Selecting Priorities

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums Old Forums General Selecting Priorities

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    Dear discussion forum,
    I’m writting to ask if anyone can offer advice on selecting priorities within the Define phase. We feel that this is a poorly documented yet critical step to making Six Sigma really work for both the business and our customers.
    Theory would suggest we have a number of options available, these being:
    a) Use you top line KPI’s / HUD’s to identify areas of the process which require project attention
    b) The external VOC
    c) The internal VOC within each process step (efficiency)
    Our dilema is that the Vice President of our manufacturing business unit wants us to understand variation in everything – manufacturing and all the support functions (Quality, Planning, Logistics….). Our plan was to carry out a shortened study in light of the HUD’s being founded on poor data but we’re now confused as to where to start in light of there only being 4 of us in our team. Should we look at the manufacturing aspect first?
     Any advice would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks Damo



    Follow the money


    Heebeegeebee BB

    Sounds like a perfect fit for my shrinkage formula.   Try a search.


    Adam L Bowden

    Heebee & McD,
    You must both be referring to the Brazilian Bank job at the weekend – they “followed the money” and caused some shrinkage ??  :-)
    Best regards,



    If your VP wants you to do all of them, then you should. Just do them one at a time. Which do you do first? – Follow the money…


    paul vragel

    Damo –
    Recognize first that 80% of the issues are embedded in the system – the way all your people, processes and technology work together.  If you’re not looking at the system (the whole bundle of processes), then you often can’t fully address issues, and it makes it hard to define scope.
    Also, 80% (pick your own number) of the “transactions” go through the way they are supposed to…but you spend 80% of your time on the 20% that didn’t happen exactly as planned.
    In our experience, if you start by clearly understanding what actually is happening (not what people think is happening), you get a huge bump in innovation just from the people who actually do the work, and their detailed understanding of processes and interactions.
    If you don’t develop this level of understanding organization-wide, then you’re often stuck with “tampering” – your change will have unknown consequences somewhere else in the system – and someone will “re-adjust” to compensate for what you did (or left out).
    Put another way for your case:  in the end, all the issues of engineering, sales, quality, order management, etc. have to get resolved in manufacturing.  If you don’t really know what the upstream processes and interactions are, you may just be putting band-aids on the issues in manufacturing, without getting to underlying process causes.
    When you understand the whole set of processes first (and as part of that, see the underlying causes of variation), you can clearly see the scope and scale of issues (driven by internal or external VOC, or KPI/money) and who needs to be involved.  Priorities practially leap off the page, it’s easier to get common agreement.
    Exactly how you proceed also depends on the size of your organization.  What size is the organization you are working in (mfg + other)?
    Paul Vragel  – 4aBetterBusiness, Inc.



    Go find a good assessment and selection matrix for project selection. If there is no Quality Leadership to help in this regard (project selection), work with your customer (VP for example) in crafting the selection criteria and assigning the appropriate weights…Then rack and stack the different projects based on their selection scores…whatever you do, keep the scope manageable….you want a win, above anything else…or you could just follow the money….But what the hell do I know.



    Thanks for your reply Paul, its one of the more valued ones I have received. I believe our thinking is in line with yours which is good to read. During this theoretical study phase we are intending to make use of a system diagnosis tool to underpin a system diagram which has already been compiled by our VP and reports. It’s basically the same template but uses better questions around SIPOC and should gets the user to start ‘systems thinking’, and searching for that ever elusive data to back up their claims. We’re also big on getting process mapping exercises done up front of any work, mapping out the real process as opposed to working with the perceived.
    Thanks again for your advise, I shall keep you all posted on progress and learning.

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