While improvement methods such as six sigma and lean have been around for decades - its still surprising to see that many still see such activities relating primarily to manufacturing. Processes are the same the world over - they have an input, activity and output.
Improvement methods can therefore be applied to anything from using Lean in the office, Lean in the supply chain through to The Application of Lean Thinking In Healthcare - The tools that lean provides can be used in virtually all businesses - unfortunately waste is everywhere but the good thing is whatever your business there are plenty of tools that can help that are widely avilable
When your starting out in business improvement it can be really daunting with all of these new tools and techniques - there's such a lot to know when you start out and sometimes you miss out on how powerful some of the simplest tools are.
For me, without a doubt, one of the primary skills to learn is that of process mapping. As a skill it's been around for years but it's really powerful in getting to grips with what goes on in your business and giving you the basis on which to launch improvements. If your starting out you might want to check out some process mapping examples as if your just starting out all those icons can be a bit scary and take time to get to grips with. Take time to see how the different shapes link in and take a look at how cross functional maps work.
Start of by just using the basics (see the list of Process mapping shapes and icons) - and to start with practice mapping on a process that your familiar with - for example try process mapping how you'd make a cup of coffee for your colleague - this can be a fun and informative way that can help you hone your mapping skills.
When documenting your processes, one of the most fundamental concepts is to ensure you engage the process stakeholders by visiting the shop floor or the workplace where the process your documenting is usually carried out. Process mapping can be fairly simple - describe the inputs, the transformation or activity steps and the outputs.
This can be done visually through a process map (from a simple process flow chart or if required through more complex means like value stream mapping) or through words describing the process. The target is the same – a method of conveying what happens. Visiting the workplace or “gemba” as it is sometimes referred to is crucial as it ensures that you capture the process steps accurately.
Documenting a process away from the workplace may allow inaccuracies or subjective opinion (of how you think the process is carried out) to be included in your documentation, resulting in something that doesn't reflect reality.
Actively include the people who carry out the process in your mapping ctivity - don't be afraid to ask questions and for complex processes consider videotaping the process to playback later to allow you to take your time in transcribing the process. When your initial draft is complete take your process back to the workplace and get it validated by operators – don’t be afraid of a little criticism if it's wrong as the idea of stakeholder involvement when process mapping is to ensure it's accurate and complete and any comments can allow you to iterate your document before publishing the final version.
So I'm on Twitter and I notice I have a new follower @CamponovoWorks-
I take a look at some of his recent posts and one in particular catches my eye
" What are the most important skills business people/professionals should learn in the first 5 years of their career?"
That's a really great question! My answer?
I really think that of all the skills you can acquire - patience and an ability to listen are crucial. To listen means that you'll try and understand what's really driving your client. You wont try and guess - you think you know best you'll just listen - and understand.
Patience should mean that you don't jump to conclusions and that you follow due process.(like six sigma DMAIC or any other methodologies for that matter). You think things through you analyze and plan you dont leap into the great unknown without due consideration.
What do you think?