Alice in Processland

A quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), 1865:

“The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked. ‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ’and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’”

I am sure I’m not the only one who as asked, “Where does this process begin?” only to find a dozen or so different answers, depending on who is asked. Just how far back do you go into the decision-making that may trigger a process, and the factors that influence the decision, and the issues that led to the factors being important, etc. etc. etc.?

And, where does the process stop? For a product, is it when the customer receives the goods? When they use the item for the first time? When they finish using the item? Or, for a service, when they receive the service, or when they utilize the benefits of the service if that’s at a later time?

This may seem simple, but, in practice I’ve seen a lot of conversations get into a circular mode about just what step should be considered the start or trigger for the process. I’m just wondering if anyone has any words of wisdom, from their experience with process mapping and process analysis – and would you like to share?

Comments 4

  1. michael cardus

    When facilitating process mapping this is one of those circular questions or is it a slippery slope?

    The one solution that may work is for the team mapping to communicate about where the begining of the process is and for an agreement.

    Much like an exercise in metrics we have to come together and determine what the start point is. Once we can accept a start point and end point then work some metrics and processes around it.

  2. deepan

    In my opinion the process starts where it should start rather that where we want it to start..typically i would draw the boundary and see within my scope where does the process start – it begins from the time i get an input and it ends where it goes out of my bucket. However we could also say the end is when the product or service has achieved its objective for which it was created…

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Great comments, Michael and Deepan – the "measureableness" of an activity may play a role, but we shouldn’t pick a start point just because it’s convenient.

    In an emergency room visit, for example, when does the patient experience begin? When they arrive at the ER (easy to measure), when they arrive in the parking lot (harder to measure!), when they’re told to come by their physician, when they first feel that they may need to go to the ER?

    For production activities it may be clearer (when the customer orders an item) but is the Voice of the Customer served by looking at the point when the customer decides he/she needs the item? Just asking!!!
    Sue K.

  4. Narayan

    I would suggest that in six sigma, the central idea is a problem that we are trying to solve. If through a preliminary discussion we tried to arrive at a tentative diagram of cause and effect and think we have covered adequate layers of cause to reach the tentative root cause, the process under study should cover this area where the potential roots exist. Else we may limit the investigation based on the scope of the project, and hence not tackle adequately the area where root cause resides.

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