After spending 3 days in the Aruba with back to back Brown paper workshops I returned home satisfied. The amount of input was overwhelming, we totalled over 30 meters of kraft paper and 500 sticky notes and we analyzed 11 primary processes.
For those familiar to Lean, a brown paper workshop is essential for process improvement. For those who are not … let me explain why this excess use of paper is necessary (I know this technique is not environmental friendly)
What is brown paper process mapping? The brown paper process typically involves lining the walls of a large room with this brown paper bought at a craft store or office supply store (or any other paper type – as long as it is large), then capturing content by sticking notes to the paper. The sticky notes represent the process, all actual steps taken, if possible highlighting all applicable interfaces, decision points, information sources and wastes.
The purpose of a brown paper is to provide a visual snapshot of an entire operating process, this is often the starting point for improving a process. So everyone involved has the same image of the process. The brown paper shows the big picture – ‘the forest and the trees’. And is a visual representation on how the process works today. The nicest aspect about a brown paper; its ‘low tech, high touch’. Using sticky notes makes the canvas very flexible if the team needs to come to a consensus about the process, because a sticky note can be moved very easily whereas if you write on the brown paper you can not easily (re)move the text.
Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.
There are typically 6 steps to develop a Brown paper:
Identify processes (beginning and end of each) you can use a SIPOC* if necessary, make sure every participant has the same view of the process. ‘Recruit’ the builders and owners of the process and involve them actively in the workshop. Construct the brown paper. Validate and obtain comments from those involved in the process. Identify quick wins, analyze the forest, study the trees and identify opportunities for improvement. Last but certainly not least, let the participants present the outcome to management.
What do you need for the Brown paper workshop?
A meeting room with a large table or a long wall where you can tape the Brown paper. Brown Kraft paper on roll, paper tape, markers, post its in multiple colors, spray Mount, some white sheets of A4 and a pair of scissors. Print the 8 lean wastes in advance in color and cut out.
During the Brown paper workshop.
– Define, together with the team, the start and the beginning of the process so everyone is well informed on which process is analyzed. Flow out one process at a time;
– Everyone is involved, each participant is actively busy ‘mapping’ the process;
– The intention is to map the current process not how it’s supposed to be;
– Ask lots of questions during the workshop, “what else?, “how often?”, “what’s next?”;
– Keep the workshop moving; avoid too much deliberation;
The Brown paper itself.
Always state the name of the process on the Brown paper. If necessary, paste process relevant documents / letters / screen dumps on the Brown paper with tape or spray Mount;
The brown paper rules.
– Square sticky note describes the task performed. Five words or less, starts with a action verb;
– Any other sticky note (use another color, shape or size) describes the link to another (out of scope) process;
– Square sticky note turned 45 degrees describes a decision stated as a yes or no answer;
– You can add actual documents (letters, print screens, reports etc);
– Lean waste tags, to indicate the wastes in the flow;
– Red flags or red stickers to indicate the major opportunities in the flow.
After the Brown paper workshop.
Share the brown paper or post it in an open place so more people can participate. Walk several people through the brown paper and add their comments to the brown paper. Summarize findings, issues, strengths and opportunities. Always validate and re-validate with all team members.
Remember a good process flow:
Always involves the client, since we improve according to value added activities. All critical activities should be represented on a detailed level. A good process flow always captures the process (formal, informal, emotional) and highlights the opportunities for improvement. Flows in a simple, self-explanatory manner. Shows all relevant documentation. Identifies important data and systems.
Happy process mapping! I’d love to hear about your Brown paper process mapping experience.
* SIPOC; (Suppliers, Input, Process, Output, Customer) is a tool that summarizes the inputs and outputs of one or more processes in table form.
About Peggy: I’m a Lean Six Sigma black belt at heart, I am a people’s people and bridge builder. I’ve worked at large multinationals in service and production industry. I am creative, analytic with a positive mindset. I have two lovely princesses, a wonderful husband and we live in sunny Curaçao. I love to share my knowledge about Lean.