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Excess Capacity?

In my blog a few weeks ago I mentioned an article in McKinsey Quarterly about removing barriers to knowledge worker interactions. I pointed out a hidden barrier: lack of concentration or too much work-in-process (WIP), which slows down knowledge worker interactions. In that article, physical barriers were cited as common, especially in many large global…

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It’s always about the people

Recently, someone asked me what I thought to be the biggest mistake of a manager. I believe that managers can get so caught up with processes that they forget about the people. People are what drives an organization. People are not machines, they are emotional. A manager needs to be able to sense the emotional…

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MBWA = Management by Walking Around

Whether you wear stripes, bars, or stars on your shirt, the environment needed for open communication begins with you. Unfortunately, it is easy to become over-directive in our management styles when burdened with deadlines and our other “important” issues. With so much going on, who has time for idle chat, right? Well, it should be…

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Managing Crisis

The June 14 issue of Fortune magazine featured an interview with Vanguard CEO William McNabb as a part of their C-Suite series. McNabb became CEO on August 31, 2008, two weeks before Lehman Brothers failed. Many more companies lost employees, customers, and certainly, a lot of money during the crisis. In contrast, Vanguard emerged stronger,…

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It’s a “Circle of Life” Thing!

I used to be really annoyed with people who took a wait-and-see approach to change. They’re not resistant, exactly, and they might be classified as “late adopters.” But I could understand active resistance better than passive indifference. Now, however, I have a little different take on things. Because I have realized that if you wait…

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The Great Healthcare Debate

While the iSixSigma.com site has been down, the rhetoric about “fixing healthcare” in the US has dramatically heated up. “We need to take the waste out of healthcare!” “We’re paying too much for healthcare!””Everyone should get all the healthcare they need regardless of cost!” Without getting into the political debate, let’s just touch on these…

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Leadership – Important Now More Than Ever

Recently James Considine and Stephen Crate have posted about management styles….and their posts have really made me think about management and leadership in general, especially during these challenging times… From my perspective, you have to lead people to achieve results. If you are a manager, indeed your job is to manage the business, but to…

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Before andamp; After

My organization requires that we write our annual performance goals into a web-based system that can be sent to our bosses for their review. As I was working on this last week, it struck me that in the past I would not have written those goals the way I do now. For example, “improve service”…

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What You Measure is What You Get?

“Perhaps what you measure is what you get. More likely, what you measure is all you’ll get. What you don’t (or can’t) measure is lost” – H. Thomas Johnson Those of you who are Deming fans may liken this quote to Deming’s admonition that “the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown…

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The Least-Effort Way

We’ve all seen the “resistance curve” where a few people are innovators, some are early adopters, early and late majorities, and a few are laggards, or skeptics, or what-have-you (from the work of Everett Rogersand other researchers). One way to get almost everyone to be an early adopter is to offer something of value –…

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Being Right

There are countless business books out there that present good reasons why it is not necessary to be 100% right all the time. Beyond being unnecessary, I think being completely right is highly over-rated in the context of business. Being 80% right and good at executing is probably more than sufficient in most cases. Not…

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The Consultant Within

The state of the US economy notwithstanding, retention of talent is a major issue across many organizations these days. Operational Excellence, Six Sigma, and related disciplines are no exception, with a lot of the mobility fueled by the same high standards for training and certification that are intended to attract folks in the first place….

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Elevating Strategic Relevance: Understand and Inform Strategy Implementation

My last blog discussed elevating the strategic relevance of Lean, Six Sigma and process excellence. My view is that mature Process Excellence Organizations enjoy or achieve credibility and success by executing a flexible performance-improvement process attacking the top priorities, employing the best tools, selecting the right projects and leveraging organizational momentum. The first thing mature…

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Business Line-of-Site

Whether it’s a Six Sigma deployment, a project, a training class or metrics, one variable stands out as the ultimate gauge of success: Business Line-of-Site. Yes, I meant “Site” not “Sight”. It’s more than just seeing the path to the destination. It’s about actively targeting it. When you are passionate about something, it is easy…

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No buy-in, no project

Each company probably would have strategized targets to achieve on annually. In Starwood they are know as Big 5’s. Big 5’s are tactical targets that support the company’s global initiatives and global objectives; normally a mixture of financial and non-financial but measurable targets. These targets ‘flow down’ from divisional presidents’ offices’ to area directors and…

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Gearing Up for Success

Just got back from Philadelphia where I spoke at a conference on how to design a training strategy to support organization-wide Six Sigma learning.Entitled “Gearing Up for Success”, it focused on the linkage that must always be maintained between the training strategy/curriculum and business objectives. Without this, it’s easy for training to become disconnected from…

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The Cultural Pyramid

Having worked on many process improvement projects across multiple SBU’s in my organization in the Sri-Lankan apparel industry, a primary factor that determines the success or failure of any project is the level of cultural acceptance and support a project or practitioner receives from various levels of an organization. Overtime the Sri-Lankan apparel industry has…

Project Management Expertise

A fellow Black Belt and I were talking about project management skills. She made a very perceptive comment, which I will paraphrase: “Some people are really good at setting up a project – the ability to identify needed tasks, sources of benchmarking information, delegating, putting everything into a timeframe. And others are really good about…

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Black Belt Ranks

In the martial arts, you may know that once a person obtains a black belt there are usually levels of progression upwards. Each of these levels is called a “dan” and there can be 3 or more progressive levels, sometimes designated with astripe ortape around the end of the black belt. We’ve taken that concept…

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Green Around the Gills

While reading Gianna Clark’s blog below,”Green Belt Sonic Boom,” my first reaction was: Great minds think alike! We are in the starting phase of a boom of training, and all of Gianna’s caveats are valuable. Last year in October,our healthcare system started our internal training of Green Belts with a class of 40. We planned…

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Green Belt Sonic Boom

“We need to train as many Green Belts as fast as we can!” At first this sounds like the type of fast-track deployment that will get things moving. But training too many Green Belts too fast may fuel unnecessary resistance if not deployed properly. Listed below are a few things you may want to consider…

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Durable and Great

The following is theOpen Mike column from the July/August 2007 issue of iSixSigma Magazine, entitled “Durable and Great.” During the last 50 years, companies around the world have focused on operational excellence – the near-flawless execution of business processes. The pursuit of process excellence has evolved through various structured forms, from TQM to Six Sigma…

A Little Motivation

When our organization started its Six Sigma deployment back in 2004, we designed a small round pin that was given to certified Change Agents, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts. The pins are gold-backed and have the appropriate color (blue for Change Agents) around the outer rim, with the appropriate certification title, and our…

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Your office is out there…! (MBWA for desk-bound managers)

When I first joined the hotel industry as the finance guy, I was literally glued to my desk. Sure, I would attend all the necessary office meetings and staff events but my mind was solely ‘back to work’. Bipan the General Manager would come by my office and reminded me very often, “Hey, Mr. Finance…

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Belt Mania

I’ve been having some conversations about belts with my colleagues. Officially, we have “Lean Green Belts” (learn Lean Six Sigma basics, facilitate Lean Kaizen events) and “Six Sigma Black Belts” (know both Lean & Six Sigma, facilitate Lean & Six Sigma projects, coach & mentor Green Belts). We had “Yellow Belts” for a while –…

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Contact Center Process Owner v. HQ Process Owner

Lean Six Sigma for Contact Centers Once your improvements have implemented, the next step is to ensure sustainability of your results through tools like the Control plan & FMEA.To ensure a smooth transitionto your Contact Center Process Owner, the black/green belt should takea more hands-on approach than one may be used to in the transactional…

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Good vs. Great Black Belts

In a prior post I reflected on desirable attributes for a Black Belt. After mentoring numerous Black Belts I can tell you what makes a good one, however I am wondering if one can statistically quantify a good vs. great belt. Sure, there are tons of metrics that can be used to measure a belt:hard…

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Questions about Six Sigma in outsourced functions

KPMG, the public accounting firm, recently published a survey of outsourcing. Nearly three out of four companies in the survey do not measure the value of their outsourcing arrangements. Yet paradoxically, KPMG concludes outsourcing is working because 89% of their survey participants plan to maintain or increase their use of outsourcing. The survey leads me…

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Bob Zimering on Textron Six Sigma

Textron released an article last week entitled, Bob Zimering, a Textron Master Black Belt, Discusses Six Sigma at Textron and Responds to Some of the Critics. In the article Bob Zimering does exactly as the title suggests. He responds to the Fortune article where Qualpro said that Six Sigma companies trail in the S&P… Textron’s…

Comments on organizational design

A few comments on organizational design and Six Sigma…. Organizational structure is one consideration. The decision to centralize or functionally embed black belts has to consider an organization’s business model, culture and past experience with process improvement. Likewise, compensation, career track, professional development and human capital management practices are important. In some organizations, Six Sigma…

Virtually Stat Free Six Sigma

Praveen Gupta, President of Accelper Consulting, sent me a few copies of his new book entitled Virtually Stat Free Six Sigma. (Thanks for the reference to iSixSigma.com in the first chapter, Praveen!) Subtitled “Focusing on Intent for Quick Results,” this book dives into the biggest problems facing most companies and what tools are most likely…

SBTI Response to WSJ Article

I was speaking with Joe Ficalora, EVP of Technology for Sigma Breakthrough Technologies, Inc., at the IQPC Miami Summit in January and we got to talking about all the bad press Six Sigma had been getting lately.  Joe told me that he and his colleague Joe Costello had co-written a letter to the author of the…

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What is your structure?

A review of the information covering Lean Six Sigma deployments shows a clear focus on such items as. Roles & responsibilities: – e.g. champion, process owner, MBB, and BB Critical success factors: – e.g. Leadership commitment, alignment to strategy and suitable training/accreditation system Project selection & sponsorship But what I have been interested in is…

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Contemplating Six Sigma and Internal Control

For my first blog at iSixSigma, I would like to contemplate disciplines that are slow to embrace Six Sigma but need it most: internal control and enterprise risk management. Passage of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 thrust these domains into the limelight. The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) defines enterprise risk management as follows:…

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Hearing Voices

I was raised to believe thatin Six Sigma,the “Voice of the Customer” is the source of process specifications. While training, we spent quite a bit of time learning Customer Needs Mapping, developing the Critical to Quality characteristics, and filling out the CTQ tree. We defined a customer as the end-user, or beneficiary, of the process…

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Man v. Machine

We must be data driven!We must manage by fact!What happens when we don’t have any data? What happens when we can’t tweak a bit of machinery to improve our primary metric? What happens when one of our critical Xs is a behavioural problem?Or, one of our action items in the Improve stage is something a…

Repatriate My Black Belt Into Leadership? No Can Do

Nayism 39: Our organization is flat and has little turnover. There just aren’t any leadership positions available for Black Belts when they repatriate. Organizations with little movement might find themselves getting a little stale when it comes to repatriating black belts. Is there anything you can say to clear the air? Here’s what I say ….

Tellin’ It To The CEO

Yesterday, our organization graduated its first class of Lean Green Belts that was taught on our own, without our consultant. We’re using the term “Lean Green Belt” because we’re teaching them primarily Lean so they can facilitate Rapid Improvement Events, although we’re using the DMAIC structure as an organizing principle. (Our BBs are called Six…

Acceleration

Consider a Lean Six Sigma programme with a number of projects in-flight. It’s a good mix of projects with varying delivery-timescales and range of benefits. Projects are run by dedicated black belts who manage the DMAIC phases in the waterfall approach. Its what you might call the “standard” approach to delivery. The customer couldn’t care…

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Cookbook for Processes

Our help desk decided this semester to start a project where we would create a cookbook of our processes and procedures. This cookbook would be in the form of a manual that would be in print and electronic formats and would serve as a basis for choosing Six Sigma projects and for training our staff…

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Reward and Recognition

Our organization is starting to have a very constructive discussion about rewards and recognition for Black Belts. (Green Belts, hold on, you’re next.) We canvassed our current Black Belts and- as you might guess – the variation was wider than the mean! Ideas started fromcertificates, pins, and belts… through public recognition at organization-wide events… through…

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Organizational Maturity II, a Little Research

Okay, time to pick up where I left off last month. You may or may not remember my post about assessing organizational maturity in order to discern the appropriate scope and/or starting point for continuous improvement efforts so I’ll refresh your memory with a quote from the post: “Our target end state for an organization…

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Deployment Music, Part 3

In my previous two posts, I talked about the fugue and the symphony as metaphors for Six Sigma deployment. A fugue is a musical form in which a single theme is repeated or imitated successively by different instruments until eventually the entire orchestra is involved. This strategy isn’t a bad one for Six Sigma deployment,…

Deployment Music, Part 2

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the fugue as a model for deployment. A fugue is a musical form in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices, until eventually the entire orchestra is playing the same tune. I suggested that this might not be a bad way…

Bubble, Bubble, Toil andamp; Trouble

Nayism 35:Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, Send me a Black Belt on the Double.I have a problem and he needs to fix it! At first, this statement may not sound like a “nayism” but beware. Something is brewing in this organization and it is definitely trouble. Why? Here’s what I say . . . This process…

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Organizational Maturity

Gauging organizational maturity is one of the most critical tasks undertaken prior to the implementation of Lean / Six Sigma. Not only is it important relative to determining where to start, it’s also an indicator of how much of a cultural shift will be required to make sure the methodology sticks. The U.S. military seems…