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“As part of the management team, I realized that Finance, Accounting, and Administration needed to build an understanding of how Lean works for the administrative side and in support of our manufacturing Lean Journey. This class solidified the concepts and philosophy with specific examples that enabled me to internalize the knowledge. I plan on getting together with two plant controllers to do additional training and projects in the local area, and implement improvements like the ones I did in class of the value stream mapping of the month end close.”

Needs Credit


The First Look at a Process Definition

If you want to understand the process context before diving into the particulars of process improvement, use this outside in process definition template.   Many of you know the Six Sigma SIPOC (Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customer) technique or the Process Scope diagram of Roger Burlton called the IGOE (Inputs, Guides, Outputs and Enablers).  Well, here is one I like from Jerry Talley of Jerry Talley & Associates


Notice that the Process Steps are in a black box.  That’s on purpose.  Don’t open it until you have completed the rest of the definition.

First identify who the customer of the process are – the people who receive or use the output.

Then , using the customer perspective, identify all the desired outputs of the process.   (In fact it is best not to guess but to actually ask a few customers.) When the process is done what’s has it produced?  A document? Decision? Recommendation?  Service provided?  Maybe it also produces information from this instance for next time (such as what a  customer especially likes for next time she visits the hotel.) 

Let’s follow a specific example of Jerry’s through each of the steps of the process definition using Scheduling and Using a Meeting Room on a the large non profit campus.  Some of the desired outputs the group wrote were:

  • A space with requested equipment in place on time and within budget
  • Quality attributes present in the space, such as temperature, clean, chairs and layout as ordered
  • The room database in updated

Then move to the Definitions of Quality area and determine: what do you look for most in determining the quality of the product?  These elements can be both from an effectiveness and an efficiency perspective.  In the meeting room example, a few definitions of quality included

  • Expectations are clearly set; no surprises
  • Provides a way for resolving conflict with strategic priorities and political realities
  • Maximizes the use of campus space and resources
  • The process is visible and accessible to many.

The Definitions of Quality naturally flow into the Metrics, where the question is:  How would you know that the work outcome met the quality criteria?  And how can we make sure you go on learning in this process?  It may be difficult for a group to think of metrics to start.  He suggests writing down what they suggest and coming back to them to determine which one or two metrics would be the most helpful and would be possible to gather easily.

Here were some of the initial metric ideas for the Meeting Scheduling example:

  • Time from initial request to formal commitment of room
  • # of arguments within 30 minutes before or after the meeting
  • Client feedback (three of four question survey)
  • Repeat customers
  • # of requests for clarification needed

They decided to track the first item to start, as there was a major problem with the time sometimes going as long as 30 days before commitment.

Tackle Inputs or Enabling Resources next.  For Inputs the questions is:  What materials and information are required for this work?  And do those inputs come in complete, accurate on time, and it a workable format?  Here are some inputs for the Meeting Scheduling case:

  • Information for requestor about room size, needs, layout, date, use, etc. (These come in by phone, email, drop by, text and are woefully incomplete.  Many ask for ASAP turnaround.)
  • Information on all other events in the facility
  • Staffing and equipment resources available

Enabling Resources.  This area includes the tools, checklists, protocols, templates, software, and skill training that enable the people to do the work.  Some examples for the Meeting Scheduling example were:

  • Database of rooms by days to check on availability
  • Checklist of equipment permanently in each room
  • Inventory of what equipment the facility had and list of suppliers with additional equipment

Of course this list of enabling resources often suggests improvement ideas for tools that would be helpful.  One example here is an electronic form that would be filled out by the requester with all the necessary room criteria.

Lastly, look at Emotional Outcomes.  Ask:  How do we want the various participants to feel as a result of being involved in this process? This covers the people side of it, from all participants – employees, attendees, requester, facilities, etc.  Here are some responses:

  • Renters feel so satisfied they would recommend our location to their friends
  • People feel heard and treated with respect
  • People trust the process and feel kept in the loop
  • The customer (renter) feels they got a good value for the price.

What I like about this Process Definition is:

  • It builds the context for the process before examining the work steps
  • It goes from the outside-in – starting with the outputs defined by the customer
  • It has measures built off of what is needed from a quality perspective
  • It thinks about the inputs and needed process and employee tools
  • It considers the people side- how should everyone feel emotionally – the workers, the customer, management, the attendees, etc.
  • And it is not too hard to complete.  Hooray, Jerry!


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