A Process Walk is an investigative tour of the area where the work is taking place. It includes a series of observations and sometimes interviews with the people who work in the process. The goal is to find opportunities and understand the work that occurs during a process.
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During the Process Walk, you look to see if the process matches the Process Map. In some cases it may vary, so dig into the differences and understand why. Perhaps the Process Map needs to be updated, or perhaps you have discovered a clue to the cause of the problem!
As you walk the process, you’re looking for issues or clues to your problem. This may include Loopbacks and Handoffs, which create a more complicated process. You also look for Waste, or inefficiencies, that interrupt the steady flow of the work. You can improve the process by reducing Loopbacks, Handoffs and Wastes that contribute to the problem.
Let’s explore what these look like so that you can recognize them on your Process Walk.
What are the 8 Wastes?
Waste is anything that ineffectively consumes resources, space and time. All processes contain waste.
There are eight very common types of waste. You can use a memory aid, DOWNTIME, to help recall the wastes.
DOWNTIME stands for:
All 8 Wastes may not be present in a process, but knowing what to look for can help you identify those that impact your process. In some processes, we won’t be able to eliminate all wastes, but rather have more of one waste to minimize a different waste. For example, we may have a little more inventory to minimize people waiting for it.
Along with the 8 Wastes, you should look for other process inefficiencies which create a more complicated process. Again, like the 8 Wastes, not all of these inefficiencies will be present in your process but identify that impact your process. Specifically, look for:
Information, products and services that are incomplete or inaccurate.
Making more of something—making it earlier or faster—than it's needed.
Extra copies of reports
Extra production for inventory
Redundant storage (hard & soft)
Waiting for information, equipment, materials, parts or people.
Waiting for approvals
Waiting for equipment
Waiting for large batches
Waste: Non-utilized Talent
Not properly utilizing people's experience, skills, knowledge or creativity.
Employees unable to make decisions
Employees not fully trained
Skilled employees doing unskilled tasks
Unnecessary movement of materials, information or equipment.
Handoffs between functions
Material moved between departments
Sending, resending emails
Accumulation of parts, information, applications, etc. beyond what is required by the customer.
Information piling up for data entry
Keeping data longer than necessary
Any movement by people that is not of value to the customer.
Repetitive key strokes
Walking between equipment
Waste: Extra Processing
Any steps that do not add value in the eyes of the customer.
Extra formatting, extra fields
Extra features, excess details
Extra report information
More approvals than are absolutely necessary.
Two or more levels of approval
Multiple in-process approvals
Approvals that take excessive time
Excessive transfers of work from one person to another.
Passing work between functions/roles
Unfinished work passed to next shift
Interrupted work that is resumed later
Steps to correct errors or defects (rework).
Work moving upstream for correction
Incomplete work passed on, updated later
Failed inspection/approval, find out why
Inconsistencies in how the work is done; unexpected variations or abnormalities.
Staff performing the work differently
Using multiple forms when one will do
Each order considered custom or unique
The physical or virtual workspace is disorganized, impairing people from doing their work.
Obvious clutter in the workplace
Frequent difficulty finding needed items
Flow of work difficult to observe
How do I use the Process Walk?
Use this tool for listing all the critical observations you make during your Process Walk. Some specific things to look for are:
Places where the normal process differs from the Process Map
Inconsistencies in how work is done
Any of the 8 Wastes (remember DOWNTIME)
Approvals, especially if they appear excessive or take a long time
Handoffs, especially if they appear excessive (why do we need someone else to do the next step?)
Loopbacks, where the process flow goes back to fix a problem
Write each observation in the Observed Opportunity section. Then, assign a Type or Category to observe by selecting a choice from the drop-down arrow. Try to follow the steps in the Process Map, and note if any corrections are needed. When correcting the Process Map, don’t worry about neatness at first—just get the steps right. Later, when you have some time, you can edit it to make it look nicer.
As your Process Walk visits each step in the process, look for anything that could be improved. Use the 8 Wastes as a guide, but also look for anything that might be disrupting the process or making needless work.
Whenever work is handed off from one person to another, focus on what happens to the work. Does it resume immediately after the Handoff or does it wait? This can add a lot of time to the process, so be sure to note it as a waste of Waiting—a big deal if you are trying to reduce cycle time.
If you find yourself in an error correction cycle, be sure to note this either as a Loopback or the waste of Defects. If you have your cell phone with you, feel free to take pictures of some of the wastes—you’ll have an opportunity to upload them into Kure.
You will be asked to rate the impact of your observations, which is how much it affects the operation or outcome of your process. If you find this slowing down your Process Walk, feel free to enter any value and come back later to adjust it.
Next, assign an Impact by choosing High, Medium or Low from the drop-down arrow. In doing so, carefully consider the impact each waste has on the process. Assign impact of High only if they significantly affect the process. There should be relatively few observations with a High impact.
Now review all of the opportunities with a High impact and then decide on which opportunities you would like to act on. If you choose an observation with the type Disorganization, you’ll need to conduct a 5S improvement.
Kure guides you through each step in creating your Process Walk by asking simple questions and providing guidance along the way. Powered by our Process Optimization Path™ (artificial intelligence), Kure will help you and your teams collaborate to complete process improvement projects together.
Ready to build your Process Walk and start improving?