Document your process flow to get the most out of your Lean efforts. Why? Because documentation helps provide consistency in your output and helps spur productivity improvements. It also promotes teamwork through knowledge sharing, and makes job rotation and cross-training possible.
Documentation is simply the act of recording your process steps in some fixed format. The term fixed here doesn’t mean it can’t change-it just means that it won’t go away when someone forgets a step, or decides to leave the company.
You can document your process flow on paper or in an electronic format-the key is to make it match your needs. Process flowcharts buried in a computer directory, or stashed in a file cabinet are useless if they can’t be found and are not used.
Checklists and process flowcharts are two of the most common formats. Pictures are far better than words, but take longer to record. Balance the need for clarity with the frequency of use and the importance of the process to decide how much time to spend documenting your process flow. Use this formula to assist in making the determination: 1 picture = 1000 words.
In some companies there is a formal method of recording processes. In others, it is more ad hoc. Sometimes it is for a company’s own purposes. In other cases, it is due to a third-party requirement, like the FDA, or for ISO certification.