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Making Six Sigma everyone’s cup of tea

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I was reading a very interesting take on why Six Sigma just isn’t sticky enough by Jay Arthur http://www.qualitydigest.com/inside/quality-insider-article/why-six-sigma-isn-t-sticky.html, where he starts by describing how books related to Six Sigma are stored on the bottom racks of book stores. I find this very interesting since this is also the case in most Sri Lankan book stores. One would expect however, things to be slightly different in the U.S, which afterall is the birth place of Six Sigma!

The whole concept of making Six Sigma ‘sticky’ hits close to home since this has been a considerable challenge in my experience too. Irrespective of the type of deployment model used department/business unit or enterprise wide, they all need some version of the famous ‘elevator speech’ made by Bill Smith of Motorola and a whole lot of perseverence, just to receive the ‘go ahead’ to introduce it in any company. But commencing a Lean Six Sigma programme is only half the battle, sustaining it is another story altogether.

In my experience, many people tend to have a perceived notion that Statistics is hard, do not fancy extended training sessions or the hassle of lengthy exams and in general simply want a ‘quick and easy’ solution, and who can blame them? The need of the hour is to strike a balance between making it overly stringent (and self gratuitous?) and making it seem less scary and more accessible. One way this could be achieved is to teach people how to use key statitical tests for analysis and problem solving outside the confines of ‘DMAIC’ (In fact, this deserves a whole new blog by istelf).

As for Six Sigma not being sticky, the fact that Six Sigma books are displayed in the Sri Lankan book stores (which are a pretty fair distance from the U.S) is a testament to its worldwide acceptance and popularity, even if they are only found on the bottom racks.

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“What does not get measured does not get done..”

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The statement ‘what gets measured gets done’ is a time tested truth. This is the foundation of any decent Performance Management mechanism in an organization, without which sub par performance is almost guaranteed. Since I am involved in Japanese 5S training, mentoring and implementation in my organization, much of my time is spent ensuring that there is a robust monitoring mechanism to ensure that new teachings get adopted and practices institutionalized.

That being said, all my effort is solely directed at my organization, while there is much to be desired when it comes to even a semblance of such principles being practiced at home! To a great extent, this might be attributed to the sheer lack of energy to teach such concepts such as Seiri and Seiton to one’s family members after a gruelling day at office, or it could simply be a case of apathy. Afterall, which one of us has any KPIs to adhere to in our homes?

Does Six Sigma kill innovation?

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A recent post on ZD Net which talks about how Geoff Nicholson who’s considered the ‘father of the Post-it note’ at 3M feels that Six Sigma nullifies innovation, caught my interest. He also goes on to say that they had tried to implement Six Sigma at the Product Conceptualization stage.

Now one does not often associate Six Sigma with innovation, but rather with improving what is already in place, so it is easy to just brush this aside as an example of the wrong use of a good tool. However, what also struck me was that Six Sigma, by design looks at aligning any improvement project with the company’s current strategy, however, it does not necessarily question its (the existing strategy’s) merits, it merely progressively drills down into the root causes of a problem using statistical tools and looks at innovative ways of resolving it; i.e. doing things better rather than doing different things. Six Sigma in my view, looks at continuous improvement through problem solving akin to the gradual perfection of the Porsche 911, as opposed to the development of the all new electric Hybrid Justin Bieber happened to get on his 18th birthday – The Fisker Karma.

So does Six Sigma kill innovation? Certainly not; however, it probably would not feature on the top of the list of tools one would choose to get their creative juices flowing either…

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The Innate Need for Improvement

The Innate Need for Improvement

As I sit here writing my first entry I look back at how my career and indeed my life has lead me to this point. From the time I can remember I have always been a person who could never be content ‘standing still’ in life, I had to be doing something that added value. It was almost as if standing still meant I was going backwards. Come to think of it, this need to improve and solve problems is a unique compulsion for our species as a whole. No other species has ever managed to improve its quality of life like we have, let alone within such a relatively short time. How far we have come from the hunter gatherer days.

In my early years in the Corporate world, I knew I wanted to improve the way business was done, but I didn’t possess the right tools nor the right amount of freedom to do so; that is until I was introduced to the remarkable power of Lean and Six Sigma.

Lean Six Sigma has opened my eyes to new ways of improving the way things are done, a new way of identifying waste & variation where we never realized it existed. This is a new lease of life for me, a trek towards continuous improvement like never before. Shigeo Shingo said “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we don’t recognize”, well I guess the only thing worse than that would be us not doing anything about it even when we have recognized it.

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