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The Simple SIPOC – Start Here for Real Process Improvement …

August 6th, 2012

SIPOC and Process ImprovementWe often see a client identifying an undesired result and assigning its correction to a process improvement person or a team. That person or team then begins to discuss the many potential causes of the undesired result and the potential resolutions. Some of the resolutions will be chosen as recommendations and submitted for implementation. It is then that the organization discovers the underlying complexity of (i) unseen subprocesses, actions and tasks, (ii) undefined customers and their requirements, (iii) undetected stakeholders to the process and (iv) inputs that were simply taken for granted. The proposed resolutions step into a series of swirling eddies from which they never emerge. Time passes and the company moves to new flash points with the problem unresolved or with just the resolutions that caused the least change implemented irrespective of a change in the undesired results. The cycle

simply repeats itself.

How do we avoid this? Well certainly we have talked in the past about the impact of a properly drafted problem statement and this post isn’t meant to take away from the volumes we have written and discussed about its importance. And we have also written how value stream mapping allows you to drive alignment both cross-functionally and between improvement activities and scorecard metrics so as to identify the most impactful potential improvements which can then be converted to a problem statement. And again, this post isn’t to diminish or undermine all our previous statements about the value of such an exercise to drive real process improvement.

But what about when your organization hasn’t felt the pain of a failed process improvement effort enough to recognize the importance of value stream mapping, problem statements and the many other tools used to frame a problem and its political landscape prior to commencing an improvement effort. Where then do you start? What is the first step you can take to gain the awareness of a failed improvement effort without having to go through all the pain of failing?

I recommend you start your process improvement efforts with a SIPOC. A SIPOC is so simple, and yet so valuable. And its simplicity shouldn’t be used to discredit because it can be as complex as one likes as well. But why a SIPOC?

Don’t Overlook the Simplicity and Power of a SIPOC as a Starting Point for Effective Process Improvement

Quite simply, a SIPOC provides an understanding of a process by easily identifying what activities take place in the process, who has a hand in producing the output, who receives the output and how all the various stakeholders measure success. Simply debating the start and stop points and the people involved avoids so many problems. The cross-functional nature of the processes causing the undesired effects immediately comes to light. All the customers and stakeholders are named. It thus helps to identify all elements of a project, which then goes into refining the project if it’s not well scoped.

Download SIPOC Overview an overview and 12-step process for creating powerful SIPOCs

Collectively, it builds the information to proceed with more detailed mapping & root cause analysis, if warranted and desired. And if you get a green light, the information in the SIPOC can be converted to value stream map.

The value of a SIPOC is the value from simple awareness. It is the value of not having to experience the pain of failure before going back and realizing you really do need to have a well defined problem statement and fundamental value stream maps at which point you can move to some data analysis to form hypothesis about root causes. So much value from this simple tool. If you’d like to discuss how to use a SIPOC to capture all this value, feel free to contact me at jlopezona@ssqi.com .

  1. Reuben Sabelita
    August 10th, 2012 at 14:37 | #1

    Thank you very much for this comprehensive analysis of a SIPOC concept compared to the traditional Input-Process-Output. I find this more interesting and informative in analyzing a company’s quality management system where procedures and work instructions for core and support processes can be easily mapped in one document. This will be so much of help to me especially in my organization which provide frontline services to the public as our customers.

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