Facilitator for SIPOC exercise

The journey toward any new destination should begin with a clear roadmap.

When a business undertakes a transformative effort to improve processes, a clear path forward is important. When starting a continuous improvement project, a SIPOC Diagram is an essential tool as part of process mapping.

Read on to find out how this too-often-overlooked step in Process Improvement projects can help your business.

What is a SIPOC Diagram

A SIPOC is an illustration of how information flows into an organization and out to its customers. It is a Six Sigma tool used to assist with documenting business processes. It provides a high-level overview of the process. This structure is beneficial for those on the team unfamiliar with the entire process. Often, team members are familiar only with their area of work, rather than the entire beginning to end of the process.

The acronym: Suppliers, Input, Process, Outputs, and Customer, is used to identify key components within a business. This outlines the efficiency of internal business processes. The group activity engages teams to recognize cross-functional connections. It also helps identify what works and what doesn’t in the business. This information delivers quantitative results.

Here’s the SIPOC breakdown:

  • Suppliers provide the material and resources necessary for the 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 that the product or service moves through the workstream.
  • Outputs are the internal or external deliverables.
  • Customer focuses on both internal and external customers.

The “customer” in this model represents both internal customers within the organization as well as external customers. Internal customers are often overlooked as just part of the organization. However, internal customers are dependent on the outputs such as processes, reports, communications, and metrics.

Team working on process improvement

Creating the Diagram Creates Team Engagement

Point-of-view. Experience. Perspective. This is what each individual brings when a team gets together to outline a SIPOC. 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. This exercise captures the information in a strategic manner. The exercise contributes to critical problem-solving and positive team engagement.

When tackling a process improvement initiative, it is important to have a baseline measurement to improve upon. The SIPOC exercise provides the foundation to outline the current state of the workstream. The team effort also helps to minimize “scope creep.” A byproduct of the SIPOC is a clear focus on a process improvement opportunity. Without the diagram, it is easy for the team to add on items to the project. “Scope creep” can then contribute to inaction, delay, lack of team engagement, and possibly ending 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 details of the workstream. But they should engage the team and ask probing questions. The leader of the workstream can facilitate the exercise. Or, a neutral internal or external leader can. In addition to capturing the needed information, it’s important to make sure all members are contributing to the process improvement effort.

At RTG Solutions Group, we include a SIPOC activity as part of our process improvement efforts with our clients. A dry erase whiteboard or large Post-it paper is our canvas to capture 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, we engage the group and draw out key information from those who know the processes the best. It’s a strategy of probing, asking questions, and striving to have everyone contribute. The result serves as a foundation for process improvement efforts.


A SIPOC is One Tool in the Continuous Improvement Toolbox

A SIPOC Diagram is an effective tool in the effort to improve processes within an organization. However, it is one tool as part of a comprehensive toolbox to improve processes. And in order to improve processes and fix the bottlenecks, it’s important to document all the processes. 

Process documentation involves delineating each task, step, and process within workstream from start to finish. Every business consists of an internal super-highway of interrelated processes. These processes churn in every corner of the business. If processes aren’t mapped, and procedures documented, there is no way to capture inefficiencies.  Documenting processes helps us understand the operational foundation of the business unit. This effort helps to streamline processes, which helps save time and costs. Process documentation also plays a key role when the organization or business unit adds new technology.

Process documentation creates a roadmap through every juncture of the organization. The SIPOC Diagram is helpful in outlining the roadmap. The process information outlines repeatable tasks done by employees and teams everyday. Documenting the processes ensure standardization and efficiency. The process information provides leaders and teams insight into the work being done to maintain consistency and accuracy. 

The Continuous Improvement Journey

A SIPOC model is an important first step to capture the current state of a workstream. It is an essential tool along with other process improvement tools to improve efficiency. All team members who play a role in the workstream should participate in the SIPOC exercise. Documenting the information of Supplier, Inputs, Processes, Outputs and Customers is key to setting the course for process improvement efforts.

Do you have bottlenecked processes within your organization? If so, contact us today to discuss how we can help improve your business processes.

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
President, RTG Solutions Group
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