Archive for June, 2012

Foundation Process Skills and Tools – Spread the Word

June 21st, 2012 Comments off

Today’s post is a little different in that instead of just providing some insight or idea that we hope you find useful, I’m going to ask for your help. But first a little background.

In just a matter of days, we will celebrate the beginning of our fifteenth year as Six Sigma Qualtec. While we go back over 25 years as Qualtec Quality Services, we became Six Sigma Qualtec when we acquired Six Sigma capabilities in 1998.  Since then we were at the forefront of the development of enterprise deployment models with different belts for different demographic groups, industry specific curriculum, integration of lean and customization for service and transactional environments.  And a constant mission through it all has been the transfer of knowledge.

As we look forward, we are amazed by what was spawned by those early days in our small niche of the business community.  The most startling aspect is how it’s really not so small anymore.  There are now thousands upon thousands of disciples of the practices with which we began years ago.  Imagine there are over 5,000 subscribers like you to our blog!  Yet we are also cognizant of how much further it can go.

Basic, foundation skills in process management and problem solving are still in high demand. Companies continue to look for ways to drive this widely applicable skillset as broadly as possible,  in the hopes of improving customer’s experience and productivity.

We believe that is really the next frontier … to expand the foundation knowledge so it’s part of everyday work for everyone …  a way of thinking.  And we know we, as individual teachers, can’t reach that broadly visiting facility by facility.  Our contribution to this next phase is to contribute our approaches, materials, tools, and methodologies.  That’s already been the case for many years with our Master Black Belt programs, but the knowledge that needs to be in everyone’s hands isn’t of the depth and intricacy of a Master Black Belt.  It’s about the fundamentals, the things that can be used every day.

So it is to the broad distribution of fundamental knowledge, especially in the services industries where process thinking is in high demand and can have significant impact, to which we will devote ourselves as we enter our fifteenth year of operations.  Our mission will become increasingly about empowering and supporting your ability to spread the word and teach the discipline in an effective way.  So be on the lookout for how we will do this with new materials and tools as we rededicate ourselves to changing the way business is conducted to make our clients successful.

Tell us about your training/skills needs

We always try to provide something of value to our subscribers in every post we make, and will continue to do so.  Now, we’re asking for your input.  If you have specific ideas or see specific needs in your organization, please take a moment to tell us about it.  It will help us tailor our content to what you really need to make a difference in your organization.  Thank you in advance for your help!

Ziggy Stardust: The Ultimate Continuous Improvement Professional Managing Change

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

Time may trace me but I can’t trace time – Changes…released as a single in 1972.

As I pull the vinyl out of the attic box marked 1972, a year marked by Watergate, anti-war demonstrations and Mark Spitz’s gold medal run at a terrorist marred Olympics, I realize we are in a time of tremendous societal change.  In the world of commerce, businesses have posted incredible productivity gains during the last five years which should be followed by hiring.  Yet payrolls remain muted due to concern about what is next.  So companies are left to find new ways to produce goods and services, meet customer demand and still have a healthy workforce.

To successfully lead our organizations through that change, it is good to remind ourselves of change principles because it isn’t just technical skills that produce success.  In fact, anyone who has lead any initiative in an organization understands that without the elements of change, no amount of technical skills can get us to the promised land.

So, let’s think about the key principles of change –

  • First and foremost, authentic, committed leadership throughout the duration of the initiative is essential.
  • There must be compelling reasons to change, that resonate not just for the leadership team, but that will appeal to all stakeholders.
  • Leadership must articulate a clear and legitimate vision of the world after the change initiative.  The vision must be widely understood and shared.
  • With the foundation pieces in place, leverage the “early adopters” where there is low resistance and from whom to learn from mistakes with a forgiving partner.
  • Leverage early wins by taking what you learned with your early adopters to the broader organization.  Integrate with competing, initiatives.
  • Set benchmarks, measure progress and celebrate wins.
  • Identify the systems that influence the desired change and modify them support (and not fight) the desired change.

Remember that continuous improvement is about continuous change.  Facilitating the ability to change is critical.  Focusing on technical skills without addressing the foundational elements of change won’t yield any progress.  It’s not that it is only half right.  Technical and cultural capabilities work together and, if either is missing, progress isn’t possible.

If you’d like to discuss any of these topics, please feel free to contact me.

Selecting the Right Projects…Not too Hot but Not too Cold…Just Right

June 1st, 2012 Comments off

Right fit project selection and definitionWe all know the story of Goldilocks who product tested the food and furniture of her neighboring bear population.  By trial and error, she bounced from too hat and large to too cold and small until she found “just right”.

Organizations go through the same process in finding what is right for their performance improvement initiatives.  Projects are sometimes so small that they aren’t worth management’s attention. And sometimes they are so large and complex that they can’t be supported by the available resources time and knowledge. And so the organization bounces from guardrail to guardrail trying to find the right level of effort, capability and results which in and of itself is a waste of time and effort.

So how do you get it right and bypass the time and effort?  How do you pick projects that fit your organizations goals?

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 an Executive Brief that describes a framework for operational governance that can help you drive real value (ROI) from your performance improvement efforts

We have written extensively about project selection.  We talk about North to South alignment from Dashboards to Improvement efforts.  People have reviewed our recommended path and said “I get it…I believe that process does align the efforts to the strategic goals…but the projects are still not right…how do we get it right?”

The answer is in defining “right”.  And a big part of the effort to define it is to be honest with yourself and your team.  As an example, if you are focused on productivity, don’t pretend otherwise by talking about innovation or the satisfaction of other stakeholders than the business.  And if you want long term growth, face the conflict with short term capital constraints.

Mechanically, where in our recommended roadmap does that mirror get held up?  It’s in the rankings and rating of projects.  Regardless of your priorities, you’ll always develop a project list by moving from the creation of a dashboard to conversion of those metrics to Critical to Stakeholder Requirements to process metrics within a Value Stream Map.  Performance gaps relative to those metrics produce the project list.

It is then that the honesty begins.  As you create criteria, they must be weighted and it is those weightings that determine which projects rise to the top. And it is the depth to which you drive those project definitions that determine the level of their impact.  You can steer the efforts to a few big, breakthrough projects or too many small incremental projects.

But continue to be honest with yourself –those big, high level breakthrough projects are often gnarly and require real enterprise wide capability and focus.  And for those many, small projects to cumulatively have a strategic impact your organization will require a long term vision and fundamental cultural change.

Our Roadmap to Operational Excellence is a practical approach to improving whatever you seek to drive whether it’s your personal golf scores and weight loss or your company’s customer satisfaction and cash flow.  You set measures for targets, understand how you get there, identify how you’re doing and target to improve your lowest performing activities.  But a big assumption is that you all agree on what you want and are honest about it with yourselves and the team including an assessment of your capabilities. Get your rankings right and using the framework for improvement, you’ll progress.

If you want to talk more about Project Selection or our Roadmap to Operational Excellence please contact me at

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