MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
November 2015
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Mapping is an excellent way of "seeing" a process and determining where improvements are needed. But did you know that mapping is also an excellent way to improve jobs?
 
Job tasks are generally delineated by procedures, but when these tasks are visually laid out in a "map" or flowchart, one can see how the tasks are (or should be) performed. The map can also provide information about the length of each step of the task and this allows evaluation and potential improvement of each step.
 
Consider, for example, the task of requisitioning petty cash. Here are the process steps (source: Stevens, et al. (2011). Operations Management):


By viewing the chart, one can see where steps may be consolidated or redundant steps removed such as decreasing movement, inspections and delays. "Seeing" the steps helps managers and workers streamline the process. In the above task, credit cards may be a possible solution to frequent petty cash requisitions.
 
While the above is one example, applying similar charting to any task allows organizations to improve all of its jobs and processes.
Top-Down Mapping
 
Once an organization starts mapping its tasks, it will become clear that entire processes may need evaluation. Reasons for evaluation can range from inefficiencies in the system of which bottlenecks may be the obvious starting point. To identify bottlenecks and overall inefficiencies, draw a map. Here are seven steps for mapping
 
  1. Name the process. For example, if you're mapping the high level process of financial management, you would name the process "Financial Management." If you're mapping a sub process of Financial Management such as invoice payment, then you would name this process "Invoice Payment."
  2. Identify the start and stop points. Every process must have a start and stop point and it is very important to identify them because these points will impact your project scope. For example, the financial management process will start with, perhaps, development of the chart of accounts and stop with year-end reporting. The invoice payment process may start with receipt of invoice for payment and stop with payment issued. By knowing your start and stop points of the process, you are at the same time identifying your project scope.
  3. Identify the output of the process. When naming the output of the process, it should be with an unqualified noun. For instance, say "payment issued, not "big payment issued." Distinguishing between the two will impact your project scope. Using a qualifier limits your scope and may exclude true areas of inefficiencies.
  4. Identify the customers of the process. Every process must have at least one customer; otherwise, you need to ask why the organization is involved in the process in the first place. When identifying customers, be sure to identify all levels of customers. For example, for the invoice payment process, the customers include the vendor (as the primary customer), but the organization also has internal customers such as the manager that approves the invoice for payment, and other accounting staff that may be required to code, review, and approve the invoice before the payment is issued.
  5. Identify the suppliers of the process. For example, in the Invoice Payment process, suppliers include banks with whom payment transfers need to be coordinated, printing companies that supply printed cheques, and others. Identifying all suppliers is important because you may notice inefficiencies that are directly attributable to suppliers.
  6. Identify the inputs of the process. This is information that the supplier provides. For example, the bank is the supplier and the bank provides the means to transfer funds. Perhaps the IT Department is also a supplier since they provide the systems that enable efficient communications. Inputs can occur at any stage of the process and more than once in the process - at the beginning, middle or end. It all depends on the nature of input.
  7. Identify 5 to 7 highest level steps in the process as they exist today. A common mistake during process mapping is to map a process the way it should be instead of the way it is. Teams do this because they want to improve the process right away as they are mapping it. However, restraint is important here. You need to map the entire process as it is before you can step back to start identifying areas for improvement.
 
A final point about process mapping is to use common symbols in the map. An oval is used to indicate start/stop points, a diamond shape is used for decision points (such as yes/no, go/no go), rectangle shapes are used to describe the step in the process and arrows are used to indicate the direction. For more information on process mapping symbols, visit this website.
 
The process map is a powerful tool to help you visualize, at a glance, areas for improvement. Benefits of process mapping range from: identifying opportunities to significantly reducing expenses to simplifying work flow to improving cross-functional communication to identifying root causes of problems and more.
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
Kaizen events are excellent ways in which to engage staff in process mapping. Not only do staff get "firsthand" experience of what is actually happening within a process, but their engagement allows impactful change solutions that, believe it or not, truly have a high chance of being implemented with gusto! Even if you think your organization's processes are running smoothly, map out a process every few months and see how much you can save in time and money - I'll bet you dollars to donuts that you'll discover non-value-added tasks and costs. And by removing them, you'll be boosting your organization's efficiency, productivity and bottom line. IMHO.
 
"Our great weariness comes from work not done."
- Eric Hoffer

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