A3.2. Spaghetti diagrams

Spaghetti diagrams

What should I expect the outcomes to be of using the tool?

A diagram or a map that will highlight potential time saving that could be made in reorganising an area or equipment.






Tool/ method

It is a hand drawn or computer drawn diagram showing the movements in a process.  The movements could be information, material or people.

It’s called spaghetti diagram because the result typically looks like a bowl of spaghetti.

Why we may choose to use this tool/ method?

Where you want to track the physical motion of information, material or people in a particular location in order to identify where waste and inefficiencies are happening. 

How you might use this tool/ method?

 Materials required: 

·         a simple plan of the relevant area – you can draw this out roughly on a PC or by hand

·         coloured pens so that different movements can be tracked individually

·         a board or wall near the relevant area where you can display your plan


The process:

·         On your area plan, plot the movements of each staff member as they carry out a process, e.g. gathering equipment from a store room

·         Use different colour pens for different processes and journeys 

·         Time how long processes currently take

·         Interview staff in order to understand what they are doing and why they need to make each movement or “journey” across the space



·         With your team, discuss how the area could be arranged and / or the processes redesigned so that movement is reduced and time is saved

·         Plot the newly designed process route onto a plan in a different colour.

·         Quantify the time that could be saved by walking the new route and timing it

·         Translate the time savings into a positive message for the wider team.

What next?

Try the improvements and create a new spaghetti diagram. 

Examples/ case studies/ links to best practice/ evidence

Example of hand-drawn spaghetti diagram drawn on a PC – reception team showing process for finding prescriptions

The red lines represent the journeys made by receptionists to find prescriptions before the space is rationalised. The black lines show fewer journeys once the improvements have been made and the prescriptions have been clearly labelled and placed.

Contact for further information

Rachael Davies, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust