How to Break the Ice – Virtually

Icebreakers can help teams to build community, promote interaction and foster empathy. Some of the go-to icebreakers I have used over the years have translated well into the virtual environment.

Prioritization in a Crisis

If there’s one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has made glaringly apparent, it’s that we need to do a better job with prioritization and, ultimately, delegation, execution and communication.

Why Practice 5S?

Someone asked: “Why do 5S [sort, simplify, shine, standardize, sustain]? It’s just going to get dirty again.”

Lean Six Sigma for Poets

Lean can be of great value in office environments. However, the use of complex jargon and statistics, plus a focus on manufacturing, have hindered the adoption of these tools in other settings where they can be useful.

You Can’t Excel if You Avoid People

If your goal is control at all cost, or faster and deeper analysis, automation might be just the strategy for you. But if you need to retain and motivate your people to boost business performance, such a strategy of people avoidance is likely to come to a sticky end.

All Models Are Wrong

Depending upon the particular organization, quality may or may not be influential in management decision-making. Ultimately, it depends upon what is understood as quality. There may be more urgent tactical actions than those related to quality if the organization’s product or service quality is acceptable – it may not be perfect, but if it’s acceptable then that’s good enough.

Introducing SixSigma3.0

It is a time of change. The world is developing faster with each passing day. Continuous process improvement technologies, which could make these changes more significant and effective, trail far behind this trend. Who suffers? Companies that lose competition, people who cannot find a new place in the changed labor market and countries that are…


The Fastest Way to Achieve Zero Defects

In the aerospace industry, zero defects has been the driver for customers and competition since Phil Crosby and his team at the Martin Company provided the Army with a zero defect missile in the 1960s. This is not a new concept but the first question that comes to mind is: how much do we need…

5 Service-based Business Process Mapping Tips

Business process mapping is a great method for understanding the complex processes that impact a business’s bottom line. Comparing a map of how a process is supposed to work and how a process actually works can be revealing. These methods, originally developed to understand manufacturing processes, do not always translate well to service or transactional…

Case Study: Optimizing Fuel Economy

Late last year, I decided to upgrade my vehicle. For seven years I’d driven a Honda Civic. It was nothing special, just a reliable vehicle with good gas mileage – the perfect commuter car. But now I’ve got two kids, own a home and picked up woodworking as a hobby; fitting car seats and dimensional…


Process Improvement in the Age of Smart Manufacturing

Process improvement projects have typically been a labor-intensive and imprecise process. Labor-intensive in that capturing the as-designed vs the actual current-state process required facilitated meetings, interviews, surveys and analyzing operational data over an extended time period. Imprecise in that workers will typically act differently when they know they are being watched and measured. The Hawthorne…

Collecting Ideas for Improvement – ASPIRE

Building a culture of continuous improvement within an organization goes beyond the ability to execute process improvement projects. An organization that supports continuous improvement promotes a non-blaming culture, focuses on the improvement responsibility of all employees and uses the talent of the entire workforce. Such an organization empowers employees to speak up when they see…

5 Suggestions for an OpEX Practitioner in a Digital World

The Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt and Black Belt curriculum needs an overhaul. The original operational excellence (OpEx) Lean Six Sigma methodology developed by Motorola in the 1980s and made famous by Jack Welch at General Electric (GE) in the early 1990s is finding itself a bit long in the tooth in comparison to…

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Understanding Permutations and Combinations

In Six Sigma problem solving, it is often important to calculate the likelihood that a combination of events or an ordered combination of events will occur. Understanding some of the basic concepts of probability provides practitioners with the tools to make predictions about events or event combinations. This provides a good foundation for understanding probability…


Case Study: 5S in Practice

5S is a Lean tool that helps in workplace organization. The following is the list of five Japanese words and their translation in English. (Seiri) Sorting and prioritizing: Going through all the tools, materials, etc., in the work area and keeping only the essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded. (Seiton) Straighten or set…


A Macro That Writes Macros

If you are like me, you may find yourself writing a fair number of MS Excel macros to automate repeatable tasks. One day it dawned on me, however, that several of the aspects of writing macros were repeatable tasks themselves. When writing a macro I would often start by: Creating a data structure that would…

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Cartoons as Tools

Part 1 Looking at the team I saw their eyes were glazing over. I hate that. We were finishing up a workshop in which the team had developed a current state process map of an information technology (IT)-related process. I was walking them through the sticky notes on the banner paper that made up the…

Driving Change One Project at a Time

When you try to perform process improvement, whether for cost, quality or other reasons, you will often find yourself in an environment where the status quo is the status quo. You may be new, and find yourself awash in a sea of this-is-how-we-do-things. People are in their comfort zones. Management may or may not get…


How Much Training Is Needed to Create Good Black Belts?

One would think that with the levels of standardization and process efficiency we drive in Lean Six Sigma that there would be consensus on how much training a certified Black Belt should receive. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, despite the herculean efforts by the American Society of Quality (ASQ) and the…

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Everybody, Every Day: What’s Next for the Professional Problem Solver?

From safety to quality to productivity, there’s a trend in the way organizations have approached process-oriented movements. Starting as the responsibility of an individual or a group of people, to be successful, the movement inevitably shifts to shared accountability – it becomes the responsibility of everybody, every day. Professional problem solvers that have taken this…


Growing Your Business

Every organization is under pressure to drive success for shareholders, stakeholders and owners. Organizations retreat to their comfort zones when challenged with achieving higher levels of success. Frequently, this results in controlling the bottom line. Continuous improvement can be used to enable top-line growth. Figure 1 shows a compelling reason to focus on improving your…

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Congratulations iSixSigma Movers and Shakers!

Have you been paying attention to your iSixSigma User Profile rankings? We’ve had a couple of community members jump levels in the past few months. We offer our thanks and congratulations to them for being a part of the iSixSigma community! Gary P. Cox: Silver Shelby Jarvis: Silver Forgotten what the rankings are? Want to…