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Making Gingerbread Houses, “The Lean Way”

Posted on December 15, 2014 by

With it being the Festive Season, most people are busy baking, shopping and wrapping presents. This year we decided to make Gingerbread Houses for our clients.

You would think that it would be no big deal right? Watch what happens.

Sun Tzu, Statistics and The Art of War for Lean Six Sigma Executives

Posted on November 27, 2014 by

Warfare is one of the more common events in the history of man. Because of its importance to survival, warfare has been studied carefully. The factors that contribute to success in war are fairly well understood.

Fundamentally, success in war, as well as in business is based on leadership. Other factors such as information, preparation, organisation, communication, motivation and execution also contribute to success, but the effectiveness of these factors is entirely determined by the quality of leadership provided.

According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher. To achieve success, you must manage information. Sun Tzu says that information, or the lack of it, determines the probability of success. According to him, if sufficient reliable information is available, victory is certain. Likewise, in business, you gather information to make good decisions. Information is the lifeblood of business. The best information comes from firsthand experience. Sun Tzu strongly champions the use of agents and informants (stakeholders) to gather and transmit firsthand information.

Sun Tzu warns us about relying on “folk wisdom”. Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions and unwarranted speculation. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.

Most decisions made have an element of uncertainty. We simply cannot know everything. Even so, decisions must be made. Sun Tzu tells us to consider everything and make our decisions by weighing the potential for success. That is, Sun Tzu is telling us to assess the probability of success before acting. Modern managers have access to a number of simple, but powerful statistical techniques to assist them in quantifying uncertainty related to information. Lean Six Sigma is one such approach that can improve the quality of decisions.

Success on the information battlefield depends on knowing how to use statistics to make the right decisions.

Lean Six Sigma Training and National stereotypes, an interesting observation

Posted on November 22, 2014 by

From what we learn during Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt Training, there’s no Effect if there’s no Cause and it’s the same as saying, ‘There’s no smoke without a fire!’. It simply means nothing happens without a reason.

Lean Six Sigma Training national stereotypesStereotypes had to come from somewhere,  otherwise,  why do we have them? We tend to avoid discussing stereotypes. It’s not politically correct and we like to think we don’t adhere to them,  but if we’re honest, much of the time we do.

Stereotypes are dangerous.  They indicate fixed positions and they don’t allow room for Lean and Six Sigma thinking.

I recently delivered several 4 week Lean Six Sigma Black Belt courses with project work, for a multinational in the shipping industry. The location was 2 weeks in Copenhagen, 1 week in Rotterdam and the last week was in France.  The attendees were British, German, Scandinavian and French. Teams were a mixture of all nationalities.

As the training and team projects progressed, national traits became apparent. The Brits were weaker at data analysis, but great at brainstorming and just wanted to get on and try solutions.

The Germans and Scandinavians were very thorough with data analysis and following the steps, however could not easily adjust their solution as more facts became known later during solution mode which contradicted earlier assumptions and data. The Scandinavians took longer convincing but very dedicated once engaged. The Norwegians found the concept of “Efficiency”, difficult to grasp as there isn’t such a term in the Norwegian language.

The French were great at documenting the process at the end to ensure good follow through when handing over to the process stakeholders. Also the French site insisted all course attendees stop every day for one hour for a multi-course lunch with wine. The previous trainer was American and apparently couldn’t get used to accommodating the cultural differences, and had no patience for the French lunch breaks.

The team that had the best result was the one where they recognized the strengths of the different team members and had them lead at different stages of the project. Some teams, however, got stuck at data analysis stage and couldn’t move on to take action, or took too long to make a decision. Then other teams rushed the data analysis and didn’t necessarily get a good solution in place, or the handover was sloppy to the key stakeholders in the organisation.

Very interesting experience.

National traits and characteristics do exist. And we all display them at times. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t individuals, or that we don’t have choices about how we behave.  Making a generalisation about a cultural trait allows you to say it exists but not everyone displays it.

Establishing that it does exist simply helps explain certain cultural behaviours. One feature of cross cultural training is identifying where these stereotypes and generalisations are and aren’t helpful in a learning environment.

Stereotypes aren’t always bad!

Which stereotypes – negative and positive – are true or less true of your own country?

Lean Six Sigma Training, Top 10 Criticisms

Posted on November 20, 2014 by

Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Training is often criticized. Good management is about making choices, so a decision not to do something should be analysed as closely as a decision to do something. When considering the decision to invest in Lean Six Sigma training, a sponsoring organization needs to overcome the following;

Top 10 Criticisms

1) We don’t manufacture anything!

2) Isn’t this another “flavor of the month” business initiative?

3) We’ve already done this!

4) We’re different!

5) We’re too busy!

6) We don’t have the money!!!!!

7) We don’t have processes!

8) It’ll never work here, these terms Green Belt and Yellow Belt.

9) Our processes only happen “on demand”

10) We’re not broke; we don’t need fixing!!!!

Lean Six Sigma is NOT…

Another management program …… It is about learning and implementing the methodology and skills to address and correct problems.

A justification for buying new equipment, spending more money, or hiring/firing people ……. It does require supervisors, managers and leaders to make good decisions.

A substitute for good leadership ……. It is a low-cost approach to identify and implement appropriate changes to meet specific goals.

A one size fits all solution ……… It is a scalable colloborative process to capture, prioritize and address all concerns of customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

To conclude, Lean Six Sigma is not just a set of tools and techniques, more than anything it’s a mindset and an attitude which requires top down leadership and visible support as a matter of course. Until this critical success factor is realized most efforts will be limited to ad-hoc improvements  and fail to realize the benefits initially envisaged.

The following quote captures this point succinctly.

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof”.

~John Kenneth Galbraith

Merging of Lean and Six Sigma- The principal correlations

Posted on October 27, 2014 by

These days, it isn’t enough for a company merely to cut costs.

The only three fundamentals in operational excellence are to deliver what the customer wants (On-Quality), when they want it (On-Time) at a cost that yields you a profit (On-Cost). It’s easy to improve any one of the three to the detriment of the other two. For example, many programs start with the objective to reduce cost but while they achieve this short-term objective, delivery and quality performance suffers – in other words the initiative has failed to achieve a net gain.

Enter Lean, a concept that designs, manufactures, delivers and supports products and services more efficiently and at lower costs — while systematically identifying and eliminating waste — all the way through the product life cycle. It uses a “just-in-time” system that gives internal and external customers what they want, when they want it, and at the lowest possible cost. The five principles of Lean are a set of leadership and decision making principles that define excellence: Customer Value, Value Stream, Flow, Pull and Perfection.

Six Sigma compliments this methodology, focusing on driving to perfection all business, technical and operational processes and results. It encompasses defect prevention, variation reduction and mistake proofing through the use of data driven tools.

The merging of these two methodologies provides a robust data driven approach to driving On Time (LEAN), On Quality (DMAIC) and On Cost (Net Gains).

Interested? For more insight and knowledge access the Game Change Open Access Knowledge Forum for case studies, tools, templates, free downloads and more.