Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Concept of "Process Entitlement" Drives Record Performance

During Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training, we introduce the concept of "process entitlement" as a way to drive record performance. Using a simple process simulation with building blocks to make pyramids, we lead a class discussion on what level of performance would be possible if the process was perfect. Perfect is defined as no waste, no variation, no constraints, etc. Collectively, we arrive at a general consensus of the natural physical limits of the process -- the maximum number of pyramids that could be constructed in a 5 minute production period. Then we steer the discussion toward the topic of, "What would have to be different to produce at a rate equivalent to the natural physical limit?" At some point during this discussion, we challenge the students with concepts such as Takt time and process metrics. Then, we reveal the current world record and set production goals somewhere above the current record and the maximum number possible. The record seems to inch higher with every new class and currently stands at 74 (with a competitor team in the same class producing 73).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Trained With An Expectation of Project Work

In November, we added 26 newly trained green belts to the program. All students entered the training with the expectation that they would follow through and complete two green belt projects to complete green belt certification. In theory, that should mean that 52 green belt projects will flow out of this one green belt class.

In reality, only about 40 percent of the students (10 of the 26, in this case) historically follow through to complete projects. Some of the reason for the project deficit are (1) the rotational nature of our workforce (i.e., green belts move on to new assignments before completing projects), (2) our "bottom up" deployment strategy that relies on green belts to generate project areas, and (3) our strategy of conducting projects with collateral duty green belts (i.e., project work is voluntary extra duty).

Monday, October 20, 2014

MAES Workshop at the 40th Annual Symposium

I recently presented an overview of Lean Six Sigma to a group of engineering professionals and students at the 40th Annual MAES Symposium in San Diego. Our Creative shop put together a nice posterboard to put on the eisel outside the event.
The idea was to promote attendance at the event by the symposium attendees.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When to Take Credit for Improvements?

From August of 2012 through August of 2014, we initiated 50 projects in our relatively modest Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) program. Some of those projects resulted in significant improvements and big financial savings. Some resulted in marginal improvements. And a few had no impact, were never completed, or were cancelled. However, every single one of the 50 projects had collateral benefits and training value to the organization.

By collateral benefits, I mean three types of improvements that are not typically attributed to a CPI program.
1. The first type of improvements are undocumented changes that result from focus on a problem. Whenever I initiate a project and start asking questions about data availability, the process changes for the better. It happens every time. Scrutiny of a process leads to undocumented process improvements.

2. The second type of improvements are documented changes that are not called CPI. These improvements would not have happened if the CPI program did not exist, but no one seems to acknowledge the connection. Changes in a focal process always generate collateral changes in related processes -- often without the need for a follow-on project to drive the change.

3. The third type of improvements are changes that are generated using CPI tools but not part of a formal project. The covert CPI program, at least in my present circumstances, is often a more powerful tool than the overt program. As individuals internalize the principles of CPI, these tools become second nature, and documenting improvements as formal CPI projects become less likely.

As a CPI program manager, I could legitimately credit my program with all of the improvements. Such a stance might be considered an attempt to steal credit that rightfully belongs to other efforts. I could chase some of the collateral benefits and attempt to formally document them as CPI-driven improvements. Such an approach might be perceived as a desperate attempt to make my program seem relevant. Another approach would be to only take credit for improvements that are formally documented in CPI-related projects. Of course, that method would grossly underestimate the value of the CPI program to the organization.

When should a CPI program take credit for improvements? It is hard to offer a definitive answer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's In A Record?: Improved Statapult Performance

We had a stellar Green Belt class last week. We set a new world record for accurate ping pong balls shot with a catapult in 5 minutes. Team Cinco Amigos (pictured here) hit 210 of 233 shots, breaking the old record of 198 hits. However, the overall profit title went to Team Bombs-R-Us, and the overall yield title went to Team Acme Missiles with 98.4 percent accuracy (3.7 Sigma quality). Team Dead Eye was a honorable mention for also breaking the old world record with 201 of 212 shots. Everyone got A's for the day.

Although Cinco Amigos produced the most hits, they also produced 10% waste and finished behind some of the other teams in other performance areas. The cross-team comparison made me rethink how I emphasize the various instructional points in the curriculum. Because I used the idea of breaking the old world record to introduce the concept of process entitlement, I think I may have encouraged the teams to focus exclusively on productivity measures to the exclusion of quality -- not exactly my intention.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lean Six Sigma Is A Knowledge Management Technique

Building Organizational IntelligenceBuilding Organizational Intelligence by Jay Liebowitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

View all my reviews "Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating value from an organization's intangible assets" - Jay Liebowitz

"Knowledge is information with a process applied to it" - Jay Liebowitz
"Many organizations are drowning in information and starving for knowledge" - Jay Liebowitz

I never thought of lean six sigma as a knowledge management technique until know. After reading Liebowitz's introductory chapters, I have a little insight into the overlap and connections between the allied disciplines. I didn't really enjoy the book -- I thought it was light on useful content -- but it definitely made me think.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How to Measure Organizational Learning

One of my tasks at work recently was to measure organizational learning. "How would I know if my organization is a learning organization," I wondered?

Training activity seemed to be the most common answer. The logic is easy to refute when simply stated: If we offer a lot of training opportunities and a lot of people attend, then we must be a learning organization.
The evidence of individual learning is a change in behavior, or at least a change in the behavioral options available. But how does that translate to the organizational level?

With just a little bit of background reading (thank you Peter Senge), I came up with a tentative checklist. It still needs some refinement, but here it is:

1. Does the organization have a shared vision; does everyone know what it is and how their actions support it?
2. Is personal mastery expected; are learning and growth required of individuals in the organization?
3. Does the organization utilized team-based approaches to learning such as cross-functional teams?
4. Does the organization reflect on Mental Models and Culture and make attempts to adapt these to achieve better results?
5. Does the organization consider the whole System when making decisions; are second and third order effects considered routinely?
6. Does the organization exhibit an effort to adapt to changes in the environment? Are these efforts proactive or reactive?
7. Does the organization use systematic problem identification and problem solving techniques?
8. Does the organization have systems in place to detect and correct errors and mistakes?
9. Does the organization make deliberate efforts to expand its capacity to create results in the future?