SS for non recurring processes

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    Hello all, Within my comany, SS is frequently challenged as non applicable to non recurring processes, ie processes that run one a year for instance. In such cases, we use the DMAIC cycle and some relevant tools (non stat), do you see any other alternative to leverage SS concepts (or SS relative tools) in such situations and convince our challengers ?Thank you for gently sharing any experience you have !Franz


    Geoff Elliott

    Hi Franz,
    One of the issues is that SS and LS are NOT problem solving methods. They are essentially analytical approaches arising from a transactional manufacturing environment. LS orginated in industrial engineering some 40 years ago (See ILO papers Geneva). One of the limitations of SS is that it does not adequately deal with variable work content and complex rule sets. (SIPOC, for example conveniently ignores business rules – see IDEf (0) notation) hence the need to utilising the full range of industrial engineering techniques to measure work content. Essentially SS deals with simple transactional processes and simple rules. Complex processes and complex rules are rather more problematic. Process capability   is defined as  low volume of tranbsactions and high process variety – again hence the need to measure work content and utilise not only industrial engineering techniques but also probelm solving techniques such as cognitive mapping, system mapping, rich pictures, multiple perspectives, viable systems model, systems thinking and emergence etc etc (see van gundy for a list) See also work of Slack and Johnston on operations management and service management. Unfortunately in the UK the average BB and MBB and most are, are not taught industrial engineering and operation management techniques as part of their 15/20 day training course. Many (most) do not have an engineering degree
    In answer to your question we developed a some 12/15 years ago a “pre DMAIC” process to address the issue of
    -where to start (ss does not tell where to start)
    -Messy probelms – all problems are mesy and analytical techniques do not address messy problems
    -complex rules sets and process variety
    – process work content
    etc etc
    In summary I agree with you company
    Geoff Elliott



    I find your comment about SS and LS not being “problem solving methodologies” quite remarkable.
    The etymological origin of “problem” is “problema” = Greek for “gap”, a word that in its origin means the valley in-between two mountains. “Methodology” originates from “methodos” = path, and logos = “logein” (to collect … originally berries and mushrooms), then transformed into “katalegein” (enumeration of events in Homer’s poems), and then transformed into “logos” as a systematic way to solve intellectual problems in philosophy (see the Pre-Socratians).  In its very original meanings then “methodological problem solving” meant finding a way in-between two mountains (typically the shortest and least dangerous path) to cross the mountaineous areas in Greece.
    The whole idea behind DMAIC, as far as I have understood it, is to define a problem (performance gap) and solve it, i.e. close the performance gap (expressed as a metric) through a “structured methodology” (5 steps, specified tools etc.). The “Define” stage was introduced to ensure that the “right” problem was being solved.
    From that angle, I find it quite interesting that six sigma methodology is NOT a problem solving methodology. 


    Jim P.S.

    My key point in regards to SS and LS that yes, they are problem solving methodologies, but the tools in their tool kit are not quite as universally applicable as they are currently being sold. The general structure of DMAIC is so general that it is almost trivial. The challenges come in when the problem is “fuzzy” (i.e. not easily defined) and therefore not easily measurable in terms of clearly defined expectations and defects. That’s where a second level of problem solving methodologies set in, in order to focus the problem.
    In regards to the non-recurring “processes”, I think they are best solving using project methodology. But then again, it will depend on exactly defining what the problem is. You only get the answers to the questions that you ask, and the answers are driven by the questions.

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