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Illustrating How a Work-Flow Diagram Can Serve as a Guide

written by: ciel s cantoria • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 7/10/2011

A lean process improvement project always starts with mapping out the current state of an operational flow. Various methods are being used--from the simplest to the most elaborate--and their uses depend on the project's purpose. Study an example of a work process diagram and its significance.

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    An Essential Feature of an Introductory Project Presentation

    Vsm-epa 

    A common source of failure in getting full stakeholder support is the lack of a shared vision about the process being evaluated, or of the problems that had been pinpointed and the proposed solutions being submitted. Thus, work flow has to be properly mapped out as a guide, particularly during introductory presentations in which some stakeholders may have very few or no idea at all about the business operation being discussed.

    Understand, however, that other process diagrams like “value stream” (see the image at the left) or “functional” maps can be overly comprehensive and elaborate. It presents a convolution of information that seems too much, if the objective is only to discuss and depict how processes flow to the next phase of operational transaction.

    The example presented in this article makes use of a less ornate method of a flow analysis. It depicts how product innovations flow from inception stage until they reach the consumer-user. Analyzing each of the key factors presented will reveal if the diagram enables the stakeholder to perceive whether or not there is a balance between people, process, and technology.

    Providing a process map for procedural activities can pave the way for sustaining a stakeholder's interest, once the discussion progresses to the more complex aspect of analyses and proposals.

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    Will the Stakeholders be Able to Visualize, Perceive and Identify?

    work process diagram 

    Ponder several key factors on how they can help stakeholders understand the proposals being presented to them. Click on the image to get a larger view of the sample diagram as it illustrates the stages through which a creative idea passes before it reaches the user-consumer in its product-form.

    (a) Does the diagram present the owner of the process task? The reader must be able to perceive the need to establish authority, responsibilities, and extent of accountability.

    • Product is conceptualized by a project team involved with research and development, design and marketing.
    • Top level management approves or rejects with considerations for fund availability and communicates the decision to the accounting, purchasing and production departments.
    • The accounting department coordinates procurement of raw materials with the purchasing department.
    • The purchasing department handles purchase orders, receipt of goods and storage of raw materials.
    • The production department withdraws materials from the warehouse, handles the manufacture of new products and arranges storage of finished goods.
    • The sales department is in charge of product disposition to the customer-reseller with assistance coming from the marketing department.
    • The customer reseller vends the product to the customer-user.

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    (b) Are the beginning- and end-points of the process readily visible to the user-reader?

    The boxed-in notation of the diagram immediately calls the reader’s attention that the process starts at a given point. The product-user’s icon signals the end of the process and can be easily gleaned from the readers’ range of view.

    (c) Does it connect the suppliers of the inputs to a particular operational procedure?

    • The project team is the supplier of the ideas for the new product as well as the marketing strategies to be deployed for their eventual disposition.
    • Top management gives organizational and financial support for all-systems-go projects. Otherwise, the proposal is sent back to the project team for possible revisions or resolution of certain issues.
    • The purchasing department furnishes the production department with raw materials procured from approved suppliers. In addition, information about the purchases is communicated by way of documents to the accounting department.
    • The receiving section notifies the accounting department about the goods actually received.
    • The production department supplies the finished goods to be sold by the sales department to the vendor-clients.

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    (d) Are the transfers of documents, materials or products transmitted from one stage duplicated within the same department or for the same purpose?

    • The accounting department monitors procurement if within budget approval and maintains records of goods procured. The documentation provided by the purchasing department will serve as the bases for verifying billing statements coming from credit suppliers.
    • The receiving section informs the accounting department of the goods received. The same documents forwarded by the purchasing department shall be used by an accounting staff to verify if the goods and their quantities are the same as those that were previously placed as orders.
    • Quality Control ensures that finished goods pass all standard requirements before they are packaged and stored.
    • The packaging section of the production department holds all finished goods and monitors products added and withdrawn from inventory.

    (e) Consider how the work flow processes measure in terms of:

    • Control and permission requirements.
    • Line of business and its translation and integration into functions and documentation that is relevant and non-duplicative.
    • Document management for purposes of control, monitoring, compliance, information and analysis.
    • Documenting workflow processes and the absence of redundancies.

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    Best Practices Tip:

    Keep in mind that a work process diagram depicts only a particular aspect of operational activity. Hence, additional diagrams are required if the project team has proposals for other support-processes that need improvement.

    The procurement process, for example, should be provided with a mapped diagram of the stages by which purchase orders flow from the selection of suppliers to the actual delivery of goods ordered. There should also be a depiction of how the production department handles orders received from customers. In most cases, the latter is presented along with a value stream map, particularly for purposes of attaining lean manufacturing goals.

    Key stakeholder interests in the project should be sustained by giving clear guides toward a vivid understanding of the project team’s presentation.

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    Reference Materials and Image Credit Section

    References:

    Image Credits:


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