Archives for category: six sigma

My family and I love to go fishing. Most of our weekends are spent fishing somewhere as well as our vacations. We normally go for whatever is available in the ocean, lake or river. Sometimes bass, sometimes walleye or trout or blue fish. We do catch and release fishing so others can enjoy the experience as well. I get several people offering me new techniques and lures to catch the big one. I just like fishing but I do try some of the lures. Below is an image of some of the different types lures.

Frogs for lily pads. Crank baits, spinner baits, rooster tails, shad raps which are not pictured below and others that are used in specific conditions. It is amazing how many options there are. And this is just for bass let alone saltwater blue fish or drum or any other species. With these lures comes the technique to use them. Some you just crank them in, some you just float and have them “hop” on the top of the water, some you let them sink and crank a turn and then repeat. Are these techniques and lures statistically significant in catching fish? I don’t know but I am working with others on that question. One thing I do know is that it gets you into the store and gives you options on the water when what you are currently using is not working.

Bass Fishing Lures

 

Then there is catfish. I am sure there is just as much variation and subtleties to catfish fishing as there is to bass or any other species. What I will say, in my families experience, is that a bass hook, a 1/2 to 1 ounce sinker and a hot dog will bust you some serious hogs!

Hot Dogs

We have caught catfish in several lakes and ponds with this “rig” and have never needed to go back to the bait tackle store for something else. We just go to the local grocery store and buy the doggers. We usually by double so that we can eat some over the fire after the fishing day is done.

I have friends and family that have been fishing for decades longer than I have and have all the experience needed to bring in what ever fish they want to catch. What I find interesting is that when someone gives me the inside scoop on a lure / technique combination and they give me some bright lure with an instruction manual ala Ikea, I feel funny handing over an 8 pack of Ball Park Franks and telling them just drop them on the bottom and relax until they hit. But whether they are impressed or not, it works. That’s what I find sometimes when I am working on a project that I could have some great tools that wows the crowd during a presentation and show them how smart the team is but I would rather just show them how easy it can be to accomplish their goals. Sometimes it takes ANOVA analysis to get to the bottom of an issue. Sometimes it takes going out into the field and watching the process and giving some suggestions or using what the employee feels as pain points to resolve and issue. Just because you have the statistical hammer doesn’t mean everything has to be a complicated nail.

 

 

 

Scary meetings come in various flavors. The ones I remember most are the ones that I am not prepared for, the other team members aren’t prepared for and the ones that nothing gets done

The meetings I have not been prepared for come in two varieties. The ones that I am invited to but have very little pre-work or information. In this case I try to ask questions that get me up to speed. I also search the room for the dynamics of the team. The other ones are the ones that I should have done the pre-work and didn’t. In that case, I still try to get more information and also a little more time. This is very uncomfortable and because of this, I try not to get into this position.

When there are meetings that the rest of the team is underprepared, I reiterate what the meeting was for and find out when they will have the information. After knowing this and acknowledging the miss we had on this meeting and set up the next one. If this happens twice, I should be moving up the chain but I usually wallow for another meeting or two before I bring in someone else. This is probably my pride getting in the way of progress.

The worst one is the one that after an hour and a half nothing is decided, there is no insight into the deeper issues, and nothing is resolved. This happens when it is not clear on what the purpose of the meeting is and there should not be any FYI meetings.

For all the bad press, I have been in good meetings and led a few as well. The scary meeting are usually caused by no clear agenda, unprepared participants and vague or no set goals.

 

From time to time I have worked with companies that bring in a team to work at a site and fix a process or productivity or just improve the performance. What I have found is that we rarely have the right team assembled. They have individuals with experience with the process and the company as well as solid knowledge of processes, management, and engineering. All good but not enough.

When going into a site to better understand and fix major issues, the first individuals to show up should be HR not Process engineers. This is because 80% of the time, the leadership has issues and engineers or continuous improvement professionals do not have the skill set to deal with these issues nor do they have the authority. This is first. The HR audit should drive the next step.

Step 2 is engineering. This is to ensure that the equipment and processes can perform what is being asked of the site. Engineering should be used to protect / improve the plant for the future. Even if this is their main role, there are still limits to what the engineering team can do in real time. This review of the site can determine what is possible, what is out of the site’s hands and what resources are needed if there is a gap.

The final step is bringing in the CI / process improvement team. From HR and Engineering perspective it will be very clear the role of the CI team, the scope and timing of the project and the goal of the intervention.

Though, I showed this sequentially, this could happen simultaneously. One other item that I did not mention is related to the corporate leadership that is bringing the team in. they have to be open to any direction that improves the overall performance and no pre-conceived notions about what is wrong and how to fix it. I have had teams that were undermined by a leadership that already had the answer or was unable to remove themselves from the root causes and solutions to the problems at the site.

The team approach to improve a site or process is definitely the way to go as long as it is the right time focused on the right issues with the freedom to fix and perform their role.

On a previous post, I mentioned that I couldn’t find a situation that Continuous Improvement didn’t help but I looked back at some of my notes from other companies and sites and did come up with one area where CI has limited impact. This is when there is a dysfunctional team running a site or process. I have run into these environments a few times and I think I need to be more specific when I mention a dysfunctional team. This is related to trust, leadership and ownership.

A trust issue is when process / site leadership does not trust the front employees or vice versa. This environment creates inefficiencies due to Auditing for “wrong” behavior, Stand up meetings turning to blame games and holding things back for both parties. I have seen this in union, non-union and “High Performance Work Teams” as well. This also turns supervisors and the middle team into a confused mess and ultimately short term employees

Leadership means that one will lead the team. The whole team. All the time. I have found the biggest issues around this are when the site / process leadership start thinking they are CEO’s instead of team leaders. This can be witnessed when leaders are in their offices instead of the processes. Meetings in conference rooms instead of production floors. Talk about why we can’t get something done instead of what can be done. It is subtle and sometimes needs outsiders to see how bad it is.

Ownership is that the team is together and knows that the team determines the results. The term team isn’t leadership or supervision or front line. It is and. This means the blame is shared just as much as the glory. It is recognizing individuals and turning that performance into subprocesses so that everyone can be a hero. It stops the excuses and supports standard work. If Tony fails, we all fail. It is the responsibility to state that Tony and John and Jenny all work together to find the one best way and they all do it the same way – Their way. Not managements way, not Tony’s way, the way.

In these type of environments, CI work can be very challenging and the basic ideas of 5S and standard work don’t have a foundation to work from. When I have been confronted with this type of environment my recommendation is to step back and reassess what the site or process really needs. That can be hard because it may be as simple as a mirror.

Are there areas where continuous improvement / Lean Six Sigma do not need to be used or shouldn’t be used?

What about a known solution? Is there no risk related to this change? Is everyone aware of the changes? Even if there is a known solution, if it crosses process owners and potential unintended consequences, it is wise to at least review the process, look at an FMEA, Change Management and Control plan.

What about CapEx or buying equipment? Would that need LSS help? Let me ask you, in your experience, how many of these projects have been on-budget, on-time, and SLA’s, service level agreements, are satisfied? I have found that is not the case. Early management, Risk assessment, Widening the options for what to purchase and when are all items that continuous improvement could help with. This doesn’t even include the CapEx process that most companies struggle with.

I started thinking about this idea based on the belief that there are some items and topics that continuous improvement. I now think that there is always a better way and that CI tools can help in any situation. I have had multiple discussions in the companies that I have worked with and almost all of them have had what they perceived as “A players.” They are very capable and smart and know their business but I have rarely seen one of these teams put together a project that produces better results or less unintended consequences than a good process. Great teams have a hard time beating a great process.

I will be the first one to say that I want to make a large improvement without any expense or capital. I have always stated that the requirements of money to improve a process is like hedging my bets. It is like saying Lean Six Sigma isn’t enough. I hate that idea and yet I find that without some kind of commitment from the leadership or organization, it is difficult to make the changes stick and change the culture. This investment comes in a few forms that I will explain below.

Resources. Though this rarely shows up as money, when chartering the process improvement or the scope and team, make sure you determine, to the best of your ability, who needs to be involved and, more importantly, how much time will they need to commit to on a weekly basis for this project to be successful. This will force the organization to free up the resources and take items off the teams plate for the duration of the project. Good stuff but that turns into dollars just like anything else.

SME Time. This is Subject Matter Experts time. This is the time needed for individuals in the organization that are not on the team but have real expertise in an item that is within scope and the team is lacking knowledge. This time, once again, can be hard to estimate but it must be done prior to the project kicking off. This is sometimes even more difficult to pull off for leadership or organization because the SME’s time is critical. The leadership will really have skin in the game if they do this as long as they carve out the time and make it flexible based on the project team’s needs. If the leadership states that the SME will have to “work it in” and not take anything off their plate because of the cost to the business you have your answer about their commitment.

Real $’s. Not that I want this to make process changes but doing this means a couple of items. The organization has committed to whatever the money is to ensure this will work. This is above and beyond the spend on your services if you are a consultant or contractor. This also means that the leadership has had a discussion about the needs of the organization and what they want out of the project.

In the end, I don’t want to money and resources to “help me” to improve the process. I want the money and resources to gage if the company is honest about what they want to do and have skin in the game during and after the event to make it stick.

There is an increase drive to eliminate reports in large organizations. So much time spent putting them together and who is looking at them let alone is there anything actionable being address or even triggered. It goes without saying that as systems gain the ability to track more, the more is usually noise not signal. I have been in meetings and discussions about rationalizing reports but I find that the discussion looks at quantity and who receives it. All good stuff but I think there are other questions that need to be asked.

What are the metrics and information that drive the business? This is a different question than do you use this report and, if so, what do you look at. Driving the business and the risks to that business are the only items that should be tracked. This type of discussion, across the organization, will create metrics that everyone shares and needs to be focused on. This takes longer and multiple parts of the organization need to be at the table but this will create a discussion and understanding across the organization. Total Landed Cost is one that can unite multiple parts of the team. This will create better meetings and better decisions across the supply chain. This will eliminate 50% of the reporting requirements and streamline discussions.

How much time and/or resources are required to generate these reports? This is better than discussing the number of reports or different types. This recognizes the fact that reports aren’t free and that making them “personalized” for each “leader” is a waste. How many times have you experienced someone stating that they focus on this set of metrics or I like mine in columns versus rows? Does the leader have to defend this to the wider organization? Do they work with their peers to find the format that works? Rarely. What work does this eliminate? This is a question I ask before I put together any report. If it is going to be business as usual, I recommend that the report does not get developed.

What are you going to do with the information? What is actionable? This is better than what do you do this report. So many reports are related to FYI reports or nice to know. I know there are reports that leaders think are actionable. “Johnny, this number stinks. Fix it.” That is not actionable. Actionable means that you having triggers that once they are reached, there are corrective actions and countermeasures as well as root cause analysis that need to set up to support the report.

The report problem needs to be solved but not by making them easier or doing fewer of them. You need to decide what is important, track it and develop improvements when needed.