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How Important are Turtle Diagrams for an Organization?

28 June 2017
A Turtle Diagram is a visual tool that can be used to detail, in a very precise manner, all of the elements of any given process within an organization. Our regional assessor Martin Little gives us his opinion on how important Turtle Diagrams are for all organization sizes.

Our regional assessor Martin Little gives us his opinion on how important Turtle Diagrams are for all organization sizes. A Turtle Diagram is a visual tool that can be used to detail, in a very precise manner, all of the elements of any given process within an organization.

They are very important for any management systems, but very few organizations choose to use them.  Hopefully this blog will give you some more information about Turtle Diagrams and the benefits they can bring.

What is a Turtle Diagram?

Below is an image of a Turtle Diagram: 

A Turtle Diagram is a visual tool that can be used to detail, in a very precise manner, all of the elements of any given process.

This Turtle Diagram is for a 'Procurement' process and is only an example of how this tool can be used.

The Turtle Diagram has a number of useful features:

  • It identifies who is the owner of the process and helps to demonstrate how the organization assigns Roles and Responsibilities.

  • It can be used to identify applicable clauses of the relevant standards and can also detail any applicable legal and other requirements the process must satisfy.

In the centre it can detail all of the Value Adding Steps, plus their sequence, that fall with the scope of the process. Please remember that any given process may involve multiple employees and departments within the organization. In this case departments represented include Procurement, QSHE and Stores/Warehousing.

In the 'Who is Involved' section we find all of the job roles within the organization that have the responsibility to complete the Value Adding Steps within the process. Again this helps demonstrate how the organization assigns roles and responsibilities.

In the 'With What' section we find all of the resources needed to successfully perform this process.  Again this section can help to demonstrate how the organization plans its operations and provides the essential resources to do the job.

In the 'How is it Done' section we find reference to any specific documents within the organization's management system that tell those people responsible for completing the Value Added Steps how to complete them in line with the organization's best practice.

In the 'Support Processes' section we find a list of those processes that support the Procurement process and allow it to function as planned.

Finally in the 'Effectiveness & Efficiency' section we find all of the measures the organization has at its disposal to monitor how well the procurement process is performing. Remember that if these measures are accurately aligned to the organization's business plan, policies, goals and objectives, then at a glance these measures can tell management, and anyone else who cares to check, if the procurement process if fulfilling its remit and supporting the organization, or if corrective or improvement actions are needed.

Why would you use a Turtle Diagram and what are the benefits?

Turtle Diagrams can form a valuable link between the high level Process Landscape Map of an organization (example below) and the Process Flow Charts, Procedures, Work Instructions, SOP's, etc. the organization uses to detail how given tasks are to be completed.  This is all assuming that the organization has chosen to maintain a documented management system.

Some organizations may choose to use a Process Flow Diagram to capture how the entire process functions but these documents can sometime seem daunting and complicated for people viewing them for the first time, especially if they include all steps within the process. Some organizations may choose to detail their processes via a series of documents. 

Again this might prove daunting for the uninitiated. The Turtle Diagram allows a new user to gain an overview of how the process functions from a single page. The supporting documents can then be used to further explore the Value Adding Steps of the process and how they are to be completed.

Following the example of the procurement process, should a new planner join the organization they could easily see from the Process Landscape Map where the procurement process sits within the organization. They can quickly see who their internal suppliers and internal customers are and they will instantly see who could potentially be effected should the procurement process not perform efficiently. 

Then from the Turtle Diagram they can quick see the role they will play within the process. They will see who their internal suppliers and internal customer are within the process, who the process owner is, what documents within the management system will tell them how to perform their Value Added Tasks, the resources they will need on a daily basis and how they can monitor and measure their performance and the performance of the process. From this they can quickly understand how they will contribute to the achievement or failure of the process. 

They can also understand how the performance of the process will aid the achievement of certain organizational goals, i.e. customer satisfaction (on time delivery & 100% quality) and how these goals link to the organization's business plan and policies. Very quickly they can understand how they contribute to the success of the organization rather than just the department they work in.

Turtle Diagrams can also prove very useful during Internal or External Audits as they will aid the Auditor in performing an effective, focused, process audit, by guiding them to exactly the measures, people and documents they need to audit the process. 

When one Turtle Diagram is coupled with others from the same management system and a common Audit Trail, i.e. new customer, new product, new process, new employees, new supplier, etc. is followed an Auditor can easily test the sequence and interaction of all of the organization's process against a common theme.

As the Turtle Diagram identifies the essential Value Added Steps of the process and the means by which the organization can measure if effectiveness and efficiency the Turtle Diagram can be a valuable tool for identifying Wastes within the process. Anything that is not a Value Adding Step, or distracts from them, is waste and when addressed will drive the continual improvement of the process.

Finally Turtle Diagrams can prove very useful to top management whilst establishing the organization's processes and for aligning process performance to the Business Plan and applicable policies. From this point on they will act as a benchmark for the current best practice for each process and they will make the processes far more visual and easier to comprehend.

I hope you have found this explanation of Turtle Diagrams and their benefits useful.