Lean Six Sigma Process Flow Mapping: Adding Value to the Hiring Process

In our last article we defined the key performance measures that this hospital HR department used to guide its improvement activities. One of the major problems identified by the scorecard was the time it took to fill job openings for nurses. We therefore undertook a Lean Process Improvement project to eliminate the non-value-added steps in the recruiting / hiring process.

Problem: HR was only able to fill critical Nurse and Medical Technician positions within 90 days, 30 percent of the time. This hurt the hospital’s ability to serve their patients.

Lean Six Sigma Tool – Process Flow Mapping

The goal of process flow mapping is the goal of Lean; to identify and eliminate non-value-added steps in a process. The steps of process flow mapping are outlined below:

Map the current state of the process

The first step is simple to map the current state of the process. We want to make sure you include the good, the bad and the ugly. Many times people will want to map the "sanitized" version of the process; but since our goal is to find and eliminate the non-value-added steps, we have to include those in the current state mapping effort. My favorite way of doing this is to use colored sticky notes (a different color for each department in the process). Some people want to map electronically using various software programs, and this can be beneficial if you have remote team members. I still recommend using the old-fashioned way, sticky notes on white paper.

Categorize every step in the process

When the current state is mapped we use green, yellow and red dots to categorize every single sticky note.

  • - Green dots go on steps in the process that are value-added to the customer. You will have to determine ahead of time who is the customer of this process.
  • - Yellow dots go on steps that are not value added to the customer, but are somehow required due to safety, quality or regulatory rules.
  • - Red dots are what we are looking for… steps that are non-value-added and should be eliminated. I like to look for the "re" words… reviewing, reworking, redoing. "Re" words indicate something is happening a second time. If it was done right the first time, or if we trust people to do it right the first time, the second time is always non-value-added.

Eliminate non-value-added (red) steps

The second-to-last step is to create action items to eliminate the non-value-added steps you identified. To ensure this all gets done we use an action item list with actions, owners and completion dates.

Create the future state process flow map

Now that we have eliminated the non-value-added (red dot) steps from the process, we can use mapping software to rearrange the steps and design our future state. I actually find this step less exciting. Many people like designing process flows, but it is more efficient to unnecessary steps and improve people’s productivity. But we still have to document the process flow the way we intend, so people have a clear guideline.

Project Details

You can see the current state process flow map we created. It was rather involved, covering all four walls of a conference room. Some of the non-value-added steps that we identified were that there were 19 times that we had to type in a potential employee’s name, SSN and contact info! We found places where we were using paper forms when an information-system tool already existed. In other cases the Director of HR was doing work her Admin could easily do, such as choosing what HR Specialist will handle a certain job opening.

In total we eliminated 40 steps in the process. This represented 389 wasted hours per year of work and 2615 total delay-days that the customers of this process were feeling.

Lessons Learned

When we initiated this process we focused on HR. While internal customers can cause delays, we wanted to focus on what HR could do to improve performance before talking to other departments. However, in retrospect, it would have been better to include representatives from internal customers, such as nurses. We did not make the team cross-functional enough. As improvements were rolled out, we realized that we were too HR focused and should have included "internal customers" of the process on the team.

All Lean Teams should be cross functional in departments and management levels (individual contributors to executives).

Impact on People

It was difficult for some of the HR staff to make the transition. Many had been doing it the "old way" for decades. For these people, it took more work for the HR Director to sell the improvements we made. Her consistency, in applying these tools, eventually brought everyone on-board.


Within 3 months we improve the "recruiting completed within 90 days of application" measure from 33% to 56%... still below our minimum expectation of performance, but definitely better. This department has undergone dramatic changes, from being chaotic, to being an example of discipline in business processes.

Work is currently happening to integrate nurses into this process.