SIPOC diagrams

I am a huge fan of a SIPOC which stands for suppliers-inputs-process-outputs-customers. A SIPOC diagram is a quick broad overview of all the elements of a process and serves as a great visual scope.

Blank SIPOC

Start with the process

Provide the key steps of the process in the middle column and briefly describe its key steps.  A SIPOC diagram is a high-level process map and is designed to get a birds-eye overview of the process. Do not include decision points or feedback loops.

Identify the outputs of the process

Focus on the key outputs of the process. In this step, write down the three or more main outputs. Use nouns for the most part and avoid categorizing your outputs into good or bad ones – that’s not the point of the diagram.

Identify the customers

List the people who benefit from the process. These don’t have to be the literal “customers.” E.g., if you are working on a diagram for an internal process, the “customers” are your coworkers. Think of who benefits from this process. Who would be upset if the process is not complete?

List the inputs for the process

List the inputs required for the process to function properly. Just like with every previous step, focus on the most important ones. Three to six main inputs should do.

Identify the suppliers of the inputs

List the suppliers based on what inputs the process uses. Be sure to mention any specific suppliers whose input has a direct influence on the output.

The template I use is here.

Examples of SIPOCs:

Personal Audits as part of team building for Projects

The personal audit is a tool used in change and project management (and such) to help team members and sponsors judge their strengths and weaknesses with respect to change leadership. It illustrates some skills from the full range necessary to introduce change into an organization.

This exercise is great to do at the beginning of the project, where it can help team members begin to understand some of the human issues applicable to all projects. As one mentor once told me – If this exercise strikes team members as inapplicable, then they really need to do it.

Domain What I do Well What I Need to Work On
Manage Attention: To what extent do I manage my time, energy, passion, focus and agenda?    
Adopt change roles? How much attention do I pay to smatters like: Creating a need, Shaping a vision, Mobilizing commitment,  Monitoring progress, Finishing the job,  Anchoring the change)    
Technical competence: To what extent to I demonstrate competence in technical abilities?    
Interpersonal competence: how skilled am I at interacting with others?    
Vision: How well can I articulate the desired outcome of the project and the benefits to others?    
Teamwork: How often do I recognize good work done by teammates?    
Diplomacy: How closely am I working with all the groups affected by this project?    
Conflict management: Can I deal with disagreement without avoiding it or blowing up?    
Summary: Overall strengths and weaknesses    

Environment, Health and Safety and the compliance domain

Benefits of Written Rules:
Capture important learnings and assumptions
Establish a standardized, organized and reproducible, method of conducting work safely
Ensure effective transfer of knowledge to new members of the group
Require disciplined thinking to formally document thus reducing errors in processes
Create a framework for delegation of decision-making
Demonstrate the organizations commitment to safety

Chet Brandon “Tried and True: Written Procedures are a Foundation of EHS Success

I don’t think there is a quality person who would read that list and not nod knowingly. Reading the excellent article quoted above reminded me that we all probably do EHS, Quality and compliance in general all wrong.

Yes, Health & Safety is about the employee; Quality is about the product (and legal is about following the law and finance does something about money) but what when you look at the tools we pretty much have a common tool-box. Root cause analysis, procedures, risk management, system thinking.

What is truly different is the question we ask:

  • Quality asks about the customer
  • Health and Safety asks about the employee
  • Environment asks about, well, the environment

I find it fascinating that it became environment, health and safety and most companies, as again, the question asked is rather different. In companies where care of the environment is separate (such as the energy industry) you will definitely see it as a separate entity.

I have only been at one company that was on the path of looking at quality, environment, health and safety were all similar disciplines and united them under a chief compliance officer (who was also head of legal). My current company is still struggling along the path of uniting standards and tools.

There is definitely a lot of different domain knowledge between the three, the same way quality is different between industries. However the commonalities that unite us are many and ones we should spend more time exploring.

Risk Filtering – A popular tool that is easy to abuse

An article titled “ICE Modified Its ‘Risk Assessment’ software So It Automatically Recommends Detention” is probably guaranteed to reach me, for a myriad of ways.

I believe strongly in professional codes of conduct, and the need to speak out. In this case, I am thinking of two charges:

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of individuals, the public, and the environment.
  2. Avoid conduct that unjustly harms or threatens the reputation of the Society, its members, or the Quality profession.

Reading this article, and doing some digging, tells me that the tools of quality that I hold dear have been abused and I believe it is appropriate to call that out.

Now, a caveat, risk assessment, and management have some flavors out there and I’ll be honest that I once made the mistake of getting into a discussion with a risk management expert from a bank and realizing we had very different ideas of risk management. But supposedly we’re all aligned (sort of) to ISO Guide 73:2009, “Risk management. Vocabulary.” And as such, I’ll try to stick pretty close to those shared commonalities. I also assume that ISO Guide 73:2009 is a shared point between me and whoever designed the ICE risk assessment software.

Risk assessment is one phase in risk management, and I’ll focus on that here. Risk assessment is about identifying risk scenarios. What we do is:

  1. Establish the context and environment that could present a risk
  2. Identify the hazards and considering the hazards these risks could present
  3. Analyze the risks, including an assessment of the various contributing factors
  4. Evaluate and prioritize the risks in terms of further action required
  5. Identify the range of options available to tackle the risks and decide how to implement risk management strategies.

A look at the decision making around this found in the Reuters article, leads me to believe that what ICE is using meets these criteria and we can call it a risk assessment (why it is in quotes in the Motherboard article mystifies me).

There are a lot of risk assessment tools out there. it is important to know that risk assessment is not perfect, and as a result, we are constantly developing better tools and refining the ones we have.

My guess is we are seeing a computerized use of the risk ranking and filtering tool here. Very popular, and something I’ve spent a great deal of time developing. This tool involves breaking a basic risk question down into as many components as needed to capture factors involved in the risk. These factors are then combined into a relative risk score for ranking. Filters are weighting factors used to scale the risks to objectives.

And that is where this tool can often go wrong. It appears ICE under the Trump administration has determined its objective is to jail everyone. By adjusting the filters, the tool easily drives to that conclusion. And this is a problem. Here we see a quality tool being used to excuse inhumane policy choices. It is not the ICE agents separating families and jail people over a misdemeanor, it is the tool. And if that doesn’t strike to the heart of the banality of evil concept I’m not sure what does.

I could go deeper into the tool, how I would have built it, the ways you validate the effectiveness of it. And that all probably will make an excellent follow-up someday. But the reason I’m writing this post is primarily that I read this article and it dawned on me that someone very similar to me in skill set probably created this tool. Someone who maybe I’ve sat across the table at a professional conference, who has read the same articles, probably debates the same qualitative vs. quantitative debates. And this is a great example of when its necessary to speak up and criticize a tool of my profession being used for evil. I probably will never talk to the team who developed this tool, but we all see instances of companies around us being asked to build similar applications, using the tools of our profession, that will be used for the wrong results. And we owe it to our code of ethics to refuse.

 

Gamestorming

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo

Like The Quality Toolbox, this is a book chock-full of usefulness. This book provides a fun approach that makes it possible for collaborative activities to get everyone participating in creative and design-oriented activities. From planning meeting, generating ideas, understanding customers, creating prototypes, or making better decisions, Gamestorming is a way for groups to “work better together.”

Divided into Opening, Exploring and Closing sections, the structure of the book will be familiar to anyone with a facilitation background. I am constantly dipping into this book for activities for team meetings, project kickoffs, development meetings, lessons learned and a whole lot of other meetings.

This book delves into the usage of visual thinking to increase effectiveness and I find dramatically shorten the length of time needed for a group to solve a problem. This book proposes that visual thinking can:

  • Using a simple, shared visual language to increase understanding and information retention;
  • Applying improvisational discovery to keep participants engaged;
  • Mapping the big picture, solving problems and innovating as a team;
  • Creating visual meeting artifacts to drive decisions forward.

What is especially cool is that there is a great webpage dedicated to these games that I hope you will find as useful as I do. It is full of exercises, activities and advice.