An operator is asked to explain what they do so it can be drawn as a flowchart.
They respond with their experienced interpretation of the series of activities - “well first I receive the order, then I calculate the invoice total, I record the details in the TRS, I then place it in the outbox for processing.”
The question “tell me WHAT you do” gets you information about the flow of work and how it actually happens.
However, the ‘chunked up process’ it produces (i.e. macro process flow) conceals the details that would be provided if you asked “tell me HOW you do that?”
It’s the HOW you do it details that reveals where waste sits.
So how do you calculate the invoice total?
“Well first I identify the batch number, then I take the first 3 digits and compare these to the matrix and identify the base price, I write that on the order, then i locate the second 3 digits and compare these to the second matrix to identify the discount ......” etc etc.
What is not necessarily revealed in the ‘what do you do’ question and answer scenario are all of the duplicated activities and unnecessary writing that actually takes place.
Innovation won’t occur when we accept what the experienced operator says about what they do, and (a) we have not seen the process so don’t know what to ask to dig deeper, and (b) we don’t get to the ‘how do you do it’ question and draw out the waste that actually sits in the process.