Ready To Kick Off Process Improvement? (The SIPOC Method)

I doubt any of you are strangers to a process improvement project, whether personally or professionally.

A common scenario in the workplace is when everyone gathers on a Zoom call or in a boardroom and lists out their laundry list of complaints about a multitude of issues. Suddenly, the problems that once were once a mere molehill now feel like an insurmountable mountain as one person after another piles onto the list. These problems are not impossible, even if it feels like you’re in the midst of an entangled web that may feel too difficult to escape. Where do you begin? How do you organize the base requirements to kick off a process improvement project?

To get where you are going, you have to know where you have been.

A great place to start is the SIPOC: Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers.


S – Supplier: The person or system that supplies the information
I – Input: The information being received in
P – Process: What happens with the information
O – Output: The information or item being completed
C – Customer: The person or system that receives the output


Below is a funny chart that breaks down how my family ends up with so many groceries every week!

Now let’s say one of your struggles is managing calls for client leads. Your SIPOC may look something like this:

AS you can see, any SIPOC exercise helps you view the activities.  In the last chart, I used Sally’s info request as in my input twice. Upon evaluation of this SIPOC, it’s clear I could merge those two steps since the input is identical.  

A word of wisdom: the acronym makes it easy to remember and fun – don’t get too hung up on it. 

After you get the first line started it should be easy to get on a role with what happens next.  This is your business and you best understand the current steps.

Here is a SIPOC for the same type of business with some automation in place:

This one is a tad more complex and in the third row there is an automation by a Client Management System.  But still, breaking it down like this makes it easier to understand.

So you can imagine that the chart would be longer as the business is more complex, but this doesn’t have to be a brain draining exercise.  In fact, I think this is one of the easiest ways to begin to understand a business’ struggles in order to pick and focus on the biggest pain points for a fresh path forward.

Try this out with a process that you find time consuming and want to change, and let us know how it changed your perspective! 

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