Friday, May 10, 2013

Kaizen Blitz Six Sigma!!

In the past couple of weeks, I've had several people tell me that their boss wants to start a Six Sigma project on a process that needs to have wasted time taken out of it. I've also talked to people who want to "Lean out" a process that isn't consistent nor on target. In order to "Lean it out" quickly, they'll 'kaizen blitz' it--send in a team to identify and implement as many changes as possible within a week's time.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to blitz quality improvements. Unless you have enormous amounts of data on the outputs and inputs, you are less likely to identify the real, contributory causes to the problems and to the variation in the results. Within the context of a blitz, you'll resort to trial-and-error. You'll be "adding more systems to poor systems"--more inspection, more audits, more processing, tighter 'tolerances' to reduce the possibility of passing along work that has errors. [My axiom: poor systems generate more systems.]

In the name of "doing something", teams too often jump to the conclusions and solutions without taking the time to determine what is the variation in the results, where and when does it occur. They don't take the time to investigate what happens on the input side. They suffer from many group challenges: rush to accomplishment, attribution of one incident as representative of the 'population' of experiences, relying on anecdotes, discounting other's experiences and analysis, groupthink, etc. If they take the time to look at correlations between an aspect that influences the results, they may place too much importance on the correlation without understanding the causation. [I sometimes use this example: if you want to increase the value of your business convince women to have higher hemlines, buy butter from Bangladesh, donate money to the political campaign of the person in whom Americans have the least confidence, bet against the horse poised to win the Triple Crown and petition Sports Illustrated to put an American model on their swimsuit edition's cover. All of these are correlated with a higher stock market, but you clearly understand there's no cause-and-effect relationship.]

The Six Sigma tools will help improve the quality of a process. Lean tools help reduce the cycle time of a process, and may identify where quality tools should be used to reduce the wasted efforts when defects/errors are involved.

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