In this lesson, we'll show you how and when to use a SIPOC diagram, a process mapping tool.

SIPOC Overview

The SIPOC (pronounced "sigh-pock") is a high-level process mapping tool that focuses on the Suppliers, Inputs, Outputs and Customers of a Process.

This is an excellent tool that helps you identify critical inputs and outputs that are required to successfully complete a process. Since the emphasis is on inputs and outputs, it can also help you identify gaps where information is not being passed successfully in between steps or where we are failing to deliver outputs.

A SIPOC can be used alone or it can be completed before creating a process (flow) map because it can help you focus on the areas of the process with the biggest opportunity for improvement.

Download the SIPOC template and follow along through this lesson.

How to complete a SIPOC

It's easiest to start in the middle of a SIPOC diagram and identify process steps first.

1. Process: Identify key steps to complete the process

Summarize your process into 6-8 key, high-level process steps. Refer to your project charter to ensure you stay within your scope. List the process steps on the SIPOC template or write them on sticky notes and place them on a whiteboard or flip chart.

Process steps should be listed as an action.

- Customer makes payment
- Engineer creates bill of materials
- Employee prepares report
- Human Resources creates job requisition

2. Inputs: Data, information or physical objects needed to complete the process step.

For each process step, list the inputs in the template or write each on a sticky note and place on the board.

3. Suppliers: The person or report who provides the inputs.

For each input, list the supplier. Who provides the data, information or physical object to complete the process step?

4. Outputs: The result of the process step.

For each process step, list the output. The output of each step typically becomes an input into the next step.

5. Customer: The person or group of people who consumes or receives the information.

For each output, list the customer. Keep in mind that customers may be internal or external. 

Pain Points

After the process is mapped, ask the team to identify "pain points" or areas that create pain and frustration within the process.

Give each person on the team sticky dots. Ask the person to place their dot on the process step that represents their biggest pain points. This helps you address the most frustrating or error-prone parts of the process first.

For each of the pain points, use the 5 Whys to do a Root Cause Analysis. Once you have determined the root cause, brainstorm ideas on how to eliminate the problem at the root.

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