Most industries or service provider’s organizations think that the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology should be tailored to their particular processes, culture or company idiosyncrasies. The fact is that LSS is rather universal and can be applied to manufacturing industries that may include: high volume with low number of parts offered, high number of parts with low volume, chemical continuous processes, paper mills, insurance companies, Information Technology, banking industries and most recently to the healthcare industry.
Even pure manufacturing companies have many business processes that, in many cases, are the constraint operation. These business processes may include: purchasing, accounts payable/receivables, accounting, human resources, IT, etc. The fallacy is thinking that the only processes that need improvement are those related with manufacturing and thinking that business processes have little or no impact in improving quality, reducing lead time, lowering the cost or eliminating waste. I have experienced that business processes can have a much bigger impact on reducing cost or lead time than manufacturing processes.
I am a LSS instructor for Green and Black Belt and, one of the requirements for the GB/BB to get certified, is for the students to submit completed projects for certification. In addition I provide coaching to GB or BB to assess that the projects follow the Define, Measure, Analyze Improve and Control (DMAIC) methodology. While comparing manufacturing or business completed projects side by side, I have noticed that the projects are a mirror image and it is hard to differentiate them apart. Granted, certain LSS tools need to be modified to accommodate a particular industry or process. The main causes in a Fishbone diagram will be different between a business and manufacturing process and the same can be said about completing a Value Stream Map.
There are several elements that can affect the time to complete an Improvement Project (IP). The following is a partial list than can influence the time to finish a project:
As GB/BB concludes their training, they are assigned an IP that they would facilitate and take to fruition. Some belts think that Lean Six-Sigma (LSS) is about using as many tools as possible for each phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is where the coach can provide feedback on what tools make sense to use and provide a direction on the next steps.
The coach can also lead the facilitations of the first kaizen events and have the belts participate on the event, and learn from it, so that they can lead such event.
The coach does not need to be an expert on the process but needs to have a vast experience on the DMAIC or DFLSS methodology. The coaching sessions should not be prescriptive, meaning guiding the belt step by step, but rather should be treated like a sounding board where the belt can bounce ideas.
Coaching should take place on a biweekly basis and should last for about one hour. The coaching is more efficient if the belt provide information before each coaching session.
The bottom line is not to overlook coaching sessions.
Do you use coaching in your company? Have you seen a difference in the impact of project completed?