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Lean Six Sigma in a nutshell

by Chris Reed

10 14, 2019 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Lean tools are used to streamline processes that don’t add value to an end user or customer by eliminating ‘waste’ and making them flow.

Lean is therefore associated with improving the supply of services – with faster flow,  needing less effort, with less transactional ‘inventory’ and fewer defects.

Lean is a customer centric process and studying lean techniques will focus on what’s of value to your customer to reduce process variation and waste to provide a service exactly what’s needed at the right time.

Lean has been described as a ‘culture’ because it works best when everyone gets involved and people adopt the mindsets and behaviours to make it work.

In an organisation with a lean culture you are likely to see:

Continuous improvement towards a long term vision

People seeing activities as processes that can always be improved

Less non value added activities

Visual signs of how the organisation is doing.

Six Sigma is a robust diagnostic toolkit and a measure of process capability that focuses on process variation and defects which often present themselves as ‘issues’. The real benefit of learning how to apply six sigma methodology is to increase the depth and texture of the process analysis to understand what the data is telling us in terms of trends and correlations so that we can identify what are the priority issues and their root causes are and what would be appropriate countermeasures.

So lean is often associated with process speed and six sigma with defect diagnostics – together they form a process improvement roadmap and toolkit of choice to deliver continuous improvement.

Our experience has led us not to dive straight in with the business operators and scatter a few lean tools around but to provide alignment with the senior team first. An outcome from this alignment workshop is to identify a pipeline of value stream project opportunities and lean journey topics for improvement.

These projects after prioritisation should then drive the lean six sigma deployment – the focus on impact projects, the type of training, the choice of candidates and the front of house or back office location. Projects can be accelerated using rapid improvement workshops.

Key tactics are to focus on a key value/revenue/service stream to yield the biggest opportunity for applying lean six sigma.  Investigation of the current process before heading off for the solution is vital to understand the current state capability and the process details so that the waste can be identified, interpreted and later eliminated.

Lean Six Sigma cannot be ‘imposed’ it has to be adopted by engaged and empowered staff – it isn’t just about the learning of new tools but more about the handling of acceptance and change. The best lean six sigma programs provide incremental rather than big transitions towards all staff becoming involved towards a continuous improvement culture.

A typical lean six sigma deployment would involve the following six steps:

Foundation. Map out the requirements and introduce the concept of a lean journey model framework.

Assessment. An audit with the senior team of the current process capability of the organisation using appropriate topics and measures.

The focus is to complete your improvement projects aligned to the business plan. We help you to establish a lean project pipeline and build a training plan.

Building capability. Candidates work hands-on in small teams with their projects throughout the training programme using both lean six sigma technical and change tools.

Performance. Improvement projects are tracked to completion and to update the lean journey metrics.

Sustaining. An internal lean coordinator is appointed to help deliver ongoing training.

Lean Culture. The engagement behaviours needed to support a lean culture are identified and reinforced including self-managing process improvement.

Lean Six Sigma Journey Model

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Capturing the Voice of the Customer

by Chris Reed

06 13, 2018 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Capturing the Voice of the Customer Aim The Voice of the Customer (VOC) aims to establish who are the key customers of the process under investigation and what their high level requirements are. A process customer is someone who is closely affected or touched by the process output and often ‘receives’ the output. A stakeholder is different since they are interested in the process improvement but do not always receive the process output. Benefits Lean is a customer centric process and meeting customer needs is a key principle for process improvement. The VOC identifies both internal and external customers and captures their needs in a clear and concise way so that the process improvement has a focus to deliver improvements that are of value to the customer(s). Solutions generated should be checked for alignment with the customer needs. How it works Generating VOC is an important task and the process improvement team should initially identify who are the internal and external customers and then estimate what their needs are. The following workshop flipchart shows a list of customers for a process and their high level needs. Depending on the complexity of the process a range of techniques can be used to gather and validate the VOC:

  • Affinity diagrams
  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviews – face to face
  • Direct observation
The VOC needs to be converted from general statements about the process performance to clear measurements depending upon whether the main issues are for example quality, cost or delivery speed. The phrase ‘Critical to X’ is used where X represents this main issue. VOC steps are
  1. Identify the customer groups
  2. Determine what their high level needs are in customer language
  3. Translate the customer language into specific values
  4. Validate the specific values
Tips – capture VOC in the investigation phase of the project but the earlier the better – accept that there will be different customer categories and different needs some the same and others conflicting eg we want a high tech solution and we want a low cost solution. Remember that customers can be internal and/or external and they may have the same or different high level needs. Speak to people in the process!

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What should we measure?

by Chris Reed

05 10, 2018 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

  When we set out to improve a process we need to measure how it’s performing ‘now’ (current state) and later when we have updated the process (future state)  to verify any improvement. So what should we measure? We often start with a key customer requirement (for example quality) and then translate this as a business measure  (for example # of customer complaints received) and then further interpret it as an internal process measure (for example # of errors with delivered services/goods). A further insight into these business/company measures (often seen as lagging) and these internal process measures (often seen as leading) is as follows: What are lagging business measures?

  • A measure of results and outcomes
  • One that follows an event
  • Knowing the ‘score’ – a snapshot
  • Broader longer term focus
  • Tend to be measured at the organisation or business unit level
  • Examples – cost, efficiency, customer satisfaction, customer complaints
What are leading process measures?
  • Predicts goal achievement, you can influence them
  • Can be more difficult to measure
  • Enables pre-emptive actions
  • Signal future events
  • Tells you how the outcomes will be achieved
  • Tend to be measured ‘in the process’
  • Shorter term measures often measured more frequently
  • Examples – error rates,  in-process data capture, engaged employees, daily service levels.
A leading measure is “upstream” the lagging measure is “downstream”   Why use leading measures?
  • Prevent working on things you don’t need to
  • Focus actions on the right things
  • Improve the outcomes
  • Opportunity to influence behaviours focused on outcome
Why don’t more organisations measure leading measures?
  • Sometimes hard to follow
  • Can be harder to measure
  • Requires you to change habits
  • Lag measures feel reassuring!
Lagging and Leading summary
  • We need a combination of both
  • Lagging measures provide a connection with the customer and  the overall direction for the business process improvement project
  • Lead measures provide the actions for the individual to improve the process
What’s the way forward?
  • Identify the measures of interest to the customer
  • Determine what business lagging measures are a priority
  • Create a list of options for process lead measures and how you will measure them
  • Capture your current and future measurements

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What does becoming a Green Belt mean?

by Lean 6 Sigma

10 31, 2017 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

There are two levels of Green Belt namely Practitioner and Fully Certified

  • Candidates initially train to become Green Belt Practitioners (Part 1) in eliminating  process waste and improving flow using lean tools
  • Further training using  more advanced problem solving techniques to reduce defects and process variation can lead to becoming a Fully Certified Green Belt (Part 2).
Green Belts are usually seen as part time  problem solvers in process improvement - capable of leading projects and workshops Being a Green Belt also means being a mentor and coach in process improvement to Yellow Belts and other project team members A Green Belt qualification is internationally recognised and is a pathway course to becoming a Black Belt Green Belts are expected to develop as ‘change agents’ and become potential continuous improvement leaders Green Belts will see things differently and learn new tools including being able to evaluate customer requirements, sources of variation, root cause and how to sustain project benefits Learning how to facilitate acceptance of change will become a new life skill Green Belts will understand how to accelerate projects and increase team engagement      

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Process improvement – getting started.

by Lean 6 Sigma

10 31, 2017 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Businesses naturally want to improve their  processes - who wouldn't?  But what are the indicators to suggest process improvement would be a good option and where should we start?  What are the building blocks to make sure we set off in the right direction? The following list of questions will start to provide a framework for your process improvement initiatives:

  1. Are there 'effects' evident to suggest process improvements may be needed? eg process inefficiencies, internal or external customer complaints and/or defective service or product delivery?
  2. Do we need to carry out some investigations to establish the 'causes' of these issues? (if the solutions are known then they should be implemented!)
  3. Is the senior team aware and showing a desire to fix some of the problems ?
  4. Are potential improvement projects  aligned to the business plans or strategies?
  5. Have the benefits  been estimated and appear substantial enough?
  6. Is an improvement project realistic and likely to be finished inside say six months?
  7. Have you have identified and spoken to any of the internal or external process customers?
  8. Have you have collected any data or evidence on the output metric or is it mainly anecdotal?
  9. Has anyone have walked and mapped  the process to check it out?
  10. Now you know if it is a valid process to fix - then you can ask who shall we assign/train to fix it?

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