Making Sure Your Change Process Serves Everyone
You're ready to start improving your systems. You want to increase quality and profitability by reducing error and waste.
But where do you start? And how do you make sure that the process is comprehensive, and gives its customers what they want, right from the start?
The first step is to find out exactly where you are now. You can then create an accurate "roadmap" to get from your current position to your desired endpoint.
SIPOC Diagrams are useful tools for doing this in business. They provide a simple way of taking a "before" picture, so that you can compare this with your "after" picture, hopefully demonstrating improvement. (SIPOC, coming from Six Sigma, stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs and Customers.)
The Six Sigma methodology provides a firm foundation for making changes in a controlled and effective way. SIPOC is part of the "Measure" phase of Six Sigma's core DMAIC sequence (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).
More than this, SIPOC Diagrams ensure that your new processes produce the right outputs for the right people, comprehensively, and right from the start. It's so much better to spend time ensuring this up front, than to charge in enthusiastically with a change process, only to find – on implementation – that suppliers and customers are screaming because you haven't fully understood their needs and requirements!
What Does the SIPOC Diagram Show?
A complete SIPOC diagram provides an "as is" view of a current process as it exists today, and it clearly identifies all of the elements affecting and affected by the process – so that these can all be given due consideration when the process is reviewed. By taking the time to identify these, you can make sure that you fully understand the current position; that you have understood who and what is involved with the process; and that you know comprehensively who benefits, and in what way.
|Simple Example||A Program Office is responsible for producing a weekly status report for the Program Manager and other key stakeholders, that shows the status of each project within the program portfolio. This is done by collating reports from Project Managers and extracting figures from the accounts system.|
How to Use the Tool
To create your own SIPOC diagram, start by downloading our free worksheet. Then follow these steps:
Step 1: List Major Elements of the Process
When building a SIPOC diagram, begin in the middle, with the overall process you're examining, because this is the part of the operation over which you have the greatest control.
Identify the major steps of your current process. In simple terms, how does your process take inputs, and turn them into outputs? Write these in the flow chart template on the worksheet.
Collect progress reports on each project from Project Managers.
Extract project spend and budget figures from accounts system.
Collate onto Program Dashboard spreadsheet, and format.
Distribute by e-mail.
Step 2: Identify Outputs
What are the outputs that result from the process? What products does your process create? Work with your team to list everything your process produces on the way to your customer.
|Example||A visual Program Dashboard using colors to identify deliverable, compliance with financial projections, compliance with the schedule, and overall status for each project and for the program.|
Step 3: Define Customers
Who are the internal and external customers who receive and use your outputs? Brainstorm all of these, and consider checking this against a client list, perhaps extracted from your accounts receivable system.
|Example||The Program Manager, and the Steering Group.|
Step 4: Determine Inputs
What inputs or raw materials are necessary to perform the process? Inputs can include people, as well as information, necessary conditions, and supplies.
Progress reports from Project Managers.
Current spend on each project.
Step 5: List Suppliers
Who are the suppliers of your inputs? You've identified the necessary raw materials, now determine where they come from. Consider checking your analysis against, for example, your accounts payable system to make sure your list is complete.
Program Office assistant who does the collation and formatting.
Allow plenty of time for your team to develop its SIPOC diagram. For a complex process, your worksheet diagram may cover an entire wall – this would have space for everyone to add items as they think of them, perhaps over a period of several days.
One important benefit of a SIPOC is that it can give you a chance to think of everything ahead of time – before you implement a process change – so that you don't miss important details. When you finally change the process, you want to take everything into consideration.
When you believe that your SIPOC Diagram is as comprehensive and complete as possible, you're ready to start thinking about your new process. Follow the flow from Supplier to Customer. Where does the existing process work well? Where are there problems? Is there waste? Are there opportunities for improving the process? Studying the diagram will, most likely, give you plenty of new ideas.
Conditional formatting could be used in the spreadsheet to color the statuses for each project, and for the overall program, automatically. For a more ambitious process improvement, an intranet-based application could be developed, into which Project Managers could input their reports directly and which was also linked to the accounts system.
If this were accessible by all key stakeholders, they could be automatically notified as soon as each week's report was complete, so the Program Office would no longer need to do anything at all.
SIPOC Diagrams show the relationships between Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers (and sometimes Customer requirements). Unlike normal process flow charts, they explicitly bring Suppliers, Inputs, Outputs and Customers into the analysis process, making sure that changes to the process take into account all of these.
They are part of the Measure phase of the Six Sigma program, giving you a high-level process map and a thorough summary of your current situation.
Start creating your SIPOC in the middle – that is, first map the Process that's currently in place. Then list Inputs and Outputs. This sequence helps focus your thinking on the Process, with its costs and impacts. Build the SIPOC with careful consideration of all factors. This is your chance to get a "big picture" view before you start to change any details.