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?
When setting out on the journey to become a Lean organization, companies often miss the true importance of utilizing Value Stream Mapping. Often companies overlook implementing Step Four (Value Stream Mapping product families), as outlined in Chapter 11 of Lean Thinking. This can be a critical mistake in creating a sustainable Lean Initiative.
Value Stream Mapping should be viewed as the backbone of any Lean Initiative and process improvement endeavors. Simply picking trouble areas for improvement without examining the entire value stream of the product family or families utilizing the resource can create undesirable results long term. Value Stream Mapping provides us with the information necessary to understand the actual flow of materials, resources and information through all processes from start to finish for the family of products or services chosen. By obtaining this knowledge, we can see where flow is interrupted and where to start making improvements that increase the flow across the value stream. Simply attacking a troubled area in the process without understanding the true value stream could introduce additional WIP (work in process) and inefficiencies in the processes, thus increasing the process lead time across the overall value stream.
Value Stream Mapping provides us with a tool to start process improvement through a systematic approach. We start by mapping the current state for a particular product family from start to finish usually within the four walls of a facility. From this current state map, we apply Lean tools to create a future state map with an improve process lead time focused on eliminating waste and creating flow across the entire value stream. This future state map dictates where and what type of Kaizen Events (Improvement Events) will be required to meet the future state map objectives. The results of our future state map implementation are evaluated against the performance metric objectives developed for the future state value stream. The future state accomplished through our deployment of Kaizen Events is now our current state for the value stream. A period of evaluation should be performed and the value stream mapping process repeated to create a new future state map. This process could take place several times in the journey to become a World Class Company. Typically value stream mapping plans should be developed with implementation to be completed within (6 -12) months. This process is repeated for all value streams across the organization to achieve world class improvement results. The true value in value stream mapping is the creation of process improvement plans that can be implemented systematically across the company with sustainable results.
As the Program Manager for Lean Six Sigma (LSS) at TMAC, I’ve worked with a variety of companies implementing continuous improvement programs. LSS uses a simple but powerful structured approach to process improvement called DMAIC, referring to the five phases of problem solving that a LSS project goes through: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. In LSS Green Belt and Black Belt training we cover each of these phases, teaching participants a series of tools that can be used to solve all types of business problems, from relatively simple to extremely complex.
A common question from new Green Belt and Black Belt students is ‘How can I get results on my project?’ We answer that question with the following equation:
Results = Quality of the Solution x Acceptance Level of the Solution.
It is important to start out with an agreement on what is the goal of a project. That is to say, the Project Sponsor must work with the Black Belt or Green Belt to define the desired Results. This is a key deliverable for the Define Phase. Typically the desired Results will be something like a reduction in error rate, an increase in production level, or a decrease in customer complaints. There should also be a financial impact associated with achieving the desired Results.
Quality of the Solution
The first part of the equation to achieve results is the Quality of the Solution. The question anyone involved in process improvement should ask themselves: ‘Is this solution technically sound?’ The answer should always be yes. Make sure that the solution will work ‘on paper’ (or in theory). Here is where it is critical to have the right combination of process data, statistical methods, lean tools, and related process improvement techniques. It is also important to adapt the specific tool or method to the business process. Which leads to the second part of the equation to get results.
Acceptance Level of the Solution
Technically superior solutions do not always translate to achieving results. In fact, spending too much time on developing a solution that is better from a technical standpoint can actually hurt results. It is critical for Lean Six Sigma practitioners to set aside time to work on increasing the Acceptance Level of the Solution. Consider a very elegant solution from a technical standpoint that will cause a low Acceptance Level from the workforce. Such a solution will typically result in poor Results, if not outright failure. In such a case, a simpler, less technically advanced solution may be more acceptable, and hence yield better results.
How much of my time should be spent on increasing the Acceptance Level? The answer, of course, is ‘It depends’. At organizations where continuous improvement is part of the company culture and employees are familiar with commonly used tools then the percent of time spent on gaining acceptance may be relatively low, perhaps 10 to 20%. But at companies where continuous improvement is new, or the workforce is not aware of Lean or Six Sigma tools then the percent of time spent gaining acceptance will be much higher. From 25% up to 50% of project time may be needed to change a group of Doubting Thomases to Believers.
Completing the formula
A great idea doesn’t always mean success, using this formula along with the DMAIC process and appropriate tools gets you one step closer to the results and impact you (and your organization) are looking for.
How do you determine your results on a Lean Six Sigma project? Have you seen a project fizzle because it was too technically complex? How did you handle that?