Simple and Effective Process Tool

This month’s post is about a simple, effective, and often overlooked process mapping technique tool called the Trans Interaction Diagram also called a sequence diagram.  I have been using these diagrams for more than ten years with great success, especially when there is a software development element to the process improvement project.  Trans interaction diagrams are great facilitation tools and they can pack a ton of useful information into a simple to understand document.  Trans-interaction diagrams are rarely taught in Lean Six Sigma classes which is a shame.  I teach all Black Belts that I mentor how to use the trans-interaction diagram and without fail, they find it to be a useful tool in Defining, Analyzing, Designing, and validating improved processes.  Trans-interaction diagrams are particularly useful in documenting structure document centric processes and structured projects.  I believe anytime software is being developed to take an organization paperless or to automate a document/project flow with a finite number of statuses the item can enter and exit, the trans interaction diagram should be used.

Trans-interaction diagrams are made of a series of vertical bars that represent the “states” in which a document or project can reside.  For example: draft, technical review, legal review, financial review, pricing, clarifications, cancelled, approved, archived.  These are all answers to the question “What is the status of the document? (e.g., application, proposal, order)”.  The vertical bars are connected by transition arrows that indicate the paths the documents can follow from one state to another.  Below each state, you can pack in loads of information relevant to software developers, policy writers, and managers.  You can include information such as who has read and write access at each state; the owner; time metrics; system actions; decision criteria; and rules.  A simple example of the trans interaction diagram for a generic paperless document system is shown below.


You can easily see how the trans-interaction diagram communicates a wealth of information about the document or project.  Personnel in your organization should be able to answer the basic questions answered by the trans interaction diagram, such as what is the status of my request?  What happens next? How long does it take? Who can help me?

The trans-interaction diagram is also a great way to facilitate people in your organization toward consensus on how things should be processed and what rules should exist in the processing.  By asking people what can happen next who can do it, why, and so forth, staff can quickly see the paths documents can take as well as the impact of not doing things right the first time.

If it is decided to automate your process using a COTS system such as SharePoint, a BPM tool, or custom software, developers can get a great start on understanding what you want as your final product through review of the trans interaction diagram and you can use the trans interaction diagram as a QC tool to ensure the developers created the software as specified.

I hope you find this tool helpful for improving your business processes.  For more information or support in using this tool, send me an email at

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