I didn’t understand it much because what the colonel said was full of
tactics talk. Later the captain explained it, and that was better but not
much. So then Sergeant Tyree showed it to us by drawing lines on the
ground with a stick. That way it was clear as could be.
Since the first lines were scratched into the dirt, people
have been drawing pictures to help them explain things. People understand
There are a number of techniques available for charting (or mapping)
business processes. This book focuses on one of these. The work
simplification approach is at the same time simpler and yet more detailed
than most others. It is a method that has proved itself over and over
again during the past century, producing billions of dollars in process
improvement savings. It is a method that can be understood by anyone at
any level in an organization. It is a method that can provide results in a
matter of days—and it is critically needed today given the turbulent
nature of our work processes. It is a method that helps us to really
engineer our work processes.
The study of work as a science, or scientific management, really began in
the latter part of the nineteenth century with the work of Frederick
Taylor, Frank Gilbreth, and others.1 Gilbreth, in his search for the “one
best way,” developed a collection of tools for studying work that later
became the foundation of the industrial engineering discipline. One of
these tools was the flow process chart—a lined, columnar form with sets of
five symbols running down the page and a space adjacent to each set of
symbols for a brief description. It was this tool that did so much for
manufacturing during the first half of the twentieth century and is the
foundation of the charting method described in these pages. This stated,
the material presented in this book, while not original, is a new
presentation of the work. It includes the contributions of a few
exceptional people who are considered the pioneers in the field of work
simplification and the concept of participative management. It is an
attempt to state simply how the solid, common-sense approach of work
simplification can help organizations today.
Gilbreth understood the basic rules of problem solving—define the problem
and break it down. He spent his working life developing tools that help us
break down work so that it can be improved. Frank’s wife, Lillian, was
closely involved in her husband’s work, and when he passed away in 1924,
she made it her life’s pursuit and continued for more than 50 years. She
once said, “There is too much study of work that should be eliminated, not
studied.” It is often the case that the best solution for improving a
piece of work is to stop doing it. Good tools help make that decision
obvious. The right tools can make a seemingly insurmountable task a quick
study. The charting method presented in these pages is one of these tools.
In 1947, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) did something
that was, even then, a long time in the making. It established a set of
symbols as the ASME Standard for Operation and Flow Process Charts.
Twenty-five years earlier in 1921, Gilbreth had presented “Process
Charts—First Steps in Finding the One Best Way” at the ASME Annual
Meeting. By the time the symbols were standardized, they had evolved into
a solid set of symbols that covered every aspect of work, in any work
environment, that can be used with very little confusion. The first
process charts appeared as a series of symbols strung down a page in
sequential order. This was (and still is) a simple and effective way to
track the flow of one item, a person, or a piece of material through a work
Exhibit 1.1 shows a breakdown of the basic work elements defined by
Gilbreth. Gilbreth originally used a small circle to represent
transportation (the wheel of a cart), which has since been replaced by an
In practice, the operation symbol is filled in when representing a
physical change to an object. This way, the value–added steps stand out. Gilbreth used this symbol and referred to it as the
Do operation (see
Operation (Doing work). An operation occurs when an object is
arranged or prepared for another step, assembled or disassembled or
Transportation (Moving work). A transportation occurs when an object
is moved from one work area to another.
Inspection (Checking work).
An inspection occurs when an object is verified for quality or
quantity in any of its characteristics.
Storage/Delay (Nothing happening). A storage occurs when an object
is kept and protected against unauthorized removal. A delay occurs
when an object waits for the next planned action. (A “D” symbol is
sometimes used to distinguish a delay from storage.)
EXHIBIT 1.1 BASIC WORK ELEMENTS
EXHIBIT 1.2 DO OPERATION
Allan Mogensen studied the Gilbreth methods while pursuing a degree in
Industrial Engineering at Cornell University in the 1920s. As a young
industrial engineering consultant, Mogensen introduced a concept to the
study of work that was to shape his career and earn him the title of the
Father of Work Simplification. He realized that improvements that were
developed by employees doing the work had the best chance of being
In his book, Common Sense Applied to Motion and Time Study,2 Mogensen
addressed and offered solutions for many of the concerns that still snag
||He offered two primary reasons that people resist change: “First of
all, we resist anything that is new; secondly, we all resent criticism.”3
||He addressed benchmarking and the potential scope of work as follows:
“Comparison with similar practices or parts of such practices may offer
opportunities for radical revision.”4
||Regarding continuous improvement, Mogensen wrote, “A chart of the process
finally adopted serves as a basis for still further and stimulative
improvements. Arrangements should be made for periodical review.”5
addressed technology for technology’s sake: “The process chart enables one
to reject the things which are just new—unless they are really better.”6
In 1932, Mogensen founded work simplification, which is defined as the
organized application of common sense. He used the process chart (among
other tools) to organize and study work, and he drew upon the common sense
of the people who did the work for improvement ideas. Mogensen defended
participative improvement with these words: “The person doing the job
knows far more than anyone else as to the best way of doing that job, and
therefore is the one person best fitted to improve it.” It is this focus
on the human element of work simplification that distinguishes it from
other improvement techniques. It is predicated on people who do the work
being involved in the work improvement. It does not treat people,
products, and information as inputs and outputs, using accounting
terminology. It regards people as a treasured resource, the safekeepers
of the corporate (or organizational) memory, which is the most vital
factor in successful continuous improvement! Mogensen described the
process chart as follows:
|In order to achieve measurement, tools are needed and the most important
of these is the process chart.…Once a process chart has been drawn
up, common sense is all that is needed to improve efficiency and
better the process being examined.…The process chart then, is the
lifeblood of work simplification. It is an irreplaceable tool. It is
a guide and stimulant. It takes time to properly utilize but there
is absolutely no doubt that it works.7
Mogensen began conducting Work Simplification Conferences at
Lake Placid in 1937 and continued them for nearly 50 years! (Lillian
Gilbreth was part of the original staff, returning each year until the
mid-1960s.) Ben S. Graham Sr. (the author’s grandfather) was a student at
Mogensen’s 1944 Conference. He was unique in his class in that he did not
come from a manufacturing environment. He learned the methods of work
simplification and adapted them from the factory into the office while
directing the paperwork simplification effort at The Standard Register
Company. There he developed the horizontal process flow chart to
accommodate multiple information flows. He also embraced an employee team approach to process
improvement that is summarized in this statement made in 1958:
“Participation by the worker in developing the method eliminates many
causes of resistance and assures enthusiastic acceptance. This is more
important than all the techniques put together.”8 He subsequently joined
Mogensen’s staff as the resident expert in paperwork simplification.
Graham recognized that information processes usually include several
documents that are interdependent on each other and that one item can’t
be isolated and analyzed effectively without considering its effect on the
other items, and vice versa. He expanded process charting to show the
relationships between multiple items. He also added two variations of the
value-added operation symbol that provided particular advantage in
information processing (see Exhibit 1.3). The Origination symbol
represents when information is first added to a new item introduced into a
process. The Add/Alter symbol represents all information changes to an
item following its origination. These symbols were incorporated into a
revised ASME Standard in the early 1970s. They show value-added steps in
Origination. An origination represents the creation of a record or a set
of papers by entering information.
Add/Alter. An add/alter represents an addition or change of information.
EXHIBIT 1.3 VALUE-ADDED SYMBOLS FOR INFORMATION PROCESSING
Graham’s contributions earned him recognition as the Founder of Paperwork
Simplification. The type of process chart that he developed is often
referred to as a Graham Chart. The process charting technique presented
here is fundamentally the same as the methodology developed by Graham.
WHY SHOULD WE CHART OUR PROCESSES?
The value of information processing is indirect. We process information to
satisfy legal requirements and to help people do their jobs better. Why
should we chart our processes? Preparing a process chart is not a
productive activity, either. The reason that we draw process charts is
indirect at a second level. We chart processes to provide information
about the work. This information is used to satisfy regulatory or
certification requirements, to provide instruction, and to provide a
baseline and serve as a tool for improvement. We chart processes to make
them better so that they, in turn, can do a better job of helping people
do their jobs better.
What is a process? A process is a series of steps that must be completed
in order to achieve a particular result. A process chart is a snapshot of
a process. In business, processes are the things we do, the activities we
perform day to day that keep our organizations going. They are what we do
to make, promote, and deliver our products, the things we do to get paid
and pay our debts, and the administrative things we do to keep things
going, to keep track and to satisfy organizational, regulatory, and legal
Since a process implies motion, we represent movement (or flow) as a series
of steps along a line. The line represents the item being acted upon. The
line is followed from one end to the other to see its flow. The symbols on
the line represent activities (and periods of nonactivity) that must be
completed in order to move forward toward completion. They are placed on
the line in the sequence that they are to be completed.
A process chart, then, is a series of symbols along a flow line. Each
symbol or step must be completed in order to move forward along the line
and complete the process. It is a graphical procedure; it tells the reader
what documents, forms, files, and other items are used, where the work is
done, in what order it is done, and who does the work
TO HELP PEOPLE DO THEIR JOBS BETTER
There are a number of more specific, more detailed reasons why you might
want to chart a process. In each case, the goal is still to understand the
process better so that someone can do his or her job better. Process
charts answer these questions:
. • What is being done?
. • By whom? Where? When?
After those questions are answered, we ask, “Why?” to the answers, and
better methods become apparent.
Process charts are used for several reasons:
. • To identify problems
. • To help fix problems
. • To assist in the development of new processes
. • To compare and standardize similar processes
. • For training or educating managers, workers, new people, auditors
. • For writing procedures
. • To satisfy audit and certification requirements
. • To establish a baseline as a foundation for future improvements
Drawing detailed process charts can be quick and easy if you follow the
guidelines outlined in this book.
Drawing process charts is just a part of the work simplification
methodology—but an integral part. The process chart is the principal tool
for improvement. The chart lays out the job so that it can be reviewed in
an organized, structured manner. Process charts break down the job and
permit an improvement team to focus its improvement effort on the detail
that can be studied step by step. The work simplification improvement
approach is organized in a five-step pattern. Drawing process charts fits
into the second step—breaking down the process. There are many other tools
that may be used for addressing specific issues (facilities layout, Venn
diagram, responsibility chart, man-machine chart, etc.), but the process
chart is by far the most universally applicable tool in the toolset. Here
is the five-step pattern for achieving results with work simplification
(also referred to as the scientific method ):
1. Select a process to study and define the project.
2. Gather the facts. Break it down, prepare a process chart.
3. Challenge the current method, step by step. Question the job and
challenge each detail.
4. Develop the improvement. Eliminate, combine, change sequence,
5. Apply the improvement. Obtain approval, install, measure, follow up.
You will notice a similar pattern with many formulas for improvement. For
example, Edwards Deming’s PDCA Cycle—Plan, Do, Check, Action—and Six
Sigma’s DMAIC system—Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. The
charting method described here may be easily incorporated into these other
Chapter 2 outlines the principal roles in a process improvement program.
Following chapters address the other steps of the process improvement
methodology but with major focus on Step 2—fact gathering and documenting
the facts (reality) with a process chart.
1. On October 12, 13, and 14, 1911, pioneers in the field of scientific
management gathered at Dartmouth College for the first Conference on
Scientific Management. Participants included Frederick Taylor, Frank B.
Gilbreth, Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth, Henry L. Gantt, Harrington Emerson, and
many others. Taylor and Gantt both had seminal works published in that
year: Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management and Gantt’s
Wages and Profits. Emerson’s Efficiency: As a Basis for Operations and
Wages was published in 1909, and Gilbreth’s Field System and Bricklaying
System were published in 1908 and 1909 respectively.
2. Allan H. Mogensen, Common Sense Applied to Motion and Time Study
1. 3. Ibid., 17.
2. 4. Ibid., 39.
3. 5. Ibid., 39.
4. 6. Ibid., 40.
5. 7. Allan H. Mogensen with Rosario “Zip” Rausa, Mogy: An Autobiography
(Idea Associates, 1989), 44–46.
6. 8. In a letter to his son, Ben S. Graham Jr., June 1958.