At the heart of every organization is a business model with processes that were created to serve their customers. These processes not only determine how well the customer is satisfied, but alternatively can become frustrating and inefficient for the workers. In fact, many businesses don’t understand the details of these processes, and therefore make decisions based on misleading or incorrect information.
How does this disconnect occur? Processes evolve over time, but little effort is spent looking at the entire system, to make sure processes do not become sub optimized.
The better you understand your business processes, their functions within the system, and the impact they have, the more effectively you can run your business.
Process mapping is the primary tool used by a business during the start of almost every process improvement effort. This activity is necessary in order to visualize and understand the problems in the current process, and establish a baseline from which future improvements will be measured.
This mapping can be done within a Kaizen process mapping event. These events are typically 1 to 3 full days in length. It allows members of a business or organization to visualize their processes, offering a top-down view on the workings of the entire business.
Visualization and documentation of processes through a kaizen mapping event will allow everyone in your organization to gain a better understanding of the entire system. Too often staff and employees only know their own part of the process, but have no idea what happens before and after their task is complete.
Preparing for the Process Mapping Event
You will want to avoid creating the actual process map during this planning phase. While this may sound counter-intuitive, the first part of the Kaizen process mapping event is exploratory, where you and your team spend time studying processes and capturing information and data that will ultimately be used to create the process map at the end of the event.
The general preparatory steps below are useful for having a successful event:
- Decide on the scope of the process data that will be captured during the event. This is absolutely essential in order to avoid collection of unnecessary information that will clog or slow down analysis, or delay the start of the event.
- Set up a timeframe for the event and the length of each session and stick to them. Since the scope of what has been planned for the event should fit into the session timeframes, the length of both should be decided in advance.
- Come up with a list of participants/attendees who will be invited to the process mapping event. In addition to subject-matter experts (SMEs) from the business segments for which the process map is being developed, it is also helpful to have someone who knows how the process in question is linked to other areas of the business. It is often necessary to consult process owners or departmental heads to identify the SMEs. You should also include attendees who are not familiar with the process, as they can ask great questions and challenge how the work is done.
- Send invitations to your event participants. Generally, face to face sessions will require less than ten people. Too many people can also bog down the event, so invite only one person per department or division (depending on the scope of the event).
Overview of Process Mapping Event Sessions
Depending on your particular needs, each process mapping event has its own structure and sessions. However, in general these event sessions follow a variation of the format below:
- Welcome: Participants are welcomed and introductions are made. They also state their involvement and interest in the process.
- Problem to be addressed: The issues with the process are stated and the team examines the parameters of the problems that need to be resolved.
- SIPOC: The Suppliers, Inputs, Process Steps, Outputs and Customers of the process are identified, in order for the event team to understand what is required of the process at a high level.
- Detailed current state process map: For each step of the SIPOC, a detailed breakdown of the processes should be captured on a board, so everyone can see. This should reflect the current process as it is done, not what the documentation states, or how people think the process should operate.
- Ideal State process map: This is an opportunity for people to think outside the box, and they are asked to imagine this process if they could create it from scratch with no limitations.
- Future State process map: After discussing the ideal state, the team must come back to reality and figure out how they can improve the current process as close to ideal state over the next 6-12 months.
- Action plan: The team should then develop a prioritized list of actions that will allow them to get close to the future state.
After the event, review meetings should be setup to cadence the action items discussed, to make sure they get implemented.
Another best practice is to use the last few minutes of each day of the event to ask the participants for their thoughts on how the next day could be improved.
A Kaizen business process mapping event is a multi-day event that allows members of a business or organization to visualize their processes, offering a top-down view on the workings of the entire business. However, it is important to note that the event sessions are for documentation of issues, not solving problems. The issues will be resolved during the action items after the event, or as part of a kaizen workshop event.
If you are trying to map the entire value stream of a product or service, consider running a Kaizen Value Stream mapping (VSM) event (link to other article here)
By organizing a team together to map and understand how the current state of business processes work, and how ineffective they are, the map can assist with revisions and updates to the processes, in order to bring them as close to the ideal state of efficiency and effectiveness as possible.