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Understand Your Operations in 10 Minutes with These 5 Simple Steps

By Dan Jodarski

Slide7.pngAt the onset, process improvement can seem like a daunting task. How do you make a process work better and faster when you might not even know exactly what happens when, who does what, what raw inputs are really required, or who the process really serves?

There’s a simple tool that can help you answer all these questions about your operations - and the best part about it is it takes minutes, can describe any process (no matter how complicated), and requires only a whiteboard, a marker, and your brain.

The tool is a simple graphic called a SIPOC. The acronym stands for:

SSuppliers

IInputs

PProcess

OOutputs

CCustomers


PProcess

Start in the middle when drawing a SIPOC, at the P for process (maybe we should call it a PISOC?). Under P, list out 4-6 high level steps that bring your process from start to finish. To illustrate, I'll walk you through an example SIPOC for the rather complex process of creating a blockbuster film.

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IInputs

Next, move to the inputs column. Here, you will list everything needed to make the process steps happen. Think of these as the raw materials, that when processed, become whatever is being produced as the output.

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OOutputs

Outputs are the things that come out of the process (what is being produced). Make sure to include items considered waste as well (in this example, waste could include outtakes that didn’t make the final version of the film).

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SSuppliers

Suppliers are the categories of people that supply the inputs to the process. These may be individuals, groups, departments, organizations, etc. Make sure to capture both internal suppliers (actors) as well as those external to the organization (promoters).

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CCustomers

Customers are the people who benefit from your process. Thinking through and outlining the customers of your process may be the most important part of the SIPOC exercise. You must know who your different customer segments are, and understand what they need, and what they want.

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Now you have it: a picture of your process, what makes it happen, what it produces, who makes it happen, and who it benefits. You already have what you need to start having important discussions about value levers, aspirations, and pain points - but you can take it one step further by drawing arrows that connect the items you’ve listed.

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Your final SIPOC is a useful tool to start you on your path towards process improvement. Once you have it, you should use it in the following ways:

  • Start having discussions about who your customers are, how you serve them, and how you could do better.
  • Think about what comes out of your process and how it’s used. Could you turn some of your “waste products” into value-added items (e.g. selling outtakes to the biggest fans of your film that want to see more of it)?
  • Dig deeper into the process steps and identify where failures happen and which steps take the longest (Use the SIPOC to start building your value stream map).
  • Identify if all the inputs to your process are used correct, are some not needed?
  • Identify who key suppliers are to your process and how each of them are performing.

You won’t regret creating a SIPOC for your process, it is fast and easy and will continue to provide value as you strive to improve your processes.

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