Leaning on the right pillars
Lean Six Sigma is a term a CEO would be interested in. It is an approach that
needs to be rolled out across an organisation. However, to create efficient
and optimised processes and workflows, do you as senior managers really need
to wait for the board or the MD to wake up to it? Lean Six Sigma is often perceived
as something much more large scale than it really is. Where the approach fits
in from the smallest to the largest level, and how to interpret it, are issues
the book What is Lean Six Sigma? co-authored by Mike George, Dave Rowlands,
and Bill Kastle attempts to clarify.
At the outset, the authors establish what is implied when they use the word
customer. A customer, by definition in Lean Six Sigma, is anyone
outside the company who buys the product as well as anyone inside the company
who is affected by the result of your work. In the case of the IT department,
this usually includes everyone, because IT is now spread across all the functions
of the organisation. It is important to treat the internal team quite like you
would treat someone spending money on your product.
Every customer has an expectation from you, and it is critical
to meet that expectation in the interests of both the organisation and the department.
The range of shortfalls from the expectations is defined as variations. The
book makes it clear that complete elimination of variation is practically impossible,
and may even be unhealthy. However, too large a variation is annoying to customers,
and every time they face a bad experience your credibility takes a knock. In
Lean Six Sigma, the authors suggest, a reduction of such variation can come
packaged in parameters that include good quality, quick service and low cost.
||Title: What is Lean Six Sigma?
Authors: Mike George, Dave Rowlands & Bill Kastle
Publisher: Tata-McGraw Hill
Price: Rs 265
The first step is to base all decisions on data. Most organisations
are already collecting that. However, the important question to ask today is
how reliable and valuable is this data. The book establishes that the first
action a manager should take is to assemble reliable data. Thereafter, the authors
believe that a management often tries to pin errors on people and therefore
gets stuck in a vicious cycle which goes from bad to worse. The error, they
say, lies predominantly in processes that need to be redefined to reduce waste
and cultivate efficiency and that can only happen if all the people in
it work together.
Lean Six Sigma as an approach requires some people to work dedicatedly at process
improvement and assessment, and others who look into it every now and then as
a side function of their core job. This creates a blend of specialists and non-specialists
involved in quality control, which leads to a quality-conscious culture among
members of a team.
The authors of this book suggest that it takes about six months for Lean Six
Sigma to show results. Thereafter, the monetary benefits may be significant
or negligible depending on how well your process had been designed in the first
place. The book finishes with six must-dos for managers if they are to support
Lean Six Sigma:
- Pick the right projects
- Pick the right people for the job
- Follow a well-planned method
- Define roles and responsibilities clearly
- Communicate and be transparent
- Create ongoing training and learning environments
Overall the book is concise and gives a fair interpretation of Lean Six Sigma.
It makes for easy reading that a manager, and particularly a CIO, may find useful
to put the teams functioning in perspective.
- Deepali Gupta