Spaghetti Diagram

By Ron Bialek, Grace L. Duffy, and John W. Moran

A spaghetti diagram is a visual representation using a continuous flow line tracing the path of an item or activity through a process. The continuous flow line enables process teams to identify redundancies in the work flow and opportunities to expedite process flow.

The diagram in the figure below reflects a study done by a health department administrative office. The intent of the study was to identify ways to shorten the walking time from one activity to another for frequently performed tasks.

Another benefit of the visual drawing is to highlight major intersection points within the room. Areas where many walk paths overlap are causes of delay. Waiting is one of the eight wastes of lean, as is unnecessary motion.

Collaboration of the staff most affected by the current workplace design was a secondary benefit of creating the spaghetti diagram. The health department quality improvement coordinator facilitated a brainstorming session to identify areas of congestion and wasted movement among the office personnel. Focusing on a common goal brought the team closer together while highlighting the purpose for placement of some work areas.

Spaghetti Diagram Example: Health Department Administrative Office Flow

Spaghetti Diagram Example Thumbnail

Excerpted from Ron Bialek, Grace L. Duffy, and John W. Moran, The Public Health Quality Improvement Handbook (Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press, 2009), page 220.

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