Thursday, August 7, 2014

Process Charts: Spaghetti Plot

At Managerial Reporting our orange data and process improvement teams have been hard at work analyzing the current environment of a number of financial areas/topics. Naturally, they’ve encountered a mountain of data and a variety of processes. Many of the teams chose to begin the journey of analysis by creating process charts reflective of their team’s area.

Process Charts have been used in the workplace as a method of documenting how one activity/person links to another since 1921. It caught on quickly in the business world and was adapted to present relationships between multiple players and activities. Now, over 90 years later, they are a ubiquitous part of professional life.

While many of you are familiar with a flow chart, the spaghetti diagram is another useful tool to plot the flow of activity throughout a process. They visualize data and map the path taken through the system, in order to reduce inefficiencies in the flow of information, material, and people. While it was initially used in factories, where diagrams like the one below were used to make the physical layout of the workspace more efficient, it has evolved and can be applied to business processes as well.

The diagram below portrays the movement of employees and folders within a single office.

We can even use this at UVa, by mapping the budget process for a university unit.

Can’t get enough process analysis? The American Society for Quality is a good place to learn more.