The journey toward any new destination should begin with a clear roadmap.
And when a business undertakes a transformative effort toward improving processes and reducing waste, a clear and concise path forward is critical. At RTG Solutions Group, we recommend starting a Continuous Improvement project with a SIPOC Diagram.
Read on to find out why we advocate for this too-often-overlooked step in Process Improvement projects and how to tackle it in your business.
What is a SIPOC Diagram?
A SIPOC diagram is an illustration of how information flows into an organization and out to its customers. The acronym: Suppliers, Input, Process, Outputs, and Customer, is used to clearly identify critical components within a business that determines the efficiency of internal processes. The group activity engages and enables teams to recognize cross-functional interdependencies, identify what works and what doesn’t, and set into motion actions that delivers quantitative results.
Here’s the SIPOC breakdown:
- Suppliers provide the material and resources necessary for the designated workstream to perform at peak efficiency.
- Input identifies the various places where that information or materials come from.
- Process refers to a high-level look into the steps necessary for the product or service to move through the workstream.
- Outputs are the internal or external deliverables once work is completed.
- Customer focuses on both internal and external customers.
It’s important to highlight that “Customer” in a SIPOC diagram represents both internal customers within the organization as well as external customers. Internal customers are often overlooked as just part of the organization. Yet this segment is dependent upon recipients of the outputs such as processes, reports, communications and metrics.
SIPOC Diagram Exercise Brings Team Engagement
Point-of-view. Experience. Perspective. This is what each individual brings when a project or cross-functional team gets together to outline a SIPOC Diagram. The collaborative effort helps members really think through how their team, department or project works. It is an environment where everyone has a voice to share “tribal” knowledge and to capture the information in a strategic manner. The exercise contributes to critical problem solving while fostering positive team engagement.
When tackling a process improvement initiative, it is imperative to have a baseline measurement to improve upon. The SIPOC Diagram helps to provide the foundation by outlining the current state of the workstream. In addition to providing team engagement and a baseline, a SIPOC Diagram exercise helps to minimize “scope creep.” A byproduct of the SIPOC is a clear focus on a process improvement opportunity. Without the SIPOC, it is easy for the team to add on additional aspects to the project. “Scope creep” can then contribute to inaction, delay, lack of team engagement and downright abandonment of the project altogether.
How to Create a SIPOC Diagram
A best practice is to have someone facilitate the group exercise. This individual does not need to know the intricacies of the workstream but should have the ability to engage the team and ask probing questions. The leader of the workstream can facilitate the SIPOC diagram exercise or a neutral internal or external leader can assist. In addition to capturing the needed information, it’s important for the facilitator to make sure all members are involved and contributing to the process improvement effort.
At RTG Solutions Group, we include a SIPOC Diagram exercise as part of our process improvement efforts with our clients. A dry erase whiteboard or large Post-it paper is our canvas to capture critical information. We convert the information to an electronic version of the diagram in Microsoft Visio to share out with participants and leadership.
As the facilitator of SIPOC Diagrams, we engage the group, as we draw out key information within the workstream from those who know the processes the best. It’s a strategy of probing, asking questions and striving to have everyone contribute to the exercise. The result serves as a foundation for process improvement efforts.
SIPOC Diagram: The Start of the Continuous Improvement Journey
A SIPOC Diagram is just the beginning. Yet, it is a critical first step in capturing the current state of an organization’s workstream. All team members who play a role in the workstream should actively participate in the facilitation of a SIPOC exercise. Documenting the information of Supplier, Inputs, Processes, Outputs and Customers is instrumental in setting the course for positive process improvement for the organization.
If you are interested in improving bottlenecked processes within your organization and outlining a SIPOC Diagram, contact RTG Solutions Group at 813-943-5727 to discuss how we can help.