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Achieve Corporate & Professional Goals through Lean Six Sigma

Jim Duarte ASQ Fellow, LSSMBB, CSSBB, CQE


There are few organizations that have embraced Lean Six Sigma for the enterprise. Many organizations see it as an isolated program to solve problems and hopefully save money, but not a method associated with achieving corporate goals. Why might this be? Is it because the organization doesn’t have a good goal-setting process?

Goal setting can be achieved through strategic planning and deployment via Strategy Deployment associated with Hoshin Kanri. Projects are defined in this methodology that are perfect for applying the Lean Six Sigma processes for their accomplishment. Since, through this methodology, projects are tied to overall organizational objective, it leads to a more corporate focus on the projects.

Achieving goals requires a disciplined effort with Lean Six Sigma at the heart. Unfortunately, some organizations that did embrace Lean Six Sigma for the enterprise were unable to sustain it.

There a couple of reasons that might be considered. First, is the goal setting process. To set good goals for the organization is takes a couple of good brainstorming sessions with Senior Management. Since their attention span is usually short, it can be structured to be short and sweet. One brainstorming exercise has them filling in the a blank. “We must do xyz.”

Examples of expressions in the blank are: be profitable, satisfy customers. This helps to get the critical success factors (CSFs) identified. They must be measurable with means for tracking them. The next activity is getting key processes defined with simple verb-noun expressions; e.g., ship goods. This gives a high level list of key processes very quickly. By combining the impact of key processes on critical success factors, one can see where goals need to be created.(1)

The second area of concern for why a Lean Six Sigma system may not be sustainable is that the organization separated Lean and Six Sigma into two mutually exclusive activities. When an organization realizes that their needs to be streamlining then a Lean approach is beneficial. There is one caution. Some organizations get so enamored with 5S and the “drumbeat” of moving product through that they begin to be, as Dr. Deming would say, “internally focused”. In their effort to accomplish 5S they remove scrap on a regular basis to maintain order, but forget to measure it.

Data collection can be overlooked in an effort to maintain order on the shop floor. Six Sigma tools for obtaining data and analyzing it need to be done in combination with Lean; especially external data from customers.

Some organization set up elaborate systems for moving work through the process, but the lack of data and analysis which can allow product, that may not be acceptable to customers, to move through at a “wonderful pace”.

As Lean Six Sigma moves farther into the 21st Century, the availability of technology helps Lean Six Sigma professionals get access to more data via data warehouses and data bases. Accompanying this is the availability of more advanced analytical tools.

The Lean Six Sigma professional is no longer restricted to a limited amount of data and the tools that handle it. PC’s can be linked to servers where the Big Data resides. The lack of scalability of traditional PC methods is no longer an obstacle. Having said that, there are two new obstacles that need to be addressed. The first is ensuring that IT organizations provide access and formatting of the data for analysis and second, is having good analytical software to perform data analysis.

Lean Six Sigma professionals meet together to share knowledge, experiences and expanded networks to advance Lean Six Sigma further into the fabric of organizations and make it permanent. This interaction helps all involved to see what goals can be set for themselves individually, collectively for them and their Six Sigma colleagues (should they not be the lone person working on Lean Six Sigma) as well as expanding their influence with the organization to accomplish corporate goals.

The certification process helps individuals learn the tools and professional meetings give an opportunity to learn from more experienced colleagues as well as networking to share best practices. This includes learning new methods such as advanced analytics, big data and using available technology.

A key role that Lean Six Sigma professionals can provide is in the selection of the best analytical software and tools. With their knowledge of methods, they can evaluate analytical products for the most value to the organization.

There are a couple key things to keep in mind. During the evaluation process, consider three things:

1) Make sure that the vendor is not trying sell an overkill of software. Some software companies “bundle” a lot of algorithms into a pretty package that dazzles people in the organization who are not analytics experts. Be sure that it is not overloaded with more than would ever be used by data analysts,

2) Look to see if the software is over complicated. If the IT department that you work with can’t install and configure it easily, then it may be so complicated that running it later would require significant resources. This only leads to resentment by the IT department for needing to do the “care and feeding” of the analytical package.

3) Look at the price tag. If it includes more than what is needed and requires paying for installation and configuring then do some comparison shopping to avoid purchasing a product that is overpriced.

Lean Six Sigma, when applied to high priority goals, is one of the most valuable methods for an organization. The Lean Six Sigma professional can not only lead value adding projects, but also influence other activities in the organization. The Lean Six Sigma professional in combination with the quality professionals of an organization have the most knowledge for helping to meet important goals.

1) Duarte, J. E., "Policy Deployment: Planning Methods That Get Results", Canadian Management Accountants Magazine, May 1993. (Reprinted in Continuous Journey, March 1994)




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