What Flavour Are You?

I recently had an opportunity to talk with someone involved in a manufacturing deployment. What struck me was how different their deployment was to ours. This worried me into thinking we were somehow doing it wrong and not doing real Lean Six Sigma. I think I have now rationalised the experience and here is what I have concluded.

I started by considering the common characteristics across our deployments. We share a common foundation within the methodology with items such as:

  • High-impact, short-duration projects
  • Projects strategically aligned to stakeholders needs
  • Scope, problem definition and goals clearly defined
  • Focus on meeting defined customers needs
  • Clear sponsorship in place
  • Sustainable solutions delivered
  • Benefits modelled and measured

So what was different between our deployments? It seems to come down to tools. As you know in Lean Six Sigma we have a near “nuclear arsenal” when it comes to sophisticated tools. But what seems the mark the differences are the emphasis placed on and the lack of use of specific tools.

Operating in a Transactional environment I have yet to need a continuous gauge R&R although the attribute gauge R&R works. Never used Andon, SMED or Spaghetti Diagrams. I also suspect I “over-use” areas such as process mapping, process ownership and reviewing IT & MI systems when compared to manufacturing.

Apart from the Manufacturing to Transactional split, the other split that seems to influence tool use is Volume to Consultancy business model. We are a volume business, for example one of our product lines is consumer car insurance. It’s all about helping the customer assess our proposition to rapidly reach a buying decision. We measure and manage at volume e.g. conversion, acquisition, renewal and cancellation rates. The alternative being the consultancy business model where each customer brings a unique and individual set of requirements. Managing for volume just doesn’t figure, its all about customer intimacy soforce-field analysis, account plans, VOC and kano analysis.

What does this mean? It seems the business model and manufacturing/transaction split seems to describe the core tools we come to rely on with four main flavours of tool usage across volume manufacturing, volume transactional, consultancy manufacturing and consulting transactional. Does this model stand-up to scrutiny?

Comments 2

  1. Sue Kozlowski

    Hi Robin, you make a good point with your different models emphasizing different tools. We have an additional flavor in healthcare. None of our data is normally distributed; most of our patient-centered processes are manual; there is wide variation in all processes due to the nature of healthcare being considered an art as well as a science among high-level practitioners; and most processes (at least at our place) have never been mapped.

    So we spend a lot of time process mapping and focusing on customer CTQs; and measuring the current process. We tend to use more lean tools than statistical tools, since lack of standard work is our biggest source of variation. And it’s a real challenge to put a control/sustain phase in place when most data collection has to be done manually (i.e. chart review) and is considered "non-value added" by our stakeholders! ("I could be doing real patient care instead of collecting this data!")

    I definitely agree that we are all doing REAL Lean Six Sigma if we are applying the appropriate tools that will leverage significant positive change in our processes!

  2. Robin Barnwell

    Hi Sue, sorry for late reply been delivering BB training, it really sharpens the saw!

    You would be surprised at how similar the points you raise are with my situation e.g. non-normality, wide variation, process mapping, delivering sustainable improvements. We get a lot of value from simple VSM reviews with a little more detail in NVA / VA process analysis. But equally we do drop-down to detailed analytics/statistics.

    Not coming from a healthcare environment I am not familiar with the circumstances but I would hazard to guess there are two principle CTQ’s, "Get me better" and "Do it fast" (last thing you want to be is a defect!). I suspect very different teams achieve these in the process and they may not agree on what is important?

    Either way hope you get good results.

Leave a Reply