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improvement - ReModel International

Lean six sigma improvements need improving

Where Is Lean and Six Sigma Going Next?

By | Productivity | No Comments
Lean six sigma improvements need improving

If you are in the business of improvement, then you must use lean, 6 sigma or total quality tools.  Or you have no credibility.

But does it make you effective?

The lean movement outside Toyota has been around for 30 years and yet it still only scores about 25% success rate (ref 1).

Why doesn’t it do better?

Some say ‘try harder’.  Many say that the key part of the Toyota method is ‘respect for people’, ‘empowerment’ or something similar, and that this is still missing from most implementations.  We need more ‘soft skills’, supposedly.  And even if we had them, would we be able to fight the rising tide of shareholder power (“give me results this quarter”) over stakeholder power (“sustain and grow the community that the business feeds from and to”)?   Big issues that ‘trying harder at lean’ will not solve.

That’s the context.

What does it mean for those who practice lean?  Those whose job is to improve things?

One thing is for sure. You do not have job security.  If 3/4 of the time you fail, those accountants aren’t going to want to keep paying you.  I’ve certainly been there, although I jumped before I was pushed.

So what do you do…as an individual working as a change agent?

You have to take a different approach.  You should think about improving yourself, as a person rather than as a professional.  I mean Personal Development not Professional Development.  Not another 5S or Taguchi or Poka Yoke program.  I mean grow as a person.  More Tony Robbins than Shigeo Shingo.

Why?

Because those failures are failures to change people’s minds.  How do you do that if you can’t change your own mind? It starts with you.

Now I know that this is a scary thought for engineer types.  In fact, I have to admit that I ran screaming from a live 2 day Tony Robbins event after only 4 hours of it.  Luckily I have a partner who understood about Terror Barriers and the way through them.  We learnt a model for understanding this that can be taught and that people can internalize.

We live in an ever faster changing world.  You can see this in the strong reaction to it in all walks of life.  The world needs change agents more than ever.  But those change agents must be skilled in more than Lean.  Then they will be really valuable.

There’s some learning to do.  You need to get past your own terror, then you can help others.

Once you get past the terror, you will find freedom.

  1. Ignizio, James P. 2009. Optimizing Factory Performance: Cost-Effective Ways to Achieve Significant and Sustainable Improvement. 1st ed. Mcgraw-Hill Professional.

Trying To Improve Too Far

By | Manufacturing - Illogical Improvements, Productivity | No Comments

Suppose you work in a factory which is part of a larger group of companies.

What happens when the operations boss comes to visit you from head office?

He or she will congratulate you on your good work, meet and greet your staff…smile. However, you will always be left with an instruction to ‘keep it up’. This usually means ‘make your products cheaper next year…and the next’.

If you have been that good up to now, you know it is going to get harder and harder to reduce cost.  You will feel that you are being driven against a steep mountain slope and being whipped into going up it.

Here’s what the operations boss knows. His marketing people are telling him that the gross margin of your products is being eroded and that to maintain profitability, unit manufacturing cost must keep coming down.

If there are alternative business approaches that you could take in the market, then you don’t have enough information to say and anyway it’s outside your authority.

If you are truly reaching the limit of cost reductions set by the inherent product design, then it is difficult to say so without the operations boss feeling that you lack determination.  It would put your own future in jeopardy.  .

The upshot is that you continue to work harder and harder to achieve less and less, until the time comes when the last cost reduction that makes any sense is to move the improvement people out and save their salaries.  Your accountants will very quickly be able to tell you how much you will save in this scenario.

In the meantime, a number of increasingly (they have been getting better and better at improving) talented improvement people get more and more frustrated because they know they are achieving little in measurable results.  Plus you will have to pay them.

To avoid this lose-lose situation, you need to know when to stop improving.

At that moment, you will also have to clearly decide: do we stay where we are, do we undertake a significant product redesign or do we explore different business improvement ideas that exploit the ability of manufacturing to be more flexible or responsive for the same cost?