In the Define Phase we need to define a purpose and scope for the project to improve the target business process. A high level process map helps us and the stakeholders to define what exactly is our target process, and who is in charge of each task in the process. It should be clear but not too detailed. As our project progresses, the high level process map should be modified to keep it at a high level. It helps greatly and is crucial when considering the next lower level and more detailed tasks. Otherwise the end result may differ from our expectation.
Back when I first started my Lean Six Sigma training, I had been wondering what the difference was between a high level process map and a flowchart. My understanding now is that the process map and flowchart themselves are the same, but the high level process map is a more strategic tool and the regular process map (or flowchart) is a general tool.
There is another mapping tool used in LSS. It’s called ‘Value Stream Mapping’, which is one of my favorite LSS tools. This was created by Toyota, the creator of the Lean Production System. Actually they originally named it “The Flowchart Of Objects And Information” in Japanese. The name literally explains the tool. Somebody, however, changed the English name to ‘Value Stream Mapping’.
Anyway, if you make a Value Stream Map of a current process situation, you can see the whole image of the process and find problems and hidden waste (Muda). After making a ‘Current Value Stream Map’, just enjoy imagining how to fix the problems and remove the waste. You will then be able to envision the perfect process map – the ‘Future Value Stream Map’. This is the goal for your project team to pursue. Above all, it’s important to map your process at the beginning of your project.