Six Sigma projects and professional exposure

Everybody recognizes the sales people has a lot of exposure with regards to their stability as a employees: If you don’t sell, you don’t get your bonus. If you don’t sell consistently, you are fired.

A person leading a Six Sigma project where the target is to save some millions dollars for the organization has the same pressure: If the program does not return the expected savings, you will be asked why, if the arguments and barriers you faced are not consistent, you are fired.

What is the value of a Senior Six Sigma project Manager in the market?

  • If a Six Sigma project saves 10m$ for the company, these 10m$ goes to the OI of the balance.
  • If a sales team sells 100m$ at 10% OI, 10m$ goes to the OI of the balance.

The value in the market is different, and I think this is basically because sales people sell themselves better than other people.

Remove systemic hurdles

As portfolio manager, I have a team working on the execution of contracts, attending customers and trying to compete on the market with our solutions and value propositions.

When looking I look at the way we sell, offer and deliver, you find systemic hurdles that affect negatively to the ability to succeed. By that reason this aspect is one of the relevant areas of improvement we are launching.

We are using common sense and Six Sigma approach to identify, define, analyze and remove these hurdles.

That was the easy part. The difficult part is being to change the mindset of the people about behaviors and ways to proceed on non written procedures. I have find so many interesting things when you start to ask “why do you do this in this way”:

  1. A funny “we do this in this way because we always have done it in this way”.
  2. You discover other issues that are hidden inside a given department.
  3. You discover the real hierarchy of the small teams.
  4. You discover who plays the game of “doing him/her self irreplaceable”.
  5. Some people take it personally when you challenge them about change the way to proceed.

We are succeeding partly, and it is thanks to the management team that is pushing our actions on the given departments to act and improve these issues. Without this leadership the analysis is just an excel with so many data.

I’m happy with some of the results, to shake the “establishment” of an organization is something funny.

Dashboard for organizational changes

In the improvement program I’ve worked, we have done a set of improvements and definition of processes for the different areas of the business we decided to work on.

Every aspect of each process has their details, and they also are linked with the others.

I created this chart to represent how they are going on in terms of evolution, try to discuss and prioritize next steps.

Process-improvement-DashboardWe could not put in place all the improvement actions at the same time as operations and business day to day do not stop, so we planned it in this way: launching each improving at different quarters and introducing others once the previous ones were matured enough.

Process-improvement-Dashboard-calendarIn some areas we have advanced a lot, in some others we still have to improve, but in general the adoption of these standards have improved the efficiency of the operations and the understanding of “what the others are doing”.

Gemba attitude in situational awareness

Gemba Japanese term means “the real place”, in business  “the place where value is created”.

To solve a problem, you have to go to the “Gemba” or to the workplace, the machine, the plant, … the place where the root cause of a problem is happening.

The combination of Kaizen & Gemba are clear: continuous improvement in the workplace.

In large hierarchical organizations, when the data, situation are not coming from “the place where value is created“,the situational awareness is low. This provokes the decision making process is executed with the wrong data and/or wrong situation, provoking wrong management and strategic decisions. When this happens in long term period, all decisions are “political” decisions instead of being data-driven decisions.gemba-joke


Six Sigma Black Belt

After obtaining the Green Belt I continued working on the certification for Black Belt Six Sigma. The project delivered was very well appreciated, and there are so many details that were welcomed onto the analysis and definition stage.

For those who want to work on this type of organization, my recommendation is to do it when you are engaged on a real Six Sigma project. It makes the study more dynamic, it’s more easy to translate the concepts to real life and enables you to practice some of the tools, recommendations…


Six Sigma handbook, Pyzdek & Keller

The cover says: “a complete guide for green belts, black belts and managers at all levels”.

I agree, it’s a complete guide for the main aspects of Six Sigma. I have done internal training courses in my company related to Six Sigma: focused on DMAIC, DMADV, DFSS, and other tools.

This book goes in deep in the analysis and the statistical techniques, the courses I did goes more in the direction of understanding the processes and how to apply it.

Both learning initiatives have been complementary.

Six-sigma-handbookFour months ago I enrolled the Six Sigma Online course from Aveta Business Institute and I just completed all exams, so now I am Lean/DFSS Green Belt certifiedSix-Sigma-Certification-LD

The symtom, the desease and the cure

Identify the symptom is useful for understanding the problem and setting priorities to overcome it.

The disease focuses the attention on the underlying causes of the problem.

The cure focuses on the actions to remove the cause and also take into account negative collateral effects.

The lack of understanding of these three concepts is making the execution of a six sigma project to be more complicated than expected.

Why? people are limiting their actions to removing the symptoms.

Bad news are bad news, that’s all

Introduce a “Six Sigma Improvement Plan” has an explicit problem, you are putting on the table existing issues, done from part of the audience. The situation becomes more uncomfortable when you have their bosses in the meeting. In some way you were introduced there like a fox in a chicken coop.

The books say you to be positive, and you talk highlighting all the positive aspects the team is doing, but nobody is listening the positive side of the message, they only are filtering the real message you are giving, the key aspects you have to say are not nice, some of them are accepting the message, some other refuse to accept some facts, and the bosses are just taking notes parsimoniously.

The end is bitter for all; the people who requires the improvement plan have been discovered, no more speculation, the data is on the table; the bosses are impassible and you now have to put in place the improvement plan with the same guys you have pointed to their faults.

These are going to be 8 interesting months.

Cost of poor quality, but how much?

Techniques, there are different techniques and components that once they are summed, you can calculate the cost of poor quality.

Criteria, it is very important to define the criteria and highlight the arguments that compounds the measure of the COPQ. This calculation generates always controversy because depending of the components used it will point to a group of people more or less as the ones causing the issue (this item is not a cause of poor quality, or yes it is…)

A reference is required in the situations where you are not able to calculate an accurate COPQ. These market references help to do a rough order magnitude estimate. I found this one:

  • Companies operating at three or four sigma typically spend between 25% and 40% of their revenues fixing problems.
  • But companies operating at six sigma typically spend less than 5% of their revenues fixing problems.