Transactional and Manufacturing Lean Six Sigma - Process Mapping

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Many individuals consider these as two different sets of tools, or two different training courses.

Why is that, because it sells better or even sounds better? Who knows and what are the real differences?

Differences in the way a Process is viewed:
In manufacturing it is easy to see the work as a process. Building a process flow chart or a Value Stream map is straight forward. In the transactional areas, it is not so clear. Why?

Process Map Conventions:

Many transactional processes are executed by only a few individuals, if not just one. Since most high level process maps start with steps that show changes in location or organization, the transactional map may have only 1-3 steps.

The next level of detail in a process map is usually identified by steps in a process instruction.
Detailed process instructions are typical in a manufacturing environment. ISO 9000 efforts have led many organizations to create detailed process sequence documents used in process execution, process auditing, and in the training of new personnel. These are good resources to use in process mapping.

Meanwhile, in the transactional areas, detailed procedures are not as common. There may be clear software manuals and generic process documents, but the detail is not what you might see in manufacturing documents. This is usually a result of the belief that the transactional work has too much variation to allow a strict process document to be written. The “Belief” is actually a constraint in improvement. This leads to transactional processes that are driven by individual experts. These persons know all the work arounds to get the job done effectively.

Have you been there? Most of us have seen this sort of behavior at some point in our careers. We may accept it in the transactional processing but would come down hard on a manufacturing process that had an equivalent amount of variation in its execution. Why are there fewer controls on a transactional process? My hypothesis is that the transactional processes allow more freedom for individuals to do it their own way because the output quality (success or failure) is assignable to the person. There is no equipment or machine that can be an assignable cause. If we assign causation for problems to the person, the person will work outside of the process so as to make their best effort to succeed. If we are to blame the person, they will change their efforts to avoid the blame, no matter what the process instructions direct.

Now in regards to process mapping, consider the dynamics of a transactional process discussed above. If that exists in your project area, how could that effect process mapping?

1. Build a process map built on the process instructions. It is usually simple and straight forward. (The instructions may also have significant ambiguity and undefined quality characteristics)

2. Process map a single transaction through the process, while talking with the workforce. This will usually have a lot of conditional actions where “If I see this, I do that” type actions which lead to a lot more diamond icons in the chart.

3. Process map another transaction, that processes through different people. You should see the same issues, but the map will probably be different.

If you keep following more transactions, you may find a different process map for every combination of transaction type and person. Do not be too surprised. This was pointed out to me by one of my mentors when he was observing this type of behavior in a process.

During the observation, he saw the same process being done by two people in seemingly different ways. So he asked one operator “Do you follow the process?” the answer was “Yes, I follow the process steps exactly.” When the second operator was asked the same question, they answered the same way. Then came my lesson, as he told me to listen to the next question. He asked “Do you do anything more than the process directs?” and the answer was “You bet, I do xxx and xxx when I see xxxxx because that really improves the quality”. The second operator gave a similar answer, but they performed different individual tasks based on different insights.

Do you believe that each operator was performing additional steps that provided improved quality. Probably not, but they sure did. What you are now observing is the variations in a transactional process that show up as unassignable variation.

Now what do you do?

Get a team together, share all the process map variations and talk about it. Follow the lean concepts in standardizing the processing. Use problem solving tools to examine the optional work steps, select the best choices (based on performance, labor needs, VA, NVA, cycle time..) and document a new process and create a future state process map. Have all participants follow it without adding any other steps.

Now could this same scenario happen in a manufacturing process, you bet. The difference is that it is less common in manufacturing processes, but prevalent in transactional processes.

Basic process mapping guidelines can be found in “Implementing Six Sigma, 2nd ed.”, by Forrest Breyfogle III in chapter 4.

The next topic on transactional and manufacturing Lean Six Sigma differences will be data types.

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One Comment
  1. Rick,
    This article popped up in a recent newsletter, and I’m glad. I was recently asked about implementing a compliance metric to track new procedure adherence. While the request seems reasonable, the complexity of implementing the metric is huge. This insight was valuable advice to help the team understand some of the complexities. Keep the advice coming!

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