By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th April 2016
We’ve had a bit of a focus on Lean and Six Sigma in recent months, so it seems appropriate to make this a feature of today’s newsletter, especially as the last time we covered this topic was back in 2011 in Ten Top Tips for Successful Lean and Six Sigma Implementation – RiverRhee Consulting – February 2011.
The focus of our previous newsletter on Lean and Six Sigma was on how to ensure successful implementation – and so this had to do a lot with managing change.
The current newsletter will highlight aspects of the principles and methodology that are resonating most with delegates on our one-day Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma, and our modular ‘Green Belt’ course for more expert practitioners. (There is more information on our Lean Sigma training on the RiverRhee website.) I will use the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) framework as the context for this.
Engage with your customers to define your goals and your approach
We are often so focused on HOW we are doing our work that we forget WHY we are doing it. At the end of the day, our business, and our teams only exist because we are delivering something to our customers, be they colleagues in another department, or the ultimate buyers or users of our services. We generally think we know what our customers want from us, from the result of marketing surveys, or from the occasional feedback that we get. But do we really know? Lean and Six Sigma has many useful tools to help us truly understand our customers’ requirements, and hence what our goals should be and how we might arrive at them.
There is nothing like real measures to give you insights on what can be improved
Just as we think we know where the problems are in our work, perception will only take us so far and may be mis-guided. Lean and Six Sigma teaches us how to follow the process: to monitor exactly what’s happening and gather data to give us baselines and targets for improvement. These data are also invaluable in our communications with senior managers, colleagues, suppliers and customers when we need to influence them to support us in the changes that we want to make.
It’s surprising how powerful analysis and the resultant root causes can be for finding effective solutions to problems
I share a simple story about the Jefferson Memorial Building to help delegates understand the power of root cause analysis.
We know that the most effective treatment of diseases will always be to tackle the causes rather than the symptoms. It’s the same with the problems we encounter in our work. Taking time to analyse our problems will enable us to find the most effective solutions. In the long term this approach will help us to make time so that we can engage the talent and creativity of our staff in innovation rather than fire-fighting.
Being open to new, and not necessarily obvious ideas for improvement can yield interesting results
All of our training courses are interactive and centred around the actual challenges and day-to-day work of our delegates. When they are exploring ideas for addressing the root causes of their problems, I encourage them to have lots of fun with this. Anything goes! It’s often something among the last few ideas, sometimes from people who are not even directly involved in their work, that turns out to be the ‘winning’ solution.
Follow-through on the impact of the solutions through the control phase is invaluable
The last phase of DMAIC is the control phase. This is where delegates are encouraged to monitor the impact of their improvements and to what extent they have delivered the anticipated benefits. Again, it is this kind of measurement that will provide the information on return on investment that may be important for senior managers. Results also provide the compelling stories to share with others who might be considering whether or not to adopt this way of working.
Forthcoming courses and other news
Our next one-day “Introduction to Lean and Six Sigma” will be on the 10th May. Do get in touch to book a place or for more information on this or our tailored modular “Green Belt” course for more expert practitioners. There is also more information available on our Lean Sigma training on the RiverRhee website
I am also delighted to announce that John Hicks has joined our RiverRhee Associate team, bringing invaluable coaching skills to support our work with new managers.
If you’d like to find out more
More information on the workbooks referenced in this newsletter and how to order your own copy can be found on the RiverRhee Publishing page.
Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams. See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.