At the heart of every organization is a business model with processes that were created to serve their customers. The success of these processes determine how well the customer is satisfied. These processes can, however, become frustrating and inefficient for the organization and its workers.
Many businesses don’t fully understand all of the complex details of their processes. They are often forced to 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 suboptimized.
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The better you understand your organization’s processes, their functions within your system, and the effects they have, the more effectively you can run your organization.
Process mapping is the primary tool used by an organization during the start of process improvement efforts. The process mapping activity is necessary to visualize and understand problems in the current process and establish a baseline from which future improvements will be measured.
This mapping is done within a Kaizen process mapping event. These events are typically one to three 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 and have little 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. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the first part of the Kaizen process mapping event is exploratory, This is when you and your team spend time studying your processes and capturing information that will be used to create the process map at the end of the event.
The 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 to avoid collecting unnecessary information that will clog or slow down analysis or delay the start of the event.
- Set up a time frame for the event and the length of each session and stick to that time frame. Since the scope of what has been planned for the event should fit into the session time frames, the length of both should be decided in advance.
- Compile a list of participants and other 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 organization. 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. It is best to keep face-to-face sessions at fewer than ten people. Too many people can bog down the event, so invite only one person per department or division (depending on the scope of the event).
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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.
- Set out problems 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 implement the action items discussed, to make sure they get implemented.
Another best practice is to devote 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.
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A Kaizen 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 documenting 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 Value Stream Mapping (VSM) event.
By organizing a team to map and understand how the current state of business processes are working, the resulting process map can assist with revisions and updates to the processes. The process map will empower you to bring your processes as close to an ideal state of efficiency and effectiveness as possible.