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Why Do Process Improvement Efforts Fail?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums Methodology Why Do Process Improvement Efforts Fail?

This topic contains 33 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Thomas Whitney 7 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #54008

    Dushyant Thatte
    Participant

    What are the common reasons of failure of PI Projects in various organizations. What are you doing to solve those issues?

    Recent articles advocate LSS TOC usage. Any further constructive comments? Any study on negative impacts of integrating LSS & TOC?

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    #192796

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    I just happen to be writing a white paper on this subject so I will give you my observations on the subject of why LSS deployments so often have issues to failures. Hopefully, what to do different part of the white paper will be out soon.

    The most common mistake made in Lean Six Sigma (LSS) deployments is after the assessment process most of the training and project focus is directed towards possible significant Xs’ (or customer requirement) identified that are expected to affect the top-level financials, customer requirements or yield. Each black belt or green belt is assigned an X (or customer requirement) as a project and are expected to form a team and optimize the X (or customer requirement) with the X (or customer requirement) being the primary measurement variable. All projects are treated as independent from the rest and the black belt/green belt must find the time to complete the LSS process! In too many cases, the key output variable (Y) is reviewed in “private” by plant staff’s especially product output measures, cost variances and labor costs. Finance people often give swags at what impact they believe the optimization of the X or customer requirement will return. In the worst cases, the rule that states each black belt project will generate a 68% improvement and return $250,000 is invoked. Plant management LSS reviews consist more of technical LSS process reviews than on whether the project is championed correctly, supported correctly or has any expectation of a breakthrough in a key output variable (Y).

    Just my ranting….

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    #192801

    Gary Cone
    Participant

    @twhitney99 Are you trying to say that working a project is not the same as fixing the system?

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    #192802

    gomezadams
    Member

    Gang,it goes much deeper than what you are trying to address.
    Process improvement efforts have been around for years. Senior leadership teams come amd go,they are fluid. Just as fluid are the primary goals of the leadership teams. Its Cost and Delivery one year,Quality the next.Back and forth,back and forth,…
    Lean organization is another (RIF in the guise of improving the short term bottom line and overextending the workforce remaining in tough economic times).The major constraint I see is in intellect. How can you promote and improve brand image if you do not take a firm stance on Quality? Its common sense! If you want to be able to sell your product,you must satisfy the customer.
    Where do they find these people to run our companies? Deming ,Juran and Crosby would be proud that the leaders of industry have at least demonstrated “constancy of purpose”.
    VOC must at some point take overriding precedence to VOB.

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    #192804

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    I am suggesting that working projects independent of each other or with respect to their affect on the significant variation of KPO variables is not an efficient way to fix the whole business system. Any given successful project will fix a part of the business system, but it may not lead to a breakthrough improvement in the KPO variable and may have a very small financial return during the deployment stage.

    Case-in-point (in simplified terms). I recently worked in a Bakery where the KPO was product giveaway in the final package of a cracker product. The process delivered 15% more weight to each final package than was necessary. It was staunchly believed that the critical variable was wet dough weight and a project was launched. As this process was improved to a Cpm of 1 and then 1.5 the final package weight remained near 15% overpack. During the entire wet weight project no study of the variation in the four sub packages which made up the final package was made. When the variation of the sub packages was measured it was found that there was significant variation in the sub packages. This led the wet weight team to look at the variation in rows of dry (after baking) weight crackers that made up the each of the four sub packages. To their astonishment, there was virtually no significant variation across the rows. Since the dry weight of the cracker was the customer KPO variable and it had a good Cpm it did’t occur to anyone to look at the next process step for the cracker which delivered a thin layer of oil to the product. This part of the process was considered a no brainer operation. The oil process was found to have significant variation across the rows and accounted for an 8% reduction in the final package overweight.

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    #192806

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @dushyantthatte – Good discussion from Tom, but I’d like to add my perspective on your query about TOC vis-a-vis LSS. In the early stages of an LSS deployment there is usually no lack of project opportunity, nor is there much debate about what project to work on as generally ANY project will provide needed savings.
    However, after a few iterations, the choices of projects becomes more difficult, and often focuses on “hard savings” which is translated to personnel reduction or material savings. What is often missed is throughput capacity improvement and here is where TOC can really help.
    Lean focuses the attention on waste and waste elimination. Six sigma (in its purest implementation) focuses attention on waste caused by variation and through reduction of variation, waste reduction and quality improvement. TOC focuses attention on throughput, and identifying the constraint in the system. It does not specifically address what to do about the constraint (that’s where Lean and Six Sigma and other improvement methods need to be applied), rather by focusing attention on the constraint, it helps to prioritize what is truly important to organizational success. As one constraint is improved, another part of the system will emerge as the new choke point, and without tools to detect this shift in constraint, organizations may continue to focus on the wrong part of the system.
    TOC, thus, should become a critical management tool to ensure that LSS projects are addressing the constraint in the system. All too often projects are conducted, “improvement” is achieved based on the internal measures (as Tom identified above), but business results are not affected (because, I would posit, that the true constraint to business results were not addressed). Thus, management soon loses faith/interest in CI as a tool for effectively addressing their business management needs. Adding TOC ensures that this does not occur.
    Just my opinion.

    And yes, @garyacone, I am saying (in my typically verbose and $5 word way) that fixing a problem is not fixing the system.

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    #192822

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @Thomas Whitney What you posted about finding the true causes of the overfill at the bakery is an excellent example of your leadership–guess that’s why they keep calling for more help. I wonder if Mr. C. is disappointed because you didn’t use a red or pink in the description of how it was solved. :)

    I would say your criticism of the strategy would be summarized by a lack of proper process knowledge, proper project prioritization, and lack of following the DMAIC methodology to solve the issues identified in the assessment.

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    #192823

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @MBBinWI I always love it when a client says the process can’t run any faster and we get to use TOC techniques within a DMAIC methodology and amaze them.

    Who is Galt Taggart?

    @twhitney99 My apologies for messing up my earlier post with your handle. I’m getting used to the mechanics.

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    #192825

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    For those that have read the GOAL, MBBinWI reminded me of my one line summation of the book, ” Where is Herbie now?”
    I absolutely agree with MBBinWI summation of how all the tools and methods fit together. I tend to encourage the total package of CI project deployment to follow the general sequence : Stability, Shape and Throughput (constraint elimination} to get the fastest ROI.

    Stability: Highly unstable process, those that have enormous swings in KPOs, don’t need allot of measuring or observation to find projects rich in returns. The instability makes it rather futile in the short term quest for high rates of return to put too much effort on Shape or Throughput projects especially when resources are constrained. I personally love leading efforts in highly unstable processes. It is easy to become a hero!

    Shape: Once a process is basically stabilized process variation reduction and lean activity (LSS) become the easiest target projects for high ROI. These projects need to be systematically linked to the business financial/customer requirement metrics as I talked of above. I am about ready to move on after this stage, the easy variation/lean work is done and returns become less. Too much work and not a high enough chance to be a hero!

    Once Shape projects have gone through a few iterations, then throughput constraints become easier to see and the next highest ROI effort. TOC is a great way to manage these. Now sometimes throughput projects are pretty fun and some do have hero level returns but often they involve too much begging for capital and involve the nasty business of hard savings through personnel reduction. Only the most sophisticated managers understand the notion Gary mentioned in his interview, that people should be moved to new opportunity areas rather than be eliminated. Motorola did this well and it is probably why the company is still union free! I am out of here by the first quarter of this phase. Way too much work and social distress!

    Actually, I’m really just a manic fanatic for CI and love the craziness of the stability and early shape phases. The rest is too calm for me.

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    #192826

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    @cseider Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for the compliment, but I couldn’t have done so much if the CI team whern’t one of the best with whomI have ever worked.

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    #192827

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @cseider – Google is a wonderful tool.

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    #192828

    Stevo
    Member

    I don’t think there is a single silver bullet that that makes programs fail. Culture, lack of leadership, watering down the LSS product/message etc. One that I have noticed is a lack of confidence in lower level personnel; they train and communicate fairly well at the exempt levels, but fall short with the non-exempts.

    They often feel like it’s to complicated for them. In my experiences, not only are they intelligent enough but enthusiastic to improve their situation.

    Don’t let pay grades and titles get in the way.

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    #192829

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @twhitney99 – Great way to put it (think I’ll steal that when I finally write my book).

    I love Herbie.

    If you enjoyed (and maybe even learned something from) The Goal, then you should read Critical Chain, and then if you’re an MRP geek read Necessary But Not Sufficient. All good stories and tremendous insights.

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    #192830

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @cseider – the proper question would be “Who is John Galt?”

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    #192833

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    @Stevo I’m going to try and not go into another long rant, which I would if I didn’t need to type it out but let me change your words a little. The line people are ignored because most exempts are too arrogant to listen to them or think it is below themselves to go mingle with them.
    There is not one, not one major breakthrough I have been a part of that wasn’t a result of the Red X input from a line operator/associate. When the machine tech of a solder machine told me the red X as I was taking data in my discovery search for the number one defect issue in the plant, I asked him why he never told anyone else. He said he had been saying it for 10 years but no engineer would listen! Motorola spent hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions on trying to solve this problem and the Red X rested in the head of a lowly machine tech for 10 years! I was called a hero and tried to explain it wasn’t me it was the machine tech but I still got the credit! Even more arrogance in the face of truth. I better stop now…..

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    #192834

    Dushyant Thatte
    Participant

    Well Team, I see many of us agree that a system level perspective does help improve the success rate of LSS Project. We also seems to be agreeing on the perspective that a system-wide improvement is much more important than the local improvement. Here are some follow up questions:

    1. To have the system level perspective, we must have system level metrics. And to identify the constraint, we must also have the system level metrics. How hard is it to establish these system level metrics?
    2. Is there anyone who has implemented this integrated strategy (end-to-end) in any organization? (and have witnessed outstanding results)?
    3. Have you found any negative side to this approach?

    And thank you all for your keen interest in developing this LSSTOC methodology (framework)further. I hope this discussion would help us optimize this approach further.

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    #192836

    gomezadams
    Member

    Cost per saleable unit is the simplest metric understandable to management. No need to complicate things.Improving quality drives the metric down with an eventual price decrease to the consumer. This improves corporate stability with eventual increased sales.

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    #192840

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    @dushyantthatte Q1. The top level for a factory metric is always the output measure. Any business is in business to make stuff. And all factories are built to a capacity to make enough of the stuff to make money. Someone sets that amount and the factory needs to build it. So, the measure is always how much stuff your expected to make per day broken down to units per hour. The success rate to the factory of achieving the units per hour is the measure or yield (Six Sigma). Counter measures are the throughput (TOC) and waste (Lean).

    Q2. I only do CI this way and I’ve done it this way for 30 yrs. and I always get incredible results results.
    Q3. NO.

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    #192841

    Stan Mikel
    Member

    @dushyantthatte It’s pretty naive of you to say “developing this LSSTOC methodology “. TOC has been part of Six Sigma since the first person read The Goal at Motorola sometime in the mid 80″s.

    If you think 25 years later you’re the first person to think of this, just read Mr. Whitney’s post.

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    #192846

    gomezadams
    Member

    Gee Tom “stuff”?. Output measure?
    CPU is projected up front by how much stuff we are to make.
    Not making the stuff (eg the output) has a negative impact on CPU.

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    #192847

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @twhitney99 @cseider @MBBinWI So the root cause is the assessment? That is nonsense. If you want a system level audit you hire someone to do that. If you want a process audit you hire someone to do that. If you have people who can’t understand the opportunity to create more margin from poor processes then you hire someone to assess that opportunity.

    At the end of the day if you relay on an auditor/assessor/whatever to identify and create a system level strategy for you then you have just outsourced the CI/Quality/Deployment Leaders job. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing.

    Of course BB’s and GB’s work on specific processes. That is their job. Ther should be someone at the plant level with the plant system view. That feeds up to someone at a division level who coordinates the divisions. That feeds up to sectors and that feeds up to corporate. ‘member trickle down economics? like that only different.

    That whole thing was supposed to be fixed with this idea of a balanced scorecard but we all know that got bastardized to become about someones bonus not about making the company more profitable.

    Why do deployments fail. Poor deployment design generally driven by a lack of a clearly articulated goal from top management (why are we doing this and what do we want to accomplish). Lack of accountability. Why did GE work so well under Jack Welch? There was accountability. If you ever saw the GE Aircraft Engine (GEAE) deployment plan in 1996 generated by Ken Meyer (retired General) it was obvious he understood developing a plan, measuring performance to the plan and fixing the performance issues and making adjustments to the deployment process not the deployment goals. You back that up with Jack Welch holding people accountable and it worked. Anyone will get better results than 95% of the deployments with a plan generated by someone with at least a 2 digit IQ backed up by someone who regularly ingests calcium to strengthen their backbone.

    This seems to be a quote phase right now. One of my college heros was a guy named T. Boone Pickins and he says “A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan.” Most of the time when I see what someone is calling their deployment plan (generally train some people and do some projects) it reminds me of Heath Ledger as the Joker saying “Do I look like someone with a plan?” I would definately love to carry a little bag of clown makeup for every time I run into one of those people.

    This isn’t a rant – just my opinion.

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    #192848

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @twhitney99 It is a nice theory about some one plans to build this much stuff and then someone builds it and we make money and everyone skips off into the sunset. Name a factory that devivers data that is clean enough to have a realistic plan?

    Lets say we have one. Now where the budget gets set it gets jacked around by every middle level manager trying to sandbag all the way up the line until you get a complete load of BS at the top. The top guys recognize the BS and hack and slash it with no data which angers the mid level guys and so they continue to play the game, etc.

    The whole process lacks integrity and becomes a how do I maximize my bonus activity. All those guys in the middle are protecting their bonus and who actually gets screwed? The people at the bottom.

    There isn’t clean enough data to generate a decent AOP.

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    #192850

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @mike-carnell I did not critcize the assessments–just how its priorities didn’t seemed to be followed after reading Tom’s post. Heck, as we all know, the assessments are reality checks for the clients. If they weren’t spot on, they would give us that feedback.

    FYI, I sure wish T Boone Pickens could get Congress/Obama on board to make the US more energy independent with his idea to have vehicles use natural gas. He’s done the good PR. http://www.pickensplan.com/theplan/

    As a former Perot supporter who spoke quite frankly, I’d love to see Mr. Pickens run for the oval office. I digress…..

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    #192852

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @cseider You backed up off of that in a hurry! We will have to ship back to Oz for a while and let you walk around upside down a bit longer.

    I went to see Kid Rock in Houston with Consuelo and some friends. While I was sitting at a dead stop on the I-10 and Loop 610 in bumper to bumper traffic I realized that a huge part of the issue we have hasn’t got anything to do with fuel efficiency. When my truck (6.7 liter diesel) is sitting on the freeway at dead stop next to one of those attitude packing Priuses we are both getting zero miles to the gallon and they still look at you like environment protection sprung from their breast. Look at that monster rebuild on I-10 between Katy and the outside loop That thing must be 6 lanes wide, toll lane, HOV lane and 4 feeder lanes – after all that it still comes to a stop. If you get the same result before and after the change (we accept the null) obviously the fix was wrong. Bottom line is we don’t understand how to move traffic. That and Americans drive like crap.

    Lets shut down HOV lanes for cars and make them special lanes for big trucks that just want to go all the way through town (you get in on one side of town and you get out on the other). Look at every big truck in bumper to bumper traffic. Big empty space in front of them because they cannot accelerate the same way traffic does. Imagine the ripple effect of a couple hundred of those trucks stuck in traffic. You will get more impact from moving trucks than tweo nerds riding in a Prius.

    Not sure what to do with people who get so many speeding tickets they may actually lose their license.

    Lets do something easy. Let’s just analyze traffic and figure out how to optimize the flow by timing the lights. Let’s stop letting every special interest group hire an off duty policeman to stop traffic to let their special interst butts out into traffic because they drive so poorly they will sit there and wait until they run out of gas. Let them do that a couple times and it will be a little easier to get a couple of them to get one car.

    My truck has a bar graph in the dash that constantly calculates my MPG. It is the only thing that has changed my driving habits in 43 years because it is constantly there to give me immediate feed back on how I am driving – just like urinating on an electric fence.

    We have had all these fuel issues longer than we have had cell phones. What does that tell you about the worlds priorities. We have developed cellular technology, texting, email, in phone camers, etc in less time than we have had fuel issues. Obviously we don’t care about fossil fuel – globally.

    Whitney – KMA that was a proper rant.

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    #192853

    gomezadams
    Member

    I just love these Octogon moments!

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    #192854

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @mike-carnell – thought that’s what I said.

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    #192856

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @MBBinWI When I worked up in WI for a few weeks I was sitting at a bar and heard the Bartender ask a guy if he had any ID. The guy being a true cheesehead said “about what?”

    Same response to that post – about what?

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    #192857

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @MBBinWI Got up at 3 to catch a plane. Not sure if I need sleep or anger management.

    @spazwhatsup Is that a Chuck Norris joke? Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories.

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    #192858

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @mike-carnell

    I didn’t back off, just clarified….I wanted to make sure ire from respected folks don’t aim friendly fire my way. :) Also, as you know…I was a contributor to a few of those assessments.

    Your idea of dedicated lanes for trucks is definitely worth gathering data. Let’s get the state/US gov’t to hire us to drive getting a model to check out the idea.

    Theoretically those 2 loops you already have in HOU were designed for trucks to avoid the city by driving around. Luckily, TX still has lots of manufacturing so the darn trucks have to enter the loops to pick up and drop off the goods. Also, your idea might be curiously possible to try….HOU could allow 10+ wheeled trucks on those BUS/HOV lanes you have and see if it improved things on a trial basis.

    Roundabouts are the answer in my opinion for city traffic. I’ve even see them work for highways in Ohio and Australia.

    Oh, I’m sure the Katy/I10 rebuild must be awesome to see. 635 in North Dallas is a disaster also where they are building more lanes and now toll lanes. I still can’t believe that all the suburbanites don’t scream more at Gov. Perry and ask for the gas tax to be raised in exchange for an end of any new toll highways. Remember when Republicans used to embrace infrastructure building under the leadership of Eisenhower? OK, both of us had to read about it in the history books.

    And don’t think I didn’t notice the license thing. :)

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    #192861

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @cseider Only Rick Perry would trade teachers for toll roads. I was hoping he would get elected President then we could all share the moron. What is that thing from Lupienski? Once is random chance, twice is coincidence and three times is a trend. Bush and Perry? it would have only taken one more to have a trend.

    Let’s see how much sense a loop to get trucks around a city makes. What fuel do they burn? Is it more or less expensive that gasoline? Is it father to go around or straight through? Does it take more time (they only get to drive a certian amount of time)? Is Houston the 4th largest city in the US so it probably takes a long time to drive around it? Building a loop is a dumb idea. Building 2 is stupid.

    Let’s just make traffic jams due to poor road design a capital offense. You don’t many nuclear reactors blowing up in Russia these days.

    Roundabouts are cool. We have one in New Braunfels. Are they solution to traffic? Only is you screen people getting a drivers license with an IQ test first.

    I’m up for getting a grant to study that. The only down side is you have to be in Houston or Dallas to do that.

    So do you have a chauffer yet or have you figured out that when you step on the pedal on the far right real hard you go faster. Speeding and speeding tickets generally correlate – thus the name.

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    #192866

    gomezadams
    Member

    Forgive me,it is getting late. I’m not following-“Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell CN stories”?

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    #192867

    Dushyant Thatte
    Participant

    @stanmikel, If you would please read the complete sentence. It states developing this methodology “further”. Each methodology gets developed over time, and I certainly in no way can claim I’m the first person to think about it. I initiated this discussion to understand current realities and learn from what experts have to say. And I’m learning a lot.

    Thank you everyone.

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    #192870

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    @mike-carnell – yes, you need some sleep (or sedation, not sure which).

    @twhitney99 – wow, Tom, glad I was driving.

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    #192872

    Thomas Whitney
    Member

    @MBBinWI Fortunately, i take medication for my road rage thinking….

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