When you are just started to work on a new project, as Six Sigma professional you are conditioned not to jump to conclusions and let the data and facts guide you to process improvements. However, by asking yourself two simple questions at the start of such an improvement initiative, you be able to get a first idea of where to start looking for improvement ideas.
1. Is the process customer facing or not ?
A customer facing process delivers its outputs to external customers (or front office if you like) Examples : call centres operations, sales and after sales service ….
Non-customer facing processes deliver their output to internal customers. These are typically back-office operations like planning, dispatching, purchasing, etc …
2. Is the process a repetitive or not ?
Repetitive processes return in a time set manner. The repetition can continuous or can be separated in time. Examples of repetitive processes : the financial reporting that has to run every month (separated in time), many manufacturing-like processes repeat continuously.
In a non-customer facing process with repetitive work you need factory-like processes. Improvements will be focussing on flow creation, reducing waste and overburden, improving ergonomics, automation and standardization of work.
Non repetitive and non customer facing processes need the job shop approach and require highly skilled employees, specialist in their area, supported by the required systems and organisational structures.
A non-repetitive and customer facing process requires professional service type of processes. Improvements will focus on skill development building, first time resolution improvement, building customer relationships, etc …
Repetitive and customer facing : mass service process. Think about services like postal offices, hospital admissions, fast food restaurant services, etc … Standardization of work and customer friendliness in all its aspects are main areas for improvements.