Mapping a process flow is useful for project leaders. Learning to use a mapping tool such as a flowchart, swim lane, RACI matrix, or SIPOC to analyze and describe a process can add value. This is important for project managers to ensure that options are clear and communicated accurately to stakeholders.
- As projects teams investigate their options to improve a process, they often need tools to help them understand and explain what's going on. There are lots of different techniques for studying and explaining business processes. In this video, we'll look at four of my favorites. Flowcharts, swim lanes, SIPOCs, and RACI matrices. All four of these mapping tools are used in process improvement efforts such as Lean in Six Sigma.
Flowcharts are diagrams that show the sequence of steps in a process. There are some excellent flowcharting software packages available, and there are sophisticated approaches to developing flowcharts. But in many cases you can get big insights just be creating a simple diagram. Start with whatever event or action begins the process and then show each of the steps in order until the process is complete. A cross-functional flowchart, or a swim lane, is a natural extension of a flowchart.
With the swim lane you still show the process steps and the order in which they occur, but you organize them according to who is doing the work for that step. Each person or team has a lane, either horizontal or vertical. Each process falls into one of the lanes, so it becomes much easier to see where the hand-offs in a process occur. A RACI matrix is a tool for showing the roles and responsibilities for people or teams.
RACI is an acronym for responsible, accountable, consult, and inform. First, you list all of the steps in a process in a single column. Then for each step, you determine who is the one and only accountable owner. Sometimes teams will struggle with this part and either no one wants to be accountable or two or more people want to share accountability. This is where the RACI matrix really shines.
It forces clarity. The rules of the RACI matrix is that there can only be one person or team accountable for any task. On the other hand, there may be other people who are responsible for helping to complete the task. Of course, you may decide that everyone is responsible for completing a task, but remember, there can still only be one person accountable. In some cases, there are people who won't actually do the task, but who should be consulted when the task is being done.
These are the Cs, for consult. And finally, there are people who need to know the task is being done, but who aren't really involved in doing the work. These folks get an I for inform. So for every step in your process, you can go through your teams and determine whether they're involved in a step and if they're role is to be responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed. For detailed instructions for creating a RACI matrix, check out Mike Figliuolo's video How to use RACI Matrix in Making Decision for Business on this site.
The last tool we'll talk about is the SIPOC. SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, output, and customers. S.I.P.O.C. The goal of a SIPOC is to map the flow of money, material, or information from a supplier through some process and out to one or more customers. In other words, a SIPOC helps you look at a process like a supply chain.
What you receive from your suppliers in a process are inputs. What you deliver to your customers are outputs. A SIPOC can help a team understand and explain what is truly involved in making an end-to-end process work properly. So those are four of my favorite process mapping tools. Flowcharts, swim lanes, RACI matrices, and SIPOCs. They are handy tools every project leader should have in their hip pocket as the team is investigating their options.
- Name who is responsible for approving the resources for the project.
- Recall what the spine of a fishbone diagram represents.
- List characteristics of the environment.
- Identify the tools used for mapping processes.
- Recognize what needs to be captured on the action item list.
- Recall what project metrics should be related to.