Let Them Eat Cake

Our organizationhasjust comethrough a phase that I’ve heard called “The Wave III Bump” by other institutions – the projects are all successful, but they just take so darn long, isn’t there any way we can speed things up? Our organization responded by moving to Lean in a big way; we’ve done Rapid Improvement Events (kaizen events by any other name) for many months now, and never got to a “Wave IV” for DMAIC projects.

But the pendulum is swinging back – we are finding that “just lean” is not the complete answer for our healthcare system either. The part where you take only 5 measurements of a process never sat easily for our DMAIC-trained Black Belts who were looking at 24/7 departments where the process changes every shift. And the lack of a control phase bothered us too, so weadded it on after our RIE Report-Out on the last day of the event. Our control phaselasts at least one month, with weekly report-outs by the Process Owner.

Now we find ourselves working out an amalgam of the DMAIC structure and Lean improvement tools. OK, there are a lot of books out there called “Lean Six Sigma” but they spend most of their time telling you how wonderful it is without telling you how to structure your project to incorporate both philosophies. A common presentation is to give all the DMAIC info then add a chapter on Lean tools. That’s not what we’re aiming for; it feels like building a torte – a layer of this, then a layer of that.

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I’ve been recently appointed lead BB for our educational process – for Black Belts, Green Belts, and system leaders – assisted in a big way by a subgroup of our Black Belts who are interested in spreading the word. It’s been challenging and fun to actually try to piece these concepts together seamlessly. We want cheesecake, not a many-layered torte! So far, what we’ve come up with is DMALC – Define (Plan), Measure (VSM), Analyze (Waste Walk), Lean (Improve), Control (Follow-up). We’re trying to keep the structure and the speed – eating your cake and having it too, so to speak!

Has anyone else worked on a seamless version of Lean Six Sigma? I’d love to hear about it.

Comments 5

  1. Meikah

    This an eyeopener Sue! I know there are challenges in every Six Sigma project and the books make it sound so easy to execute. Good luck in your project and I hope someone who has gone into Lean Six Sigma can share his experience with you. Keep at it!

  2. Marty

    Yes. We have developed a training program that integrates Lean and Six Sigma. You are on the right path with your DMALC approach. However, why not just keep the acronym DMAIC and use Improve since "Leaning" up a process is just another way of saying "improving" it. That way you won’t need to deviate from the standard.

    We teach our training and incorporate Six Sigma and Lean tools in all phases so that it is almost impossible to know the difference unless you knew which were lean and which were Six Sigma tools.

    In my experience the Lean tools help most with the "Efficiency" of a process, and the Six Sigma tools help most with the "Effectiveness" of a process. The actual speed that the project is done depends a lot on the scope of what you are trying to achieve. It is possible for Six Sigma "Effectiveness" projects to be completed in five days just as Lean "Efficiency" projects can be completed in five days if your project is scoped in a focused manner.

    Good luck!

  3. markp13

    This may be a little late, but I agree with Marty. I think the real power of six sigma is the DMAIC methodology, particularly the M and C phases we have all so often fudged before. Once you get that, its simply (!) a matter of finding the correct tool. For in the Analyse phase you go through either the data ’door’ the process ’door ’ (or probably both). You may drag in some lean tools as appropriate – I prefer to think I have a tool bag that has n tools rather than where they originated. You can apply Lean tools in other phases notably improve. The example that comes immediately to mind is changeover projects: you do D, M, A to work out that the problem is really what you think it is, then in the I phase use the SMED methodology. Finally implement a good C phase, including a Plan-Do-Check-Act system to continually get better. Good luck , hope it helps.

  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for your comments Meikah and Marty. Upon relfection I agree with keeping the DMAIC acronym since Lean is our improvement tool!

  5. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Mark, I’m in agreement that there should be "n" tools without worrying about the labels. Our organization has spent a lot of time worrying about whether a project was a WorkOut, Lean, or Six Sigma project; but as you pointed out, the DMAIC structure "fits all" as long as you use the appropriate tools for the problem at hand.

    I’m not familiar with the SMED – is that the Single Minute Exchange of Dies, or rapid changeover methodology? That’s a new learning for me.

    And I’m finding, like you, the value of using the PDCA model in conjunction with lean’s continuous improvement imperative. Anchoring new concepts with familiar terminology is a great teaching method.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights.

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