Let Your Business Define Your Improvement Program

February 7th, 2013 Comments off

Old Six Sigma Training ModelI remember all too well when companies would be told they needed to “be a Six Sigma company” and to do so they had to subscribe to a formula requiring strict percentages of their employee population be trained as Master Black Belts, Black Belts, Green Belts and Yellow Belts.  In addition, the definitions of the knowledge those people required was equally strictly enforced.  Companies were told achieving these goals would make them a Six Sigma company and being a Six Sigma company would make them successful with their customers and shareholders.

Anyone that lived through the last 15 years of evolution in the field of Operational Excellence can recognize the folly of this prescription.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious the program can’t dictate to the business.  And in all honesty, I don’t wish to pick on any singular subject area.  We’ve seen the same sin from many other philosophies and disciplines.  In the excitement generated by a successful new tool or compilation of tools, we tend to pursue the expertise ahead of resolution of our problems.

As we enter a new business cycle, let’s bring all our knowledge together and recalibrate how we choose to apply it by putting the problem or portfolio of problems first.  To avoid having a snazzy tool take over what we do each day, we recommend the following path;

  • Understand where you want to go.
  • Understand where you are…which has two aspects; (i) your level of performance and (ii) your ability to improve performance
  • Let the comparison between where you want to go and where you are currently performing define what you need to accomplish
  • Let the comparison between what you need to accomplish and your ability to improve dictate what new capability you need to acquire.

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 Our BPM Overview Presentation.

When you are finished outlining the steps above, you will see something quite different than formulaic curriculum and percentages of your population to be trained.  In fact, the solution will not appear simple or fast.  And therefore it will not be as appealing as the aforementioned formula or any other formula from the array of philosophies available in the profession.  The plan that emerges is a function of applying a series of decision rules more than simply measuring the ingredients of a recipe.

But think about the obvious logic of the outcome.  Your business isn’t simple.  If it were, everyone would do it.  If your business isn’t simple, how can a solution to your challenges be simple.  The complexity of the solution will match the complexity of the problem.

Pull-based Capability and TrainingSo how and where do you start?  How do you bring order to the chaos?  The answer lies in the definition of your projects, the identification of their root causes and in grouping them together by root cause so as to build a roadmap forward.  The complexity is in the selection and prioritization of projects. The simplification comes in executing on the projects.

I spoke to an executive at a company yesterday that described the old process as creating angst.   The word itself gives you heartburn.  When I asked him what gave rise to the angst, he responded that the discipline had been forced fit.  What can you say to such powerful words as those?

If those are the feelings the prior model drove, what do we strive for today?  We strive to “PULL” the required knowledge.  We believe anyone pursuing the path above should one day describe it using words such as choice and flexible.  The emotion we hope to see at the end is relief.  That is the new paradigm.

If participants should one day replace the words “Forced Fit” with “Choice” and “Flexibility” and the word “Angst” with “Relief”, what should we see at a business level?  Well, here are some key results that should be witnessed.

  • Faster returns.  While the long path is more complex, the milestones become simpler so measured returns should be faster. The simple formula of ten years ago is monolithic and so the returns can’t be measured for a long time.  In fact, the fallacy of the monolithic argument is partly hidden by the time spectrum as you are asked not to measure for months if not years.   (A key aspect of this is discussed in our recent article “Pay as you Go”).  Armada v. Drake's English fleet.
  • Organizational Traction.  Creating a ladder of success ensures Organizational Traction by producing “wins” and establishing a foundation of knowledge and capability to tackle tougher problems.  So many Performance Improvement strategies talk about resolving the big chronic problems.  But pursuing them right from the beginning is fraught with risk. And pursuing resolution to smaller problems with the tools you need to solve big problems takes too much time and effort which is wasteful for individuals and the organization.
  • Alignment.  If you adopt a Pull strategy, you can’t help but be aligned.  Your business defines your problems which in turn define your program.  As a result, your activities are ensured to be aligned to your business.  Leadership needs to see resources dedicated to the problems they are trying to resolve.  We are all living in an environment where we must do more with less.  There is no room for unaligned activities.  Pursuing a philosophy for its own sake is a luxury no company can afford.

We see this happening every day now.  Listening to the organization and being flexible produces more of the right gains faster than talking to the organization and forcing it to fit a prescription.  Individuals get more involved with something that produces relief instead of creating angst.  Pull is significantly more effective than Push.  Let the business needs and ability define the improvement program.

Contact me if you'd like to discuss this in more detail.

10 Steps to Implement Kaizen in a Service Organization

February 5th, 2013 Comments off

A key aspect of service organizations is the flow of information. In fact, a core process in any financial service organization is that information flow. There are many steps about which we have written on how to implement process improvement in service organizations. One of the most popular articles was “What About Lean in a Services Environment?”.

Lean, with its focus on identifying the Elements of Waste, is a powerful concept in a services organization.  This article is meant to drive down one step further into using Kaizen events to eliminate said waste.    But when it comes time to actually make improvement changes, Kaizen is one of the fastest and cumulatively most impactful activities a service organization can implement.

Download our Lean Quickstart Presentation

 Our Lean Quickstart Powerpoint Presentation

Kaizen (k-eye-Zin), defined by the Japanese as “continuous incremental improvement”, is a fast and furious implementation of continuous improvement activities designed to create radical and sudden changes in business processes. During a week of highly focused activity, a cross-functional, section specific team receives training on specific tools and techniques needed to analyze and improve a process immediately. There are 10 key steps to this process and they are:

1. Training – The key issue is to select a small group of individuals to be trained as mentors who will also be the key person to select the team members.
2. Project Selection – We have written extensively about the need for projects to be aligned. A few of the articles are “Let Your Business Define Your Performance Improvement Program” and “Business Process Management (BPM) = Robust Project Pipelines After the Low Hanging Fruit is Harvested“. But along with alignment, project selections should be cognizant of the impact the project will have on the specific area in which the project is to be conducted a well as any up or downstream effects.
3. Team Selection – The team must start with subject matter experts from the targeted process’ area. But it should also be cross-functional and include process owners, finance & admin personnel, IT personnel and anyone who has pertinent knowledge of the project process. These people should be open minded, willing to challenge the status quo and influential in the organization.
4. Value Stream Mapping – This is a hands-on technique utilizing flow charting and icons to analyze information flow in graphical form. The team will identify and compile all the specific elements necessary to bring a service from inception to delivery. The purpose is to understand the relationship between process steps and identify those areas most in need of improvement.
5. Process Mapping – The process map is more focused on one part of the oeverall process than the value stream map discussed above and provides more detail. When a team builds a process map it allows everyone to agree on the actual steps performed to produce the product or service. It’s a great tool for identifying non-value added process steps and reducing complexity.  This begins the team’s root cause analysis.
6. Developing Baseline Data – You must develop Primary Metrics to improve a process. In fact, it is the development of that Primary Metric that often leads to and is an indication of improvement.
7. Creating Spaghetti Charts – This is a visual diagram depicting the information, personnel, and document movement in a process, department or entire service organization. It is a great first step to eliminating waste in motion and conveyance.
8. Conducting Time Study Analysis – This tool is used to collect and verify cycle time data relative to an operation or process. This provides for careful study of each aspect of the process and continues to contribute to root cause analyis.
9. Developing Continuous Improvement – This is where the team records the changes to be implemented resulting from the analysis of collected data and brainstorming. The purpose is to identify improvements and their implementation.
10. Implementing Appropriate Changes – It seems all that is left is to implement the improvement. But along with implementation, the team should develop Control Plans so 30 to 60 days after implementation one can assess the impact of the process changes.

Download our Learning About Lean Executive Briefour Learning About Lean Executive Brief for a good overview of Lean

Lean in ServicesService organizations are unique in their reliance on people and information. Those two organizational elements are the service companies’ most valuable assets. One might say customer relationships are the most valuable asset but to a great extent, those relationships are entrusted to those people and organizationally captured through information. If you are part of a service organization team and looking to drive improvement FAST, then look at the aforementioned 11 steps to implement Kaizen in a service company.

If you would like to discuss case studies of organizations that have done this, then contact me.

OpEx Value Creation for Private Investors

February 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Last week I attended a conference hosted by the Wharton School of Business for Private Equity and Venture Capital investors.  At the conference, I attended a panel discussion on value creation.  Each of the panelists had a great point of view on how to drive value at private companies.  Private companies in private equity portfolios have unique aspects as they are under the governance of intelligent and demanding owners who have the flexibility to think in terms of either the short term or the long term as the opportunity presents.  And their ability to drive returns that are shared with management allows them to attract the best to pull on the oars with them.

The panel discussed many different means by which they’d driven value in the past. They talked about providing their portfolio companies access to best practices in the recruiting and development of human capital, the implementation of IT systems, the development of strategies to capitalize on market opportunities and, although certainly not desirable, the ability to change leadership when the situation merits.  I thought about these value creation strategies and what we could contribute to the discussion.

Undoubtedly, one of the most amazing accomplishments in our economy since the Great Recession has been corporations’ ability to drive continuous gains in productivity. This has been accomplished in many ways. Certainly, a great deal of the initial gains came by reducing headcount which isn’t the way anyone want to drive productivity.   But there was also the introduction of new technologies and innovation.

But along with all the above, one of the contributing factors has been constant process improvement and redesign.  We have seen and helped in so much of this.  We have a client, a distribution company, with whom we worked that posted 5% annual productivity improvements for five consecutive years.   Another client decreased their expenses by 10% in 18 months before settling into 3% annual gains without resorting to layoffs.  In many different industries, there are examples like this. And nearly all those companies have established OpEx programs as a standard management practice.

Exec Brief on OpEx ROI

Imagine the value created when you are able to reduce your expenses by 5% annually for each of the last five years.  Imagine the muscle tissue that company possesses which can then be applied to new products and/or services or integrating acquisitions.  Imagine the stability and predictability in their execution.   Take a look at my recent post on how strategy starts with operational excellence.  Imagine the strategic alternatives created when you become a low cost provider or can quickly change your production line to produce custom products.

I think what we do can be a tremendous value driver for any ownership. I think the sort of long term capability we drive can be some of the most desirable value a company can establish.    If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me.

10 Elements of Continuous Improvement Infrastructure

January 31st, 2013 2 comments

The dramatic changes of the Great Recession have left many starting over.  Continuous Improvement programs are being rebuilt, reconstituted and revitalized.  The people, knowledge and leadership are critical elements but an important lesson we learned over the last 15 years of helping our clients is that the success of a Continuous Improvement program is highly dependent on its infrastructure.   So whether you are staring over or just starting, very early in the deployment, you must implement the following:

  1. Launch Planning; Establish the schedules and activity tracking/reporting techniques
  2. Human Resource Guidelines; Establish competency models and participant selection, position and role descriptions, compensation, reporting relationships, career planning.
  3. Communication Plan; Create an overall message for the implementation.  Provide clear reason why the adoption of the program makes business sense by explaining how it aligns to the Company’s strategic vision and each individual’s success.
  4. Financial Guidelines and Responsibilities; Agree upon financial definitions, project forecasting requirements, methods of evaluation, realization tracking and reporting process. Agree how the financial arm of the organization will be involved.
  5. Project Selection and Prioritization Guidelines; Recognize and define criteria, project type categorizations, problem statement and objective criteria, targeted savings values, approval process, completion requirements that collectively are to be used to rank and rate projects.
  6. Establish a Project Pipeline; Go beyond selection, ranking and rating criteria to outline how ideas for new projects will be gathered, converted to projects, ranked, rated and assigned.  A pipeline of worthwhile projects is imperative to maintaining a program’s momentum.
  7. Project Tracking and Reporting; Organize report requirements, systems and initial reports.
  8. Information Technology Support; Software installations, computer needs, Intranet development, databases for final reports.
  9. Management Review; Ensure constant measurement, feedback, and reporting on key deployment metrics to all stakeholders to ensure deployment objectives are met.
  10. Commence and Maintain Executive Training; Whether you want to think of it as part of infrastructure or as a separate item for organizations that are ready, upfront executive training is imperative.  You can’t allow the CI program to be something to which leaders aren’t aware, engaged and committed.  The training should go beyond “overview” training.  It should layout executive’s responsibilities and how they are to engage.  It should also explain what benefits the executives will accrue – what is in it for them.  Make sure the training emphasizes the benefits of aligning improvement activities to their business goals – the things that really matter to the business.

Download our Lean Quickstart Presentation

 our latest executive brief, 10 Essential Do’s and Don’ts for a Six Sigma Deployment

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To date, we have discussed many things important to a CI initiative from good knowledge transfer methodology to project alignment.  But to attain real long term success, make sure you have a good infrastructure.  Think of it like the barrel of a gun.  It will ensure the program takes a straight line to its target.  If you would like to discuss how to build your infrastructure and ensure your program’s success, contact me.

What Can Yellow Belts Do … Really?

January 29th, 2013 Comments off

Yellow Belt TrainingAs a followup to my recent post titled Trained Yellow Belts Think Differently, I thought I would spend a little time talking about what yellow belts can actually DO.

In a traditional six sigma deployment, yellow belts play a critical role in supporting higher level black belt and green belt projects.  They are trained in the foundation of the DMAIC problem solving process and can speak the language of Six Sigma.  They can handle some of the lower level tasks of process mapping, data collection, setting up measurement systems, establishing and maintaining control systems , and may actually be subject matter experts. Basically, they allow the black belts and green belts to focus on the more complex analytical aspects of the project.  If yellow belts are used effectively, they can improve the productivity of black belts and green belts in a BIG way.

BUT, what can they do outside of supporting higher level belts?   What if you don’t even have higher level belts?  What can a yellow belt trained employee do for the organization?

Six Sigma purists might argue that Yellow Belts should not be trained, without Black Belts and Green Belts, and that their role is to support higher level belts.  I don’t agree with this at all.   Again, I have to hedge by saying that I’m talking about the level of capability that yellow belts trained by SSQ have (i.e. 4-5 days of training).   So, what can Mr. Yellow Belt do?

  • Characterize Processes.  Process mapping and characterization is a skill that should not be taken lightly.  All too often,  improvements are made to processes when we don’t know how the current process really operates, the current state.  These so-called improvements, in many cases, add unnecessary complexity and create more problems than they fixed.  We call this tampering and it is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  A great example of where process characterization is an invaluable skill is with large-scale enterprise software implementations.   It seems common sense that we should understand exactly how a process works before we try to systemize/automate with software, right?  How often is there really a focused effort to characterize and optimize processes?   I would argue not enough of the time and this is readily apparent in the big $’s spent on configuration, customization, tweaks, etc.
  • Establish/validate measurement systems. Yellow belts learn the basics of Six Sigma and its focus on using data to understand problems and get to the root cause.  The learn the basics of what makes a good measurement system, and what does not.    The can certainly help establish measurement and data collection systems that are actionable, and validate (or invalidate) existing ones.
  • Establish Process Control Systems.  This is a key yellow belt skillset and its importance should not be overlooked.  Yellow belts learn how to set up process control systems to assure that processes function as expected by the customer.  Spec limits are establish, as are response plans when an indicator goes out of control
  • Execute small scale improvement projects in their own areas.   Will they have the deep statistical analysis skills that well-trained green belts or black belts have?  No, they will not.  But they will have a solid problem solving foundation around DMAIC and they will have a working knowledge of the basic tools in D-M-A-I-C.  They know what a well scoped project looks like, they know the basic measure and analyze graphical tools, they know how to use a structured approach to select improvements, and they definitely know about process control systems.   Let’s not lose site of the fact that these basic tools will likely be sufficient to address a significant portion of the process problems you’ll face.

Some may think of Yellow Belts as team members, data collectors, or assistants to Black Belts.  I strongly question this view and think, in reality, a Yellow Belt’s role should be much deeper than that.  Yellow Belts practice a Process Management approach (control and manage processes using metrics and data) and can solve real business problems using basic, but proven, quality tools and a systematic approach.

Yellow belt skills are valuable at any level of the organization, from managers to the lowest level process operators, and the processes they improve are usually the ones they work in day in and day out.  Many years back the term daily process management was in vogue.  The term has certainly faded a bit, but it’s hard to argue against the value of actively managing and improving processes on a daily basis.

Contact me if you’d like to talk about how yellow belts might be able to help your organization.  And, if you haven’t already, download our yellow belt training manual to see for yourself the rich skillset a yellow belt acquires.

Michelangelo’s Principles of Design Thinking

January 27th, 2013 Comments off

Perfect Design?

Some time ago, I read an article about great art and artists.  The author recited a lengthy list of what constitutes great art.  As I read it, I thought about how his arguments applied to industrial design as easily as they did to the Renaissance.  Recently, I’ve been engaged on service design problems and I decided to write down as much as I could remember from the article as principles by which to work on these engagements.  Here are the principles I documented:

1. Simplicity of Design is Clarity of Purpose.  So often, I look at a product or service packed with functions or features and walk away without bothering to learn to use it.   You would think the default would be the simple version but when people try to get creative, they somehow feel packing more into an essay, a painting or a product makes it better.  It doesn’t   Often, it simply masks the work has no real purpose.

2. The Best Designs Can’t Be Improved Upon. Imagine a math proof with either a mistake or that is overly complex.  In time, it will be improved upon and erased from the text books.  Imagine doing something so well that you leave no room for improvement. Similarly, imagine designing a house or piece of equipment that is as comfortable or useful today as it was five hundred years ago.  Won’t it be as comfortable five hundred years from now?

3. Design Starts with Defining the Right Problem. Developing the right solution for the right problem are two design problems in one.  You are better off making sure you’ve properly defined the problem before working on a solution.  Imagine if Columbus had designed a ship capable of dealing with the end of the earth?  Obviously, Columbus redefined his problem.

4. Getting Design Right is Hard Even Though It Looks Easy.  This one is really important…especially when you juxtapose it with #1 above.  Sometimes you look at a product or service that has been elegantly designed and think – so simple, I could have done that.  Well, you probably couldn’t because it was really hard.  Imagine the simplicity of the light-bulb  yet it took Bell 1,000 attempts which he called “steps”.  Each failure is a step forward.  But there are many failures before there is success.  It is hard even if the final product is such a perfect answer that it appears to have been obvious.

5. Nature reflects the Greatest Designs.  Look around at nature.  It is especially well designed.  A trout is perfectly designed to thrive in a cold mountain stream feeding on a bustling colony of insects which in turn are perfectly designed to live between the rocks of the same stream.  Good designers copy nature.  And their work product is often described as “natural”.  One of nature’s more relaxing elements is symmetry and repetition.  Gardens are more peaceful when you don’t have one of everything but repeat patterns of colors and plants.  Isn’t there an amazing elegance to a DNA strand?

6. Treat All Your Designs as If They Were a Mistake…And You Knew It Would Be.  In other words, do it over because you’ll do it better.  In doing so, you’ll look for your mistakes and try to correct them.  That is the hard work part of it.  And since no one sees every iteration of your design, they think it was easy.  I think recognizing you can always do better is what is particularly scary about being a parent – there really isn’t a second chance.  And since you know you’ll make mistakes, you just hope your children will one day forgive you.

 

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7. A Great Design Can Be Really Scary.  More than likely, a great design so redefined the problem that the new solution won’t look anything like what current solutions look like today.  We can see today’s post-secondary education model is broken.  What will it look like in 20 years?  Would anyone in the ‘60’s have believed you if you told them that to get their news and information, they’d be reading digital content written by ordinary citizens in place of listening to Walter Cronkite?

8. To Design Well, Seek Collaboration…and Competition.  Something happens beyond ourselves when we are with each other.  It happens whether we are working together or competing.  Humans drive each other to excel.  That is why cities are so creatively vibrant. They explode with both collaboration and competition.  It is why you see two rivals push each other to excellence in sports…whether they are on the same or rival teams.  To design well, commune.

I hope my engagements yield great solutions for my clients.  I hope I help them see ways of satisfying their customers and stakeholders they’d never thought.  I hope these principles help me get them there.  Feel free to send me your’s.

Lean Management System – The Key to Sustainability

January 24th, 2013 2 comments

Lean Management System is the Key

Lean has wonderful elements.  Two important ones about which we have written on many occasions are that lean projects can be implemented quickly and the tools can be disseminated broadly within your employee population. The result is that you can get traction and a payback the organization can see and measure.  Every level of management and line personnel love those properties.

But like any sort of change initiative, it is still difficult to get true cultural change.  In other words, just because it can be more easily understood and applied more easily than say Six Sigma and the payback is shorter, doesn’t mean its guaranteed to be successful.  Implementation and sustainability are quite different. So how can it be done?

Well let’s first define how sustainability appears.  A lean culture of continuous improvement is characterized by:

  • Daily Application – Ability to apply the tools to improve operational performance on a daily basis
  • Proper Application – Knowledge of where to apply the tools, or a process for continuously refocusing on problems and opportunities.
  • Demonstrated Successes – Extensive knowledge of, and success with, the tools.

To achieve this, organizations need a change model.  It should be a structured process for achieving the discipline and focus needed for any successful change. This process is a Lean Management System, which doesn’t guarantee lean success, but build the foundation skills.

A lean management system is focused on work groups of five to ten people. It provides an integrated set of planning, measurement and problem solving tools to help the work group:

  • Focus on daily performance measurement and improvement
  • Improve effectiveness of supervisory communication
  • Solicit and evaluate employee improvement ideas
  • Assess lean status and define improvement objectives

A Lean Management System is meant to build the new “habits” necessary to develop a culture of continuous improvement with four key elements:

  1. Primary Visual Display (PVD) serves as a central communication point for a work group. The work group members themselves maintain performance metrics, schedules and improvement actions.
  2. Huddles of ten minutes in length which serve as a meeting place to review performance to date, communicate critical next steps, plan progress and solicit solutions to problems.
  3. Performance Metrics which are essential to instill the discipline necessary for standard work and other lean practices to be sustained.
  4. Kaizen Events structured to systematically collect and evaluate employee improvement.  Kaizen events provide a process to capture the ideas, evaluate them and ultimately implement them for operational improvement.

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A Lean Management System seeks to build new work habits.  And, like any new habit-building program, it must be practiced diligently until the new processes gradually become “business as usual.”  Day-to-day, hands-on coaching of work groups and team leaders is essential to ensure acceptance. Initially this is accomplished through process compliance, but ultimately through knowledgeable use of the tools.  And finally, through a deep enough understanding that you achieve process innovation.

A lean management system is focused on improving work group performance.  It is part of a broad-based lean deployment, not a substitute for value stream mapping, kaizen events and other methods to identify and implement lean improvements. Think of a lean management system as the glue that will hold lean improvements in place and gradually broaden the application of lean tools within your organization.
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A lean management system must be linked to higher-level operational management activities within an organization to ensure seamless communication of expectations, feedback on results and review of improvement ideas. As teams and organizations gain experience with a lean management system, work groups become more empowered and the freedom to act increases dramatically. A lean management system will help bind lean changes to the process and build lean thinking into the culture at the intact work group level. A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture.  A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture.  If you wish to discuss this post, feel free to contact me.

Business Process Management (BPM) – Process Stability as a Prerequisite to Process Improvement

January 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Stability Provides Predictability

After a long business cycle that saw the creation and expansion of performance improvement programs, we have undergone tremendous change that has forced every initiative at every company to re-evaluate its goals and validate its existence.  At some companies, continuous improvement has been repatriated to operations.  At others, it has mistakenly been eliminated and will undoubtedly have to reconstitute at a later date. And for a lucky few, economic changes are providing an opportunity to start for the first time or reorient their efforts to contribute to a new set of challenges.

Those that seek to prosper in the new normal get excited by the prospect of implementing or applying a responsive system that offers such promise. It is a pretty appealing prospect and there are a number of books that paint this picture as attainable using a variety of methodologies (i.e. Lean, Six Sigma, etc).  The challenge is that with all the turmoil of the last several years few have the infrastructure needed to really identify or sustain high value improvements, and this presents a major dilemma.

So, how can you overcome this dilemma? If you want to implement any improvement methodologies effectively, there are some pre-requisites must exist, possibly even before you attempt your first improvement project.  You can’t put an improvement in place if staff doesn’t follow standard work in a disciplined way – improvements rely on control to actualize the planned benefit.

The very arguments that support the exciting prospects of improvement methodologies often neglect to mention these issues, perhaps because they assume that the desire to improve makes you “ready”.   But sometimes that’s not the case and you must build a foundation before you try to put up the building.  The term that’s normally used for being “ready” is Basic Stability. It means that you can pretty much rely on your people and equipment to do what they are supposed to do, and you have a way (i.e. metrics) to verify.  Basic Stability usually involves establishing (or re-establishing) standard work processes and key process metrics.  Everything need not be perfect, but operations should repeat in a consistent manner or any change will soon be lost and thus the effort will prove to have been worthless.
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Download “BPM – A Structured Approach to Delivering Customer Value”

A good Business Process Management (BPM) program establishes the cornerstones of repeatability and thus Basic Stability.  Along with establishing alignment and cross-functional thinking, it  identifies and characterizes processes, identifies data sources, identifies key metrics, and provides for process analysis and control.  If this is in place, soon enough you will get to the place from which you can make those improvements and have them stick.

And, the good news is that establishing a foundation Business Process Management (BPM) does not have to be overly expensive or resource-consuming.  See more about our BPM approach with our complimentary power point download or contact me directly if you want to discuss.

Dr. King’s Words For Operational Excellence

January 20th, 2013 2 comments

Martin Luther King was a religious and political leader.  This is neither a religious nor political blog.  But work and morality are inextricably linked.  Consider Shakerism’s belief in efficiency and hard work. Think how Shaker furniture personifies their morality.  Their work methods were their ethics.  How you think about work is a moral issue.  What you produce is a reflection of your morals.  So arguably Operational Excellence, which is a system by which you work, reflects a set of ethics by which to express your morals about work.
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So with that framework in mind, on this day of celebration of his civil rights accomplishments, let us look at how Martin Luther King’s words address our work.

Excellence

“He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lives a great street-sweeper who did his job well’.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence”

“Whatever you life’s work is, do it well.  A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead and the unborn could do it no better.”

“Whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Change & Improvement

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”

Align Activities to Goals

Leadership

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”

Education & Thought

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than to have to think.”

There is morality in our work. There are ethics in how we accomplish it.  There is value in looking to how men and women the likes of Martin Luther King speak to morality and ethics including how their words reflect upon our work.  Please let me know your thoughts by contacting me.

Economically Delivering the Right Mix of Lean, Six Sigma and Business Process Management

January 17th, 2013 Comments off

The Right Mix

My colleagues and I have written about this subject from several angles I want to start bringing it togetter.  In my post On Demand Performance Improvement  and Lynn Monkelien’s, Senior Director of Enterprise Learning at the Apollo Group and SSQ guest blogger, post entitled Pull Learning in Business Process and Performance Improvement we discussed how to break the paradigm of training inefficiencies.  This was further supported in my white paper entitled On Demand Performance Improvemnt – Traditional Training Meets Social Media which is available on our website’s home page in the “spotlight” section.  Then my colleague, Eric Harris wrote Back to Basics where he introduced the various foundation aspects of Yellow Belt, Lean and Business Process Management.   Since then there have been numerous posts on each of these subjects.

Together we are all describing a new training paradigm that is emerging where with our clients we not only making better use of technology and social media standards but also of a contemporary and robust library of materials and broad capability of personnel to meet the contemporary needs of organizations.  Specifically, with so much pressure on costs and the limited availability of company personnel’s time, it’s not surprising that most companies are looking hard at how and what they delivery to their workforce.  The key is to define what is needed… nothing more and nothing less…in terms of both content and exposure.  And that is done by matching the depth of training to the problems the organization seeks to address and putting the information into the users hands in as many low cost forms as possible as close to the actual application as possible.

And here are some questions to ask when considering how to get the chosen information to the user:

* What sort of time is available from the targeted personnel? Can they spend a day in a classroom or is thier time limited to hours per day or per week? Will targeted candidates be in different locations or at one facility?

* Do you know exactly what thier problems require or will it evolve over time?

* Are they comfortable with technology and social media?

Overview of SIPOC & a 12-step process to build one

Here are some factors to consider when asking what training and coaching is needed:

* Are you addressing manufacturing, engineering or transactional processes?  In factories and laboratories where much of the improvement activity may focus on equipment, techniques such as Gauge R&R, Process Capability, Setup Reduction, Total Productive Maintenance and perhaps even Design of Experiments are invaluable.  But in transactional businesses, they can be substituted with more impactful subjects.

* Are you dealing with high-volume repetitive processes?  Much of the Lean training can be simplified and reduced if you are not.  Value Stream Mapping, for example, can be covered at a more general level.

* What is the objective and the environment?  Are you attempting to remove defects or reduce cycle time?  If you seek to reduce errors in a financial services company, the focus is on process analysis so Pareto Charts, Run Charts and the like, which are quick and easy to teach, become the focus.

The point is that you have choices.  You can follow a fairly standardized prescription for Lean Six Sigma training as described through the classic belt definitions or you can tailor your training to unique needs.  At the same time, you can perform standard instructor lead training or you can use various communication tools that leverage technologies and social media standards.

I have one note of caution –if you cut the content or instructor interaction too far, the price for the mistake doesn’t immediately show itself during the training.  Problems evidence themselves once the training is well underway or completed.  And the problems might be that projects get delayed, more coaching is needed to complete high value projects or certified candidates fail in follow-on projects.  The result is a general loss of confidence emerges for the whole process.  By the time you discover your mistake, the effort is deemed a failure.  We don’t say this to scare you into overbuying or overdesigning.  We believe the answer is to monitor the situation closely and maintain flexibility in both the training and support.  It is in this reaction time that modular content and flexible, technology enabled support tools and methods really make a difference.

If you would like to discuss this emerging model, contact me.