be talking about on this webinar.
We also have a new podcast out. I got the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Gambhir. She is the Senior Director at UC San Diego. And guess what? UCSD is actually practicing what they teach with Lean Six Sigma. They have an internal Lean Six Sigma initiative. They’re looking to reduce waste and making their processes more simplified. And Ashley is also leading the effort to start to put it at UCSD Medical Center. And so, it was really interesting talking with her. And if you want to hear about the podcast, go ahead and check it out on our website.
Karlo Tanjuakio: Hey Tracy, I listened to that one and I really, really enjoyed it. I think a lot of people who are implementing Lean Six Sigma inside of their organizations will find it super helpful also. There are a lot of tips and techniques that Ashley used that she shared with you and I’m really excited for other people to hear them.
Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah, wonderful. Thank you. OK. So, let’s hear some questions. So I see one from Daryl, “Have you used a template that captures suppliers and inputs and outputs and customers for each step? If so, do you find it harder to teach?”
So you know, it really does – it’s a great question, Daryl. And we have actually spent a lot of time on suppliers and inputs and outputs and customers. And so what ends up happening is the input list gets really long. But I have to be honest, it is harder to teach. But I think the important question is, why are you doing it?
And I have been in situations where teams have felt like the input that they’re getting to go to put through the process is there are a lot of problems with it. And so ultimately, they try to attack it more upstream.
So for example, I worked with an insurance agency and organization that it was an insurance company, so basically, if your company has health insurance, they have to transfer everybody in your company over to this new insurance company. And it was that process. And once this company signed up like, OK, I’m switching to you guys for our insurance for all of our employees.” They would send over a 21-page application that had to be completed. And it was never complete. There’s always missing information. It took days to fill out. There’s a lot of confusion.
And so, a big part of the project ended up being, what inputs do we need exactly? Because what ended up happening is there was a lot of stuff that just kept getting added that really wasn’t important. It was, well, we have a just in case this happens. Well, when was the last time that happened? In 1922. So we really don’t need to ask every single person for that. If we could just ask for if it does happen. And there’s a lot of stuff on there. So I hope that helped with the answer.
Karlo Tanjuakio: That’s great, Tracy. Thanks for that. So Andrew got a question and his question was, “How do you check that you are doing a SIPOC at the right level?”
Tracy O’Rourke: That is a great question. And I’d say that the dead-giveaway is I always build a SIPOC with Post-its. And the dead-giveaway is you start to have too many steps. So I’d say it’s as simple as don’t have more than 8 Post-its. If you’ve got more than 8 Post-its, you need to start looking at a different level.
If you’ve got more than 8 Post-its, you need to start looking at a different level.
And so – and actually, you actually do need to let people do that on their own because then what I say is they go, “OK, this Post-it – these three Post-its …” so they’re taking the information, they’re entering it in their computer and then they’re getting approval. Name this activity. It’s three steps right now. But what are they doing as one activity? “Oh, they’re confirming it.” OK, great. That’s the new name of these three steps.
So, I think sometimes you let them go down the path and you say, “OK. Remember, it’s only supposed to be 8 steps so you need to rule out or zoom out a little bit more or what I start doing is I start combining the steps. I hope that helps.
Karlo Tanjuakio: It’s really helpful, Tracy. So Chris has a question. And he asks, “Can a SIPOC build process that doesn’t currently exist or is it more of an as is improvement tool?”
Tracy O’Rourke: You know what? That is a great question. And process improvement in itself is supposed to be on existing processes. But I have to be honest, I have used a SIPOC in exactly the way you’re saying, Chris, a process that didn’t exist that needed to get built. And what we end up doing is exactly that, is we designed it at a high level and then we get agreement at the high level, at the SIPOC level and then we can move forward with building the detailed steps of what will occur for each of those steps. So, I almost feel like it’s almost absolutely needed when you’re looking at designing a new process. So, I would say yes. You can use it for that too.
Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. If anyone has any other questions, we have a few minutes remaining. So go ahead and enter them into the question box on the right.
Tracy O’Rourke: OK, great. All right. Do we have any more questions? It doesn’t look like it. That’s OK. I guess I answered them all.
All right. Well then, I’m going to take this as an opportunity to say thank you for joining us. Thanks for coming to the webinar. If you guys have any more questions, please contact us at GoLeanSixSigma.com. As Karlo had mentioned earlier, we have lots of free tools, templates, we have webinars on process walks. We have all kinds of podcast and we just want to try to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscle. And so, we just have a lot of free stuff on our website and you should take advantage of it if you haven’t already.
So thanks for joining us. Karlo, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Karlo Tanjuakio: Nope. I think that was great. Thank you all for joining us. And we look forward to seeing you at our next webinar. If you have any suggestions for webinars as well, please leave them in the survey that you’re going to get at the end. And we look forward to hearing from you.
Tracy O’Rourke: Thank you. Have a great day.
Karlo Tanjuakio: Thanks everyone. Take care.
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