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  • #49083

    Chad
    Participant

    Does anyone have any experience with projects that could not be solved using six sigma?

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    #167111

    Deanb
    Participant

    Yes. Many. But this one comes to mind first.I was called in to a company to help them revive their fully regressed continuous improvement program. They had tried TQM and SS, and none had gotten very far. They were disparately needing to improve quality fast, but were dead in the water.As a side-bar the CEO asked me to get to the bottom of an underground cartoon enterprise (by anonymous contributors) that was showing him in very unflattering ways. He was very frustrated, and saddened.After establishing some trust and doing some quiet and confidential work I discovered that many of the top mgt were contributors to the underground cartoons, as well as many others at all levels.When I candidly asked why they were doing this, they almost to a person said they were so frustrated with impossible quotas, objectives and conflicting demands that they had to vent somehow. Ironically, when this underground movement was secretly tasked with a challenge-they jelled into a strike force and rose with passion to accomplish it. But when told officially to do it in the same old ways, they struggled in quagmire.I recommended and got approval to develop a few new management practices to address frustration in the ranks. After doing some team projects to craft a few new ground rules for managers and reports to operate by, and after a tweaking period, folks started asking when other (real) improvement projects could begin, so they could participate. And begin we did. I finally turned things over to a strong BB I knew that had good people skills. They were delighted.Since previous improvement programs (including six sigma) floundered and never attempted to fix the true problems holding them back, I assume this case truly required an approach well outside the scope of six sigma, to pave the way for six sigma to succeed.Cheers,Dean

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    #167114

    Chad
    Participant

    I think your response means that six sigma can not fix people problems. What I am really asking is what types of issues other than people problems can six sigma not fix? What types of projects if any, have trouble being completed by SS methodology.

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    #167117

    Deanb
    Participant

    Chad,I think SS can fix many people problems if it tries. The problem is it doesn’t try often enough. In the case I gave, the people problems were caused by a dysfunctional culture and management system. I am suggesting that these kinds of problems would be hard to scope into a traditional SS project, and if scoping was attempted, it would probably struggle to get completed using its typical data driven approach.Generally, I find SS cannot fix poorly scoped problems (even if it completes the project), or projects that have strong qualitative components.A lot of causes are rooted in management systems and frustration, each of which has causes of their own. If these areas are never confronted, those root causes continue to remain hidden. A great many of these causes affect measurable processes, but are several steps removed making them hard to connect and measure. They usually are much easier to fix than they are to measure. SS thrives on finding concrete causes easily measured. The management/people system is more qualitative than quantitative. However, this is also where Deming said 90% of the ultra root causes resided. For SS to have an environment to do its data driven projects, I have found that either this management/people system space needs to have quality in the first place, or something else needs to fix it.

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    #167132

    Deanb
    Participant

    Chad,I have not seen SS succeed in marketing circles much either, for the same reasons (poorly scoped, and too many qualitative components).

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    #167145

    Vallejo
    Participant

    It depends on a person’s point of view. I’ve seen very successful results using an SS tool – DOE. If you’re interested you can google multivariate testing. (I’m assuming DOE exists outside of SS, like Project Management, QFD, Lean, etc.)
    Perhaps you’d be so kind as to answer a question for me – if you take awayΒ all the SS borrowed ‘tools,’ such as those listed previously, what is specific to SS?
    If you come to the same conclusion as me, why do we still call it SS? Is it as aΒ tribute to Bill Smith, Dr. Harry, and Bill Schroeder?
    Carlos

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    #167150

    Deanb
    Participant

    Carlos,If you strip away all the borrowed tools, all I see remaining is DMAIC and a philosophy that over values “hard” data analysis and under values “soft” people oriented analysis.

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    #167151

    Fake ATI Alert
    Participant

    IsΒ  ChangeΒ  ManagementΒ Β anΒ  essentialΒ  partΒ  ofΒ  the BB training?

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    #167152

    Deanb
    Participant

    Good question. I would argue that true change management logically must contain a strong mix of soft tools and a supporting philosophy to work with it. No effective change management approach arbitrarily places quantification ahead of qualification. Both must function as compliments in proportions dictated by the situation. The vast majority of BBs I have encountered have been very biased towards quantification at the expense of qualification. I attribute this to their training. Many fortunately have unlearned this bias from the school of hard knocks.As Crosby said: “it is far better to be 80% right and have consensus, than to be 100% right and no consensus.”

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    #167153

    Brandon
    Participant

    Change mngt is theΒ gateway to the success of any program. Presumably any program is initiated to change things…kinda by definition, huh? So if the implementors don’t possess these skills not much will be effective…with any program.
    That said, I believe most BB training is woefully short on these skills. Typically it is addressed but not taught. And that can make sense…change mngt is a whole other discline and BB training is pretty content rich as it is.
    As a bandaid, the exec and champion training should be rich in CM components. They are, or should be, the drivers of the program. They will assess and reward performance and should be the inspirational leaders. A BB should be guided by these people to gain CM skills as they apply SS to the workplace.
    The “success” of SS will rely on effective CM. SS will provide a solution to the problem at issue however the Control Plan and the ability to sustain will depend on the process owners and process membersΒ motivation to perform as SS has guided us.
    From my experiences, SS has never failed as a viable approach. Failures have come entirely from the inability or less than optimal ability to lead people.Β 

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    #167154

    SiggySig
    Member

    Have to agree with the earlier posters. Projects in my experience fail for one of a few reasons:- Project not tied to critical objectives, which leads to:
    *Lack of management support
    *Lack of time alloted to belt/team to work project
    – Poor leadership on the part of champions or belts is also a critical factor. My experience coaching GBs is that their first LSS project is their first team leadership experience, which also risks project success.
    – Lack of poka yoke, control plans, etc. to make sure the problem doesn’t come right back. This often goes with a process owner who doesn’t assume ownership of the new process, and is held responsible for sustaining the gains.I work in transactional environments (i.e. non-factory/manufacturing) and find that the quantitative info is most useful in diffusing politics, skeptics, or finger pointing. Beyond that, it’s process mapping. VSM, FMEA and fishbone diagrams that get us to where we need to go nearly all of the time. I have yet to need DOE to get the job done. I don’t really even do formal MSAs most of the time either – usually an audit/validation is sufficient to get that part completed as well.Too many BBs are content to create beautiful charts and graphs, or Minitab to death. Change happens where the value happens – in the gemba

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    #167155

    Roadrunner
    Member

    I’m suprised you ascribe DMAIC to Six Sigma when it is the order Shainin recommended his students use his techniques.Define the problem
    Metrology characterisation
    Analysis of variation
    Improve the process
    Control the process (Pre-control)Why have some people tried to destroy Shainin’s contribution? Was there a bust-up?Roadrunner

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    #167156

    Deanb
    Participant

    Brandon,As usual I like a lot of what you say. The key is defining what constitutes “perfectly” lead? IMHO, a “perfectly” lead SS initiative must be humble enough to serve as a compliment of equals to other sound disciplines and not try to “take them over.” SS needs to be a good citizen of the managerial world. It cannot BE the world, and last very long. Eventually performance will slip, and the other complimentary forces will take it down a few pegs, or even kill it. I believe we are seeing this happening on a broad scale.

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    #167157

    Deanb
    Participant

    Siggy,I agree totally. I have found the highest purpose of quantification in transactional work is to achieve consensus and to unite players around shared commitments. Then it is the soft tools that generate the essential synergies and value judgments. Once those are in place getting the job done is almost automatic.

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    #167158

    Deanb
    Participant

    Roadrunner,Thank you for pointing out that even DMAIC is a borrowed tool. Without this, that only leaves six sigma with a philosophy to distinguish itself.

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    #167162

    Brandon
    Participant

    Roadrunner, you may well be correct in your citing of the origins of DMAIC. However, it begs the question “How was the methodology brought to the world?” SS may well be nothing new however it’s manner of being marketed reached a whole lot more people than any of the other disciplines that embraced similar processes.
    So, it should be credited with results if not originality.

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    #167164

    w. g. miller
    Member

    Here’s a “garbage in -> garbage out” tale for you all:
    A Black Belt investigated errors in engineering products, using places where people have questioned engineering products as his data source.Β  The Black Belt never bothered to find out how these questions were resolved, assuming instead the questions indicated engineering errors.Β  The Black Belt called aΒ meeting of the engineers where he intended to discuss how to prevent such “errors” in the future.
    As it turned out, the questions on the engineering products had been resolved with the engineers declared correct long before the Black Belt started his project.Β Β  The engineers were not happy at having their work items being publicly brought up as “errors” when they were not errors at all.Β  At the meeting, they ripped into the Black Belt, making it quite apparent what they thought of the accuracy and thouroughness of his work.Β  Six Sigma credibility took a very public hit.
    W. G. Miller
    PS: I was one of the engineers at that meeting.
    Β 
    Β 

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    #167165

    Brandon
    Participant

    Yet, WG, SS was not the fault at all. SS is a defined methodology to blah, blah, blah… It cannot be faulted for the incompetencies of those attempting to use it…any more than a shovel can be faulted for digging a ditch in the wrong location.
    As long as we have to deal with people…there will be errors. However, once we develop super computers with artificial intelligence…we’ll all be working for them. I’ll stay with people faults.

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    #167166

    annon
    Participant

    No skill set survives bad process or project management……and anytime you canΒ gather sufficient data for a metric and its std you can consider using a 6S approach….

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    #167167

    wgmiller
    Member

    Brandon, et al,
    Your reply doesn’t cut it in the engineering world.Β  Using bad input data is considered a technical error in the engineering profession (as it should be).
    Remember, the average Joe/Jane doesn’t see the Six Sigma techniques, they only see the implemetation and results.Β  If the implementation and/or results are bad, thenΒ to the average Joe/Jane, Six Sigma is bad.
    W. G. Miller
    W. G. Miller
    Β 

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    #167168

    Deanb
    Participant

    Wrong thinking in project scoping and qualitative analysis sure can muck things up in a hurry. I have seen my share of these too.

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    #167169

    W. G. ‘s conscience
    Member

    WG,
    Interesting tale. What BS.

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    #167174

    SiggySig
    Member

    Fortunately for everyone, there is a great big wide world out there that doesn’t involve engineers…

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    #167185

    HF Chris
    Participant

    People tend to look for blame in other areas than themselves more often in the process (whatever the name of it is today) when a project fails. Look at most of the posts in this thread. However, it is our own limitations and expert rules-of-thumb that limit the success of any project. We apply 5 why’s, prioritization, cause and effect diagrams, looking for supportive correlation (later determined (or thought to be) to be causes and effects) in a system or process that has been ambiguous and sometimes complex (why else would the problem be occurring?). We all know that we can correlate the increased purchases of ice cream with shark attacks in the summer but unless you know these are just symptoms caused by seasonal changes, we would try to reduce one or the other in a project with no possible success except with luck or the Hawthorne effect). As experts in our fields (engineering ,SS, TQM, supply, etc,), developing rules-of-thumb and applying them in our own areas is what makes us successful in sorting through large amounts of data quickly. In most situations, it is very effective. However we need help to identify data normally filtered out, often data that does not have a place in our current understanding of the system we are observing. The question arises, is how to encourage external (or unknown system inputs) identification during the data collection and root cause analysis? Brainstorming and categorization are the first failure point. Including company experts from multiple areas in the company is the first step. Unfortunately, this is not the norm and we encourage limited experts in the focus area to apply their existing rules-of-thumb with delayed feedback more often than naught. So in my opinion, there is no issue that can not be tackled if the correct data is identified and correctly measured. Six sigma is required to reduce everyday variation in the long term but must start with smaller out of control process. Linking the possible causes from this smaller scope to the everyday system process will reduce variation if we correct the biases that lead to failure in the first place.HF Chris

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    #167464

    Roger Noble
    Member

    Seems like a lot of people of something to say here. Let me offer some insight from someone that has been involved with Six Sigma since 1996, one of those strange thinking GE pioneers. Boy, were we a crazy thinking crew! Data… the key to success is data. Six Sigma is clearly a statistically based analytical tool. Sure, to broad of a scope is a major factor in a project’s failure but you can overcome that… though through delays of redefining and narrowing the scope. Sure People are the biggest obstacles especially in non-manufacturing settings. Some industries are just not “data-friendly” meaning they aren’t accustomed to being measured and if you try to do so, well, prepare to wear bullet proof vests. Eventually, though, through buy in and translation of your approach into techniques they are used to.
    The death blow is data. Poor data, incomplete data, or the shear lack of data means you are basing your analysis on the ingredient of the pie.. or worse… thinking that confectioner’s sugar is the same ingredient than raw sugar cane. Think of healthcare, which is still predominently paper driven – there is a shear lack of historical data. How can you come up with a valid improvement and show the improvement when you have no data to start from? Is it something that can be overcome? sure, in time. But first you have to define your scope, then develop a way to capture the data you need to make your analysis. It takes a lot longer than most projects but it’s how you workaround the lack of data to begin with.

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    #167467

    Tony Bo
    Member

    Great points Roger…
    I too am a GE type trained person.Β  Your data comments are right on.Β  I also add….looking upstream…many SS implementations fail in companys because a proper foundation is not built for the use of DMAIC and DFSS.Β  They jump right into doing projects…in many cases improperly scoped projects..issues that are not necessarily great SS project potential…and to your point…zero or very little data.Β  The data piece can be overcome…but it will lengthen the project…and the BB has to get down and dirty and conduct some manual data collection.Β 

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