Does Lean Six Sigma Deliver Results?

Does Lean Six Sigma Deliver Results?

Many companies go to great lengths and spend large sums of money to implement quality and improvement programs such as Lean Six Sigma . The problem is that most of these programs do not meet their expectations. In fact, many of them do not see the same results that you see quoted in continuous process improvement whitepapers and books.  Why is this? Is it because the companies don’t know what they’re doing? Or is it something else?

I recorded this video to share my opinion about what I think is the problem when it comes to implementing Lean Six Sigma. Enjoy the video

So, improvement does not necessarily need  full Lean Six Sigma program per se! However, it does need some basic problem solving tools to allow the employees to determine for themselves a) the real problem is, and b) how they can identify and eliminate the root cause.

Lean Certification!

lean certification

Is Lean Certification Really Necessary?

Dispelling 3 myths about Lean Certification!

I received a call the other day from someone enquiring about Lean Certification. He told me that he wanted to sign up for my Lean Certification training course. I asked why he was doing this. What was his motivation for obtaining lean certification? He was surprised that I asked himlean certification this question. “Isn’t it obvious why I would want to do this”, he said! I was not really sure to be honest. I assumed he was trying to improve his knowledge of lean principles or something like this. I was dead wrong! He was doing it because his boss told him that it was the only way he was going to be accepted as a member on the company’s improvement team. Our conversation made me think about the misinformation that has been generated that has led to this perception. The consequence is that business owners think that lean knowledge is only acceptable when it comes in the form of lean certification. Here are three common myths  about lean certification that I want to share to dispel this belief.

Myth #1: People who attain lean certification make better practitioners!

This is probably the worst myth of all. It is a statement that is perpetuated by people who follow an academic mindset toward increasing knowledge and learning. The problem is that it is incorrect. It is the same as saying that someone with a degree achieves a higher level of job performance than someone without one. Where is the evidence to prove it? It is a statement based on biased opinions and not supported by data. Over the years, I have seen people who did not have a high school diploma achieve amazing results using lean principles when they were given the right learning environment. No lean certification here!

Lean is a process of learning by doing. A more technical way of presenting this is to say that application of lean principles is a method of converting declarative knowledge (cognitive learning) from a book, video, workshop, etc., into procedural knowledge (tasks or activities) to improve the performance of the workplace. The time required for a person to become proficient at a specific task is known as their” learning curve.” In fact, it is the amount of time a person needs to convert the information in their head into the correct physical activities to create the best results. The learning curve applies to everyone whether they have obtained lean certification or not.

The only way to learn about lean principles is through practice, which is implementing them into the workplace. Practice makes perfect and delivers results. If this can be done with the assistance of a lean sensei or mentor this is a better proposition because the learning curve will be shorter. A person with a lean certification can prove one thing, and it is that they received standardized information about lean principles. It certainly does not prove that they are more capable of improving workplace performance. Lean application, experience and measurable results are the only ways to prove if anyone can truly call themselves a lean practitioner. A lean certification is an acknowledgement of formal training.

Myth #2: Lean Certification training from an accredited organization is better!

Find any company with an opening for a lean practitioner and then take a look at their job description. What you will probably find is that they require the person to have attained lean certification from an accredited college or university. What does this really mean? Why are they required to have attended an accredited establishment? What does accreditation really mean? Is this a valid requirement for this type of lean certification?

This is the definition of accreditation according to the folks at the business dictionary online: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accreditation.html

Certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity of an agency, firm, group, or person, awarded by a duly recognized and respected accrediting organization.

In other words, the accreditation process ensures that their lean certification practices are acceptable, typically meaning that they are competent to test and certify third parties, behave ethically and employ suitable quality assurance. Extract was quoted from http://www.answers.com/topic/accreditation.

So, what are the differences between accredited and non-accredited organizations? The accredited organization can issue Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) with their lean certification training. A non-accredited training organization cannot issue CEU’s. Does this mean that receiving lean certification training from a non-accredited organization is worse? Not at all, because most are professional training and consulting businesses that generate revenues from teaching their clients Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) practices such as Lean Principles and Six Sigma. They have clients that are in the Fortune 500 class. Do you think these companies would use any organization that does not have the capabilities for delivering the best lean certification training to their employees? Of course not! The only reason for attaining lean certification with an accredited institution is to receive CEU’s and have their prestigious logo on your certificate. However, you will pay much more for the privilege of having these.

Myth #3: Lean Certification will guarantee a successfully lean implementation, every time!

Here is a scenario. I am the CEO of a company, and I just paid for 20 people to attain lean certification with a known accredited institution. I have brought all twenty people into the training room. My purpose is to try to solve a problem that has plagued the company since its inception. As the CEO I am working on three core beliefs:

  1. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they are well trained and understand all they need to know about lean principles.
  2. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they can use lean principles to identify and eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  3. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they have the ability to work together as a team to solve the problem.

Are these three core beliefs correct? Is the CEO doing the right thing? What do you think?

These three assumptions are “Wrong, Wrong and Wrong again.” Why would I say this?

This level of thinking has led people to believe that education is the answer to everything. The problem is that education does what it states, it educates people and improves their level of knowledge to attain lean certification. It does not necessarily demonstrate how to apply this newly acquired knowledge into a practical real-time situation. Even if this does happen, it would probably be presented in a form of a case study from a fictitious company or something similar. At best, there are limited examples of the practical application of lean knowledge during lean certification training.

The twenty people in the room are at the beginning of their application learning curve. It is a new experience, and they have no mental model to help them to assimilate their classroom experience. They are probably feeling lost and have no idea what to do next. They are worried about getting it wrong and making a huge mistake. So, what is the best way to use the limited experience of these twenty team members to achieve the desired result?

Use the services of a lean sensei or mentor to take the team through a few events to help them find their feet. This will shorten their learning curve and reduce the possibility of them making any major mistakes. This will help build confidence and bolster their own abilities to apply lean principles in a working environment. Using a mentor will also help the team members to learn how to structure the improvement events. It will help them to gain a better understanding, about how they need to work together to achieve their goal.

In Summary:

I am not opposed to lean certification, in fact, I support it. I have been responsible for facilitating lean certification training in many businesses over the years. What I am opposed to is the belief that it is the only way to create lean thinking in an organization. In my view, this is so alien to the original concepts that were established by the pioneers of lean thinking such as Henry Ford, Sakichi Toyoda, and Taiichi Ohno. The concept of kaizen is small incremental changes over time. What is included in the kaizen process is the learning experience for every individual involved. Each small improvement builds on the previous one till it eventually creates a different type of culture. An ideal one is a learning culture that uses problem solving to reach the next level. The importance of learning is explained perfectly in this quote from the Chinese philosopher Confucius. “Without learning, the foolish become wise.” Therefore, choose your lean certification based on the quality of the program, not the name of the institution!

Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, where learners have 24/7 access to online lean training materials. To learn more about lean certification training click here

3 Critical Questions about Lean Principles!

lean principles

Answer these 3 critical questions before trying to implement lean principles into any type of business.

If a company can’t answer these three simple questions about how they plan to use lean principles they are doomed to failure!

The most common question I am asked is “What is the best way to implement lean principles into a business?” The answer will depend on how the business owners can define three critical factors about why they want to use lean principles :

  • Are you a willing to embrace a system of thinking that will challenge your current business model?
  • Are you willing to create a business environment that will support the implementation of lean principles?
  • Are you willing to start to see problems as opportunities for improvement rather than a necessary evil of doing business?

If you are thinking of implementing lean principles into your company and you answered “No” to any of the three questions above, stop reading this article because its not for you.

I know. You are probably surprised that I am ready to challenge you to go do something else, instead of asking you to continue to read more of this article. So, why would I be willing to do this, instead of just telling you more about lean principles?

If any business owner can’t answer “Yes” to these three key questions, their company is not ready to implement Lean Principles. The reason I am so sure that this is true is based on many years of experience working in the continuous process improvement field. To many business owners pay lip service to it, instead of doing it. Action always speaks louder than words!

Accepting change is the first step towards implementing lean principles into any business!

Change is lean principlesa condition driven by a need, and it always starts as a thought process. The first part of the process is when someone starts thinking about change and how it will impact their environment. Next, the thinking moves into research, where the person starts to look for tools and techniques. They start to learn about the different applications and may decide to choose to understand more about lean methods. In other words, they become aware of lean principles and start to do deeper research into how they are used.

The call for change usually starts at the tactical or operational level of an organization such as on the shop floor or in an office. The person wanting to implement lean principles will often be a Team Lead, Supervisor or Line Manager, who read a book, went to a seminar or knows someone who works at a company that successfully implemented lean principles. They will start to implement their own changes to help them learn more about how lean techniques are capable of improving their workplace. Some will be successful. However, most will fail and give up. Why is this?

Adults are natural problem solvers. They desire to understand the reasons why and how things actually happen. If left to their own devices they will slowly learn and find ways to improve their environments. History demonstrates this process to be true. However, the one thing that stops this process dead in its tracks is when those in charge refuse to accept change. The same happens in a business.

Executives and managers are often focused on what they consider to be important issues involved in the day to day running of the business. However, the question here is: Are they focused on the “urgent” or the “important”? This is a very simple but significant distinction. Most are entrenched into the re-active cycle of focusing on the “urgent” issues. A few see the light and move towards the more pro-active cycle of looking at what’s “important”. Lean Manufacturing, Lean Healthcare and Lean Administration all focus employees on the lean process of identifying and eliminating waste or muda.

Bringing about change in any organization requires perseverance and discipline. Implementing lean principles needs these and more. If management does not embrace the need for change it will not happen because employees will feel disempowered by the lack of support.

About the Author:

Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, where learners have 24/7 access to online lean training materials. To learn more about lean principles click here

What to do before implementing Lean Concepts!

lean concepts

5 things to know prior to making use of Lean Concepts!

Ignore these and your lean concepts will be nothing but dreams!

Changing lean conceptsany enterprise into a Lean Business may be a daunting job if the person participating in the project does not have the knowledge and experience of lean concepts to grasp what needs to be done.    Listed here are 5 factors that each business owner should really know prior to implementing a lean program.

Five factors to consider before turning your lean concepts into reality!

#1. Developing a Lean Culture:

Many organizations employ lean principles on an unplanned basis, they do not think about the consequences of their actions when attempting to develop and establish a Lean Culture. They must change their focus towards using lean concepts. The only way any enterprise will not become another failed lean implementation statistic will be to obtain the appropriate setting to support the identification and elimination of waste to increase value for its customers.

#2. Genchi Gembutsu:

A business owner is unable to know what is happening in their workplace if they are not applying “Genchi Gembutsu.” It is a Japanese phrase that loosely translates into “Go to the place where the work is being done and see it with your own eyes.” It requires employees to understand lean concepts to change their approach to finding solutions. Don’t try to improve company processes while away from the workplace, such as inside a conference room or training office. Go to where the process is currently being performed and watch it in action to get a true understanding about what is occurring.

#3. Kaizen:

The concept of Kaizen is based on two factors contained within the phrase, which are “Kai” and “Zen.” The meaning of these 2 terms is “change for the good.” It is important to understand that this implies never changing something for the sake of change itself. Make it a rule to adopt lean concepts to encourage a different way of thinking.  Only change a process when it increases value for the customer. Doing anything other than this is a waste or muda!

#4. Problem Solving:

Identifying improvements on the job sounds like an easy task, nonetheless, realistically, it is rather difficult, and the reason for this is that people don’t know the place to begin. Most organizations get their workforce to spend their valuable time concentrating on the wrong things. This causes more problems since it increases cost instead of minimizing it. Educate your workers to understand lean concepts and become problem solvers and authorize them to seek and eliminate the waste.

#5. Lean Training:

A technique to get a traditional enterprise to become more profitable would be to train their workforce about Lean Principles and how to utilize them to remove waste and improve their own workspace. This is usually a win-win for any business, its people and its customers. Get the right individual, and that is someone who has a good knowledge of implementing Lean Principles into a company. Ask them for details about previous final results for continuous process improvement (CPI) projects to demonstrate how they applied Lean tools.

Understanding these 5 simple points will get you targeted on doing the right activities and make your Lean implementation successful. Education is important but it is only by individuals following through and also employing their understanding Lean Principles that they will begin to transform their company into a Lean Enterprise. To learn more click here

Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, which allows learners to have 24/7 access to online training materials to improve their understanding of lean concepts.

Which is the better system, Lean or Six Sigma?

six sigma

Getting beyond the hype is improtant whe it comes to implementing Lean and/or Six Sigma?

Which one first, Lean or Six Sigma?

The Lean vsix sigmas. Six Sigma discussion continues to roll on. Which is the best system for a business to adopt? Which one will deliver the best results? Which one gives fast results? What are the implementation cost difference’s between a Lean and a Six Sigma program? These are typical questions that get asked in this long running comparison between Lean and Six Sigma.

There are three factors that will influence any management team to decide on Lean or Six Sigma:

  1. Complexity of the business processes.
  2. Dollar amount available in the training budget.
  3. Discipline of management team to execute improvement initiatives.

1. Complexity of the business processes:

Any business with a high level of complexity in its processes will require an improvement program that can meet the demands of the  customer by using a more analytical approach. These types of businesses will use Lean to stabilize their processes and Six Sigma to reduce variation and improve quality. These types of organizations operate in a more academic or scientific level of industry such as chip manufacturers, software developers, etc.

Any business with a lower level of complexity needs an improvement program that can meet the demands of its customers by identifying and eliminating waste using basic Lean principles and problem solving tools. Kaoru Ishikawa stated, ” that 95% of all problems could be solved using seven basic quality tools.” These seven tools are:

  1. Flow Chart ( or Value Stream Map)
  2. Pareto Chart
  3. Scatter Diagram
  4. Cause & Effect Diagram
  5. Check Sheets
  6. Histograms
  7. Control Charts

Organizations that have successfully implemented Lean Principles use most, if not all of these seven quality tools as part of their Problem Solving toolkit.  In conjunction with the “5 Why’s”, the Lean toolkit can become a very effective set of tools to help identify and eliminate waste.

2. Dollar amount available in the training budget.

Traditionally, companies will spend less than 3% of their revenue on training. The Lean vs. Six Sigma discussion raises a legitimate question: “How much does it cost to implement each system?” Well one thing I know for sure is that Lean is a much cheaper system to implement than Six Sigma. Why is this? Six Sigma requires specialist training to develop a core group of green and black belts to run projects. This training is much more complex and expensive than teaching your employees to understand Lean principles and how to apply them. So, why do companies adopt Six Sigmas if it is more expensive to implement than Lean?

It is easy to answer this question by using the comparison I used earlier in this article. “If a business can improve its process using seven basic quality tools and lean principles, why would they want to implement a Six Sigma program?” I think the answer is obvious, they would only do this if they had complex processes or were influenced by the hype that Six Sigma is the ultimate silver bullet to solve all of their problems and improve performance. Lean is easy and relatively much more cost effective to implement compared to the overall cost of a Six Sigma program.

3. Discipline of management team to execute improvement initiatives.

In the end it really does not matter how much a business pays for any system if the management team lacks the discipline to implement any of their improvement initiatives. During the 27 years I have been working in the Continuous Process Improvement field, it is amazing how many companies do not execute their own strategic or tactical initiatives. The best plan in the world is useless unless it is converted into action. The cost of training employees to understand Lean or Six Sigma in one thing. However, the cost of taking several employees away from their daily productive work to participate in an improvement team and their ideas are not used is the worst kind of waste.

To summarize the article, I would recommend that any company start their Continuous Process Improvement journey by first implementing Lean principles and the seven problem solving tools. Employee training can be done on-site or online.  If you’re interested in signing up for a free access to Lean training, click here. When business processes have been stabilized through the application of Standardized Work using Lean princples, then and only then would I personally consider implementing a six sigma or a lean six sigma program.

Continuous Process Improvement Wishlist!

continuous process improvement

Continuous Process Improvement starts with a problem and ends with a solution!

Capturing your employee’s ideas is the best way to support your continuous process improvement program!

Every buscontinuous process improvementiness has a wishlist. It is generated by individuals who see a lack of internal capability based on wishful thinking. I wish we could do this and I wish we could do that! Wishing does nothing except generate a deeper level of frustration with every passing day. Employees actual like to be part of the system and enjoy their ideas being used as part of a company’s continuous process improvement process.

Continuous Process Improvement does not happen by chance!

However, Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is not something you wish for, it is something you do. Change does not happen by chance, it has to be defined, managed and cultivated over time. Getting things to occur on a Just in Time (JIT) basis requires changes in the organizational thinking. Often, this is counter intuitive to conventional thinking. A good example of this process is to slow down to speed up! Every action starts as a thought! Change your thinking and you can change your world. The desire for change is the initiator of continuous process improvement.

What is Kaizen?

kaizen

Understanding the meaning of kaizen can impact success!

Kaizen is a philosophical concept of incremental improvements over time.

Does your employees know the meaning of the Japanese term “kaizen“? It is improtant for every business owner to know  and understand the meaning of this term. It can be the difference between success and failure when trying to change your processes!

Kaizen is akaizen way of life that is inherent within the Japanese culture and was integrated into the Toyota Production System (TPS) after World War II. It has become the buzz word or keyword that is immediatly recognizable with the process of continuous improvement.

Cultural change starts with the acceptance of the kaizen philosphy!

When a business can implement small improvements on a regular basis over a period of time, it eventually leads to changes in the culture. Cultural acceptance of change is the goal of all continuous improvement. Without the acceptance of a Kaizen philosophy, there will be an ongoing resistance to change and this will force a business to return to its old ways.

I like what George Bernard Shaw had to say about this, “If a person can’t change their mind, they cannot change anything.” This is the secret to putting Kaizen into practice!