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Thought Process Map for Six Sigma: What, Why and How
For a Six Sigma project to have the greatest chance of success, it must begin with a solid foundation. One tool that can ensure a firm foundation is the thought process map, sometimes referred to as a TMAP or TPM.

By Chris Schweighardt

For a Six Sigma project to be successful, it must begin with a solid foundation. One tool that canensure a firm foundation is the thought process map, sometimes referred to as a TMAP or TPM.

A TMAP is a visual representation of a Black Belt's, team leader's or an entire team's thoughts, ideas and questions relative to accomplishing the project goal. It should be one of the first tools employed when starting any Six Sigma or process improvement project. A TMAP presents a structure ofinformation and helps a team progress through the DMAIC process.  It is a living document that will change throughout the project and has no set format. A TMAP can be used to drive specific actions and select the Six Sigma tools that should be employed.

A TMAP should include, but is not limited to:

1. The project goal(s) or problem statement(s)
2. Specific areas/parts of a process to beanalyzed
3. Any issues or questions to address
4. What is known about those issues or questions
5. What is not known about those issues or questions
6. Initial assumptions about each issue or question.
7. What data or information is needed
8. Potential barriers reaching the project goal
9. Interconnections between each part/issue/question
10. Potential Six Sigma tools to be usedWhen creating a TMAP, the only wrong piece of information is the one left out.

Why Should the TMAP Be Used?

The single, most important benefit of using a TMAP early in a project is it ensures that nothing is left out or missed. It is an effective tool for ensuring all potential questions and issues of a project have been both identified and addressed from the beginning of a project tocompletion.

It also provides an effective way to brainstorm, take notes, gather and view information and even summarize data. It reminds the team what assumptions were made, the actions that followed, and the latest status of the project. It is an effective way of communicating, as well as consolidating information from a single person or among various teams.

Finally, it provides a visualmap that tracks the development of ideas and issues, as well as the extent of inquisition. Like all maps, it shows where the team or individual has been, where they are at, and where they need to go in pursuit of resolution to particular issues.

How to Create a Thought Process Map

There are various ways to create a TMAP, but the easiest and most effective way is following these five steps:1. Define the project goal(s)
2. List the knowns and unknowns
3. Ask DMAIC questions and "grouped" questions
4. Sequence and link the questions
5. Identify possible tools to be used
|Before Making a TMAP |
|In preparation for making a thought |
|process map, here are a few |
|recommendations: |
|> Use large (about2x2.5-foot) easel |
|pads or poster board. This allows |
|information to be viewed easily. |
|> Use different colored markers - |
|allowing different colors for knowns, |
|unknowns, questions, etc. |
|> Use Post-its - these will allow |
|information to be grouped/moved around |
|the map more easily. |
|> Involve the entire team - the more|
|input the better and do not exclude |
|anyone or any information.   |
|> Do not critique - just gather as much|
|information as possible and filter it |
|later. |
|> Do not make initial (i.e., false) |
|assumptions. If the data is unknown, |
|list it as so and research it later. |
| |
|...
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