Cow Diagram®: A new tool for process development and its integral management.

Cow Diagram®: A new tool for process development and its integral management.

The Cow Diagram  is a new tool for the integrated development and management of processes.
Rajaram Govindarajan *

They are not fat nor skinny: cows are lean. I present the Cow Diagram, a tool I created (1.2) for the development, control and improvement of processes (and sub-processes). The word «process» is still difficult to understand. Lack of understanding of this concept, therefore also the lack of implementation prevents organizations enjoy the enormous benefits of process management.

A cow transforms grass and water in milk by means of processing activities. The cow also generates waste. Also in a business process, inputs are transformed into outputs and waste is generated, so the cow diagram allows us to make a scheme to design the business process, if we ask: which inputs, which desired results (outputs), through which activities and why waste generated by the process. The legs of the cow are four pillars that support the process: 1. how it will control the activities (control plan) for processing inputs to outputs are correct, safe and efficient; 2. who is responsible for achieving results; 3. what resources; and 4. how the results of processes (indicators) is measured objectively.

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List the entries such as materials, consumables, information etc.

In the planning process, identify the inputs, ensure that the identified entries are complete and define the characteristics thereof.

Activities that add value

List the activities that add value. They are the activities that transform inputs into outputs. In the planning process, the «flow chart», the so-called «value stream diagrams» so that the process is drawn:

  1. «Effective» (generating products / services that meet their specifications with the speed required by users)
  2. «Lean» (with maximum efficiency by optimizing the use of resources)
  3. «Clean» (which does not cause adverse environmental impact) and
  4. insurance (to protect workers from unnecessary risks).

Thus process management will be integrated quality, environment and safety.


Identify and list the outputs. Are the products / services generated by the process with the features according to your design. Outputs include reports, instructions, records etc. In the planning process, we must ensure that the outputs are complete and define the characteristics thereof. Such features have to meet the requirements, expectations and needs of internal / external customer. The output of one process may be the input for another.

Control Plan variabilities

To control the variabilities of the process, list the internal rules (guidelines, manuals, procedures and instructions), adapting to the need for standardization depending on the severity of the consequences of potential errors, and depending on the level of staff expertise. These internal documents have to take into account the legal regulations in force. In the planning process, it must have developed internal documents for activities that require standardization to minimize variability.

The application of the control plan ensures: 1. security (staff), 2. quality and speed of the outputs, 3. proper management of environmental aspects and 4. costs. In the control plan must include quality control at reception of inputs such as supplies and materials (to avoid duplication, control at reception is done only if the control plan provider is not reliable or high risk warrants), information and equipment parameters.

The control plan must ensure that staff working under the internal rules, production equipment and measurement work under the right conditions and the working environment does not present variations that have negative impact on quality, environment and safety at work (distractions, order , cleaning, light, noise, radioactivity, temperature, humidity etc.)


Appoint a responsible authority and responsibility for the budget and human resources of the process; name and involving a second person responsible for covering the absences of the first; appoint a multidisciplinary team process to involve different specialists.


Must ensure the availability of planned resources. In the planning process is to define resources and budgets necessary to ensure safety, quality and speed, control environmental, physical and psychological environment necessary for motivation. Such resources include preventive maintenance, calibration and renewal of equipment, and training and staff training.


Identify and list the indicators to measure: 1. personnel safety, quality and speed 2. product / service, 3. the proper management of environmental aspects and 4. efficiency. Indicators must be adequate and reliable.

To avoid bureaucracies and manipulations, indicators should be results, not the degree of compliance plans or methods. (For example, to find out if the staff is trained, is much more direct assessment of defects in the product / service attributable to the lack of competence of personnel measure the degree of compliance with a training plan that does not have to be 100 % suitable)

Process residues

List waste generated by the process that require a control plan. They are solid waste, waste water, air emissions, noise, radioactivity, odors or visual appearance. They are unwanted outputs. In the planning process, we try to design a process «clean» to minimize the negative environmental impact. Energy, water and other resources will be included in the «resources».

«Sometimes in the management system of some organizations see a conceptual confusion between» process «and» process «. The procedure aims to methodological control activities while the process requires controlling many other aspects mentioned in the cow model. »

If all processes are properly aligned improve the results of individual processes result in the improvement of the entire organization.

The concept of process management

 In an organization, the optimal management functional unit is not a department, but a process. An organization «departmentalized» is divided into «vertical» lines (see diagram) and so we «cut the vision of the whole» and does not allow us to see the contribution of each expert on the outcome of the organization. When you do not know the contribution of a resource in the final result of the organization, there is no control or optimization. A process, however, is a «transversal» division of the organization and allows us to identify and eliminate non-value activities; and assign responsibility for management can thus control budgets and product results.

While departments are oriented towards knowledge and people, processes can be oriented towards products which in turn can be targeted to users. The process approach allows us to work together experts from different departments, strengthening internal communication and multidisciplinary, setting common goals between them so that the final product meets the process parameters of effectiveness and efficiency. In reality without the process approach can not measure and analyze the results, therefore, there will be improvements in the results.

Aligning processes creates the system

The organization is the system, which consists of interrelated processes and aligned to achieve the objectives of the organization as a whole. According to the same rules, the complex processes can be divided into sub-processes and sub-processes in complex sub-sub-processes, … up to the smallest unit: activity. Thus for each process, we can know:

  • What activities are really necessary,
  • What should be the quality of these activities to meet the goals of users,
  • In what sequence we organize these activities for the overall performance of the organization with minimal resources and maximum speed.

If we control the activity, we control all the variabilities of the process: quality, cost, time, customer satisfaction, motivation and personnel safety and environmental negative impact.

When we organize and manage by processes, each process focusing on the product / service, have knowledge of how each activity contributes to achieving the overall final results. All activities will traceability processes. This knowledge is necessary to ensure that the results effectively, quickly and efficiently in an organization are achieved. All activities are aligned to the objectives of the process and all processes are aligned toward the goal of the organization.

In the pyramid of methodology, the management system defines how activities and processes are controlled.

In the pyramid are assigned management responsibilities.

3 pyramids together allow us to achieve excellence. Models of excellence in management or improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma, are based on the concept «process management». Without applying the concept «process management», there can be no business excellence.



* Rajaram Govindarajan is an industrial engineer trained in India, Japan and USA, with work experience in the automotive industry both in Spain and in Detroit, USA He currently works as a consultant and freelance trainer for excellence in business management. Rajaram is the Chief Auditor certification nonprofit SPG (Management Systems and Processes ) and is a Professor-Collaborator of the Department of Operations Management and Innovation at ESADE, Barcelona.

  1. Rajaram Govindarajan, excellence in the healthcare sector with ISO9001, McGraw Hill Interamericana, Madrid, 2007.
  2. Rajaram Govindarajan, health disorder cure, Marge Medical Books, Barcelona, ​​2010.

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