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explaining a Problem Statement to a Farmer

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  • #33249

    Todd McConville
    Member

    I have been tasked with articulating what the requirements for a good six sigma project are, but to wrap it into a textual format where as a farmer or an executive could understand it immediatelly.
    We all know the attributes that make up a good Six Sigma Define Charter:

    Effecting the customer adversely, or could effect the customer adversly
    Measurable process
    Able to quantify the problem
    Able to have a quantifiable objective
    Display a signifigent cost savings/ service delivery enhancement/risk mgmt.
    Has anyone been tasked with something similar they would be willing to share, or does anyone have any ideas?

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    #89767

    JZuzik
    Participant

    I have known many farmers and executives, and frankly I find your posting offensive, as many executives should take some education from farmers.
    You would be better served if you would replace “farmer” with “an individual with no previous exposure to process improvement”, because that’s what I think you really mean. The terms are NOT synonymous.

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    #89769

    John Hargreaves
    Participant

    Todd
    What you are looking for I believe is a good metaphor or story that helps puts Six Sigma in the context of your audience, be they farmers, executives or whatever.  I have found this to be a difficult thing (not impossible) to achieve when you have a large, mixed audience, especially if there are large cultural differences.
    In a session held recently with small group (10 of us), the subject of “myth” was discussed, the question posed being, “What is the power/use of myth in business” – the term myth used here meaning story.  An anthropological insight was that, “Myths are the stories that tell us who we are.”
    We determined that it’s the lowest common denominator story or metaphor that will help get your message across.  In the case of a farmer and an executive in the same audience, what is the lowest common denominator story?  What might they have in common – sport? children? profitability? – but how do they think about profitability?
    The art is in (1) choosing a good/appropriate story, and (2) crafting this story to relay the messages you want, whatever they are.
    These are the questions.  You need to work on the answers.
     

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    #89773

    DaveG
    Participant

    “an individual with no previous exposure to process improvement”.

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    #89774

    machinist
    Participant

    JZuzik,I think your reading this question in the wrong context. I work in a machine shop in the Midwest and have family, friends and co-workers that are “Farmers”. I think Todd meant  2 different backgrounds. The question never implied that Farmers are any less than Executives.

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    #89795

    BillyJoeJimBob
    Participant

    Offense Taken …Actually farmer and ceo are alot alike. Farmers work hard to fill their pockets and feed their families while ceos work everyone else hard to fill thier own pockets.Farmers are actually the original McGyvers of any industry. Walk around a farm some time and you will find some of the most ingenious inventions and creative ideas. Most ceos can only wish that they had such improvement oriented people working for them. Then again necessity is the mother of invention, and ceos fail to communicate the need to their employees. When ceos communicate the need, they are betrayed by their own flagrant waste and hypocritical spending.Hail to the all our farmers and the food they put on our tables.

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    #89803

    Hemanth
    Participant

    My Suggestion:
    Make a list of questions to be answered:
    1. What is the cost impact in terms of hard savings, capacity enhancement?
    2. Does the deliverable of process has direct linkage to the external customer?
    3. What is the level of effort required? Are there any areas which depend upon the implementation of activities outside the project? Does the process involve inputs from different geographical facilities? (things like that)
    4. Is a measurement system in place? Do we have a historical data available?
    5. Based on que 3 & 4 what is the duration of project?
    I suggest develop a rating for each question based on answer and pick a project with highest / lowest rating.
    hope this was helpful
    Hemanth

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    #89816

    Gabriel
    Participant

    Billy…(etc)
    “Hail to the all our farmers and the food they put on our tables”?
    Be carful with what you say. If the farmers get too much hail there will be no food to put on our tables! :)
     

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    #89820

    Todd McConville
    Member

    I want to apologize.  I grew up outside of Pgh, PA in a small Coal Mining town with Farmers making up a majority of our economy.
    I have known many farmers that have MBA’s, and could run a board meeting better than any executive. 
    I hunt Coyotes for Sheep Farmers to help them keep their Sheep from being killed.
    It is a circumastance of draw, shoot, aim  instead of draw, aim, shot.
    I should have qualified my remarks much better than making such a insulting comparison.   FARMERS: Please accept my apologies.  It was an analogy meant with best intentions, that was worded incorrectly.
     
    Todd

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    #89829

    Bob Peterson
    Participant

    Todd,
    I will not admonish you past what has already been stated by others.
    Speaking to a group of mixed backgrounds can be a bit challenging.  My advice would be two-fold:  avoid jargon and use practical examples from everyday life which everyone can understand.
    For farmers, the tons of corn per linear feet in each field and the associated fixed and variables costs; for CEOs how good it tasted.
    Bob Peterson

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    #89832

    ReggieDeen
    Participant

    Sounds like JZuzik is another one of those knee-jerk folks who respond to posts on this forum before stopping to actually think for a while.  Although I understand what JZuzik was getting at, apparently he/she has not been around farmers enough to know how incredibly intelligent and creative they really are, and that using that profession in such analogy is not a slam on farmers. 
    You could easily exchange any job that has a lack of familiarity with process improvement and use the same analogy.  I don’t believe Todd was slammng Farmers, referring to them as somehow being unintelligent.  It appears that his intention was to simply inquire how the Six Sigma expert can explain, in uncomplicated terms, a concept to someone who has a very different axis of orientation than his/her own.
    ReggieDeen

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    #89838

    John Hargreaves
    Participant

    Todd,
    I think Bob is onto the right angle here regarding the answer to the question I posed at the end of my earlier suggestion/post.
    John

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    #89842

    Lee Campe
    Participant

    Todd you just wrote your problem statement. “Coyotes are killing our sheep.” Ofcourse if the solution is known (kill the coyotes) then its a “go do” project rather than a DMAIC project. To drive the six sigma learning I might stretch it a bit and ask typical questions like “are we sure its coyotes (are we guessing a root cause), Perhaps a better problem statement then might be x% of sheep are found dead each week in field Y or something along that line. We may find by studying the problem that it was wild dogs rather than coyotes. You get my drift.

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    #89847

    Arthur
    Participant

    What are the requirements of a good ss project, and how do I articulate them to two different cultures in the same invironment?
    Dont use words that are unique to any one group.  Keep it basic.
    EX:  The requirements of a good ss project revolve around the performance and completion of 5 basic tasks.
    Define the problem, Measure the results, bla, bla, bla.
    Here at ABC company, some of our goals through ss is to select projects that can result in a $100k savings, improve customer satifaction by 50% reduction in customer complaints/returns bla,bla,bla,bla.
    And in conclusion, make our tasks easier to perform, manage, and  control.
    Hope this address your concern.
    as
     

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    #89938

    Brad M.
    Participant

    Todd,I use the attached Word® documents (I included a filled out example as well) during the Define Phase to develop the project charter for both BB/GB projects. I received a very similar version of this tool some months ago from someone through this site and would like to give credit to her but I can’t seem to locate her name at the current time. I have found it to be an excellent project planning tool. It is clear, concise and easily understood by all stakeholders. You can modify the questions on the second page to accommodate your business/needs/application. Hope this is helpful.Regards,Brad M.Green Belt Project Charter (Word Document)Black Belt Project Charter (Word Document)Black Belt Project Charter Example (Word Document)

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    #89962

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    BJJB,
    I have to admit that I was initially attracted to this post because it appeared to be disrespecting farmers – and I do not believe that was the intention of the original post. I find it equally offensive to believe that a person is a low life because they are an executive. I spent a good deal of time working for Motorola. Bob Galvin was the CEO and his father started Motorola. I believe Bob’s sone Chris is now the CEO. The company was built on Galvin family values. There was never a time in the 12 years I worked there that ever felt embarrassed or the need to apologize for the company I worked for. I think that says a lot for a company and the people who run it.
    Since my Motorola days I have met a lot of executive all over the world. There are good and bad Executives just like there are good and bad farmers (if you will notice the family farm is struggling to survive against the large farming companies).

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    #89969

    howe
    Participant

    Lee,
    You bring up a tremendous point that I think many people, new to six sigma, miss. The key is to find the root cause and prove it with data, not to jump to a solution and then have to implement another solution in 6 months when this one doesn’t work.
    A case in point is the Jefferson Memorial. Frequent washings were causing the stone to deteriorate. Why? Because of many interrelated factors. Without me killing the story, there is a video on the subject that may be applicable: http://www.juran.com/testing/segment_qm.cfm?test_id=392
    It’s testatment to the fact that decisions without data are often times not optimal.

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    #89970

    Bilyybob
    Participant

    Hello folks,
    In case you were wondering….the possum farm is doing great!
    Later,
    Billybob

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    #89974

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Billybob,
    Glad to see you are still around.
    It appears the squirrel fam is in tact as well.
    Regards,
    Mike

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    #89978

    Schuette
    Participant

    As others probably already mentioned, the farmer will have not problem understanding. Most are grads of good programs. The executive will require short sentences and simple concepts. If you can get a dog and a pony, you can make it into a show that they will also enjoy.

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    #94105

    Bob G.
    Participant

    I agree with machinist – there is a definitite need for the ability to explain six sigma to varying backgrounds, because quite honestly there are “varying backgrounds” in every industry. 
    I think what Todd was/is trying to say is that both CEOs and farmers are “dumb” when it comes to six sigma (yes, I said “dumb”) just as black belts and pharmacists are “dumb” when it comes to farming.  Todd’s questions was without malice and like most people in the world today, you need to leave your sensitivity training graduate (with honors) certificate at the door.

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    #94106

    Bob G.
    Participant

    Todd:
    You have no need to apologize.  I think your analogy was quite clear.
    People need to quit being so sensitive and stop TRYING to create controversy.

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    #94113

    KBailey
    Participant

    As a number of others have mentioned, farmers and CEOs have a lot in common. Avoid jargon, use examples that are relevant, etc. What’s great about this situation is that by making it relevant to the different audiences, you’re forced to use a variety of examples that will help each audience truly “get it.”

    You probably need to back up and explain what a “customer” is in Six Sigma… commodity buyer, consumer, regulator/health inspector, employee, livestock, etc.
    For your #1, make clear that adverse effects are generally relative to expectations (food safety, taste, etc.)
    #2: All processes are measurable. Give examples of relevant continuous and attribute measurements that relate to customer satisfaction. (Some people use difficulty of measurement as an excuse to keep managing by intuition, at much greater cost.) Farmers and CEOs should understand yield and ROI.
    #3: Quantify the problem or opportunity. Careful on communicating this, because many audiences don’t see a “problem” because they think they’re doing “pretty good.” In this case, the problem is that we could do better but we’re not, and eventually the competition will pass us up if we don’t improve.
    #5: include reduced variation or improved predictability as service delivery enhancement/risk mgmt. Robustness is hugely important to farmers, due to importance of factors outside control (weather, commodity markets) so they’ll understand it’s not necessarily about maximizing yield. Futures can reduce uncertainty about price fluctuation.
    Finally: some farmers herd cattle (or sheep). Some CEOs herd employees as if they’re cattle (or sheep). If you want to improve productivity, look at what you’re feeding them. If you force them into a little tiny stall (cubicle) and feed them crap, don’t be surprised if they get ornery and produce sour milk. If you want to be successful in the long term, you have to take care of your livestock AND make sure they’re producing what the customer wants.

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    #94114

    KBailey
    Participant

    I forgot the more obvious one that farmers and CEOs should be able to understand: the more bull you feed your livestock, the greater the risk they’ll get mad cow disease.

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