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Willie Davis


SIPOC Management: You’re in Charge. Now What?

Use this production tool to identify processes and establish priorities

Published: Monday, August 20, 2018 - 12:03

Congratulations: You’re new to your organization, and the obligatory “meet and greets” are complete. You have met your team, your supervisor has conveyed expectations, your office is organized and—most important—you now know how to get to and from the coffee machine. The euphoria of getting the new job is over; now, what do you do?

Of all the people you’ve met, which ones do you really need to remember? How will you establish priorities for your team? How will you ensure your team’s products and services are meeting your supervisor’s and customers’ expectations? These questions have been known to plague new and seasoned managers. If not answered, they could cause an abrupt end to your management career.

SIPOC, which stands for “supplier, input, process, output, and customer,” is a tool designed to guide managers to those critical answers. It’s commonly used during continuous process improvement efforts. SIPOC enables leaders to scope their work and identify key stakeholders, processes, deliverables, and factors affecting a process. The tool has value outside of improvement projects, though, and all managers can realize the benefits of SIPOC by following the five steps below.

Step 1: Determine your organization’s outputs (e.g., deliverables, products, services) 

What is your team required and expected to produce and provide? These deliverables can be tangible (e.g., a report or presentation) or intangible (an approval or guidance). This information may be located in an organizational charter or other documentation. Your supervisor may have revealed his expectations during your initial conversations.

Customers are another valuable source of information; however, be careful because they may espouse what they would like for you to produce or provide, rather than what your organization actually produces. Innovation and meeting customer expectations are always encouraged, but you must know what you are improving prior to launching improvement efforts. Once you have identified your team’s outputs, you will be prepared to reach out to the customers and determine the process steps.

Step 2: Identify the customers of the outputs

For this exercise, customers are those entities that use or leverage the products and services that your organization delivers. Customers may be internal or external to your organization. Unless you are the CEO or staffing the customer-service desk, your customer may not be the end-user; there may be one or more offices or divisions “placing their fingerprints” on the product before the end-user. If a customer register is not readily available, or if a customer didn’t identify as such during your initial meetings, you can “follow the path of the products” by asking questions similar to those below:
• Who or what office receives your products?
• If you didn’t produce a product, who would call or email requesting it?

If you upload your product onto a website and you are unaware of who retrieves or views your product, consider requiring customers to insert identifiers before ordering or viewing your product. Identifying the customers is the first step to ensuring your team’s actions are customer-focused.

Step 3: Identify the processes

Your organization’s actions are represented by the ‘P’ in SIPOC. They are the process steps or functions required to produce your outputs and deliverables.

If you have multiple sections within your organization, their functions may be similar to their title (i.e., the function for the strategic planning section will be strategic planning). Depending on your organization’s size, these functions may be independent or dependent (i.e., a function may depend on the outputs of another function to complete its processes). Because there will be subordinate functions within these major functions, completing a SIPOC for each team would align you and your team (see figure 1).

Figure 1: A SIPOC for the human resources (HR) department

If your organization produces only one output, then you will highlight the high-level steps required to produce it. Begin by identifying the first and final steps (e.g., attract employees, onboard employees). Next, fill in the steps required to get your team from the first to the final step. The first and final steps provide clear scope for your work; you are not responsible for actions that take place before the first step or after the final step. Using action verbs will provide opportunities to quantify the level of effort associated with this process (see figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2: Talent acquisition is a process within the HR department

Figure 3: The SIPOC for talent acquisition

Step 4: Identify the inputs

Inputs are raw material, data, information, approvals, and other triggers that will execute process steps. In some instances, inputs will be the output of a previous process step, or the output from another department. Assembling your team and asking, “What do we need to accomplish our actions?” is a dependable, collaborative approach to identifying the inputs. Once the inputs are identified, your team can focus on the origins of those inputs.

Step 5: Identify the suppliers

The sources of the inputs are the suppliers. These could be a person or an organization, and either internal or external to the organization. Internal suppliers could include organizational leadership or other departments within the organization. External suppliers could include a customer requesting a product or service, or a regulatory agency posing guidance that affects your processes.

Once complete, the SIPOC structure will illustrate where a manager should focus attention. For example:
• Managers could ensure that optimal work systems and personnel with required knowledge, skills, and abilities are available to execute the processes.
• Process cycle times, the delivery of inputs, and the quality of outputs could be monitored to ensure that the organization is achieving intended results.
• Meetings and other means of communication could be established to develop routes to convey expectations and feedback to suppliers.
• Customer relationship management principles could be employed to ensure that customer desires inform improvement projects, and outputs are meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

Most important, the journey of constructing the SIPOC will establish crucial links in the chain of trust between you and your new team.


About The Author

Willie Davis’s picture

Willie Davis

Willie Davis is a former USAF Officer and a faculty member at American Public University System. When he’s not facilitating business courses, Willie provides Lean Six Sigma and management-analysis support to the U.S. Government. He holds a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University and a M.S. degree in Human Resource Management from Troy State University. Additionally, Willie is an American Society for Quality-Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, and a Project Management Professional.


Talent Acquisition

Having been a hiring Manager in Fortune 500 and Global 100 organizations for 40 years I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of almost all generations.  I did not see but would like to suggest that "Hired Employees" be included in every phase of Talent Acquisition.  In his noteworthy book "Gen Why", Eric Chester wrote that Millenials can attract, assess, hire, and onboard other Millenials with the best of HR Professionals.  I found that to be true.

SIPOC Management

Good idea. What is origin of SIPOC? Any references? Did not see any in the article. Did I miss it? Thanks