Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lean Can't Solve "Non Process" Problems?

On LinkedIn, a guy who teaches Lean Sigma as a "Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt" sure doesn't seem to know much about Lean... yet he tries teaching Lean anyway. And, he's an adjunct professor at a pretty major university, to boot.

Reading his bio, he's a GE guy and a "Six Sigma Master Black Belt," which seems to be a more accurate description of his experience and his skill set.

Yet, he feels the need to try to also teach Lean. Stick to Six Sigma!

In a LinkedIn discussion, he claimed there is a "weak spot of Lean," where Lean "doesn't have much to offer for non process problems."

What?

When pressed, he said:
"What lean tools do you use when a company approaches you and says their current profit is 4% and they want it to be 6%? The answer is none, this problem is better suited for the data analytics within DMAIC. Now if my problem is long cycle time to discharge a patient that screams lean tops, VSM etc."
For one, he thinks Lean equals tools. That's a common problem in the Lean Sigma movement, equating everything to tools in a toolbox. The "Lean" in "Lean Six Sigma" often just means superficial use of Lean tools like 5S or Value Stream Mapping without understanding the underlying Lean philosophy or management system.

I replied:
"Organizations use Lean methods like strategy deployment and A3 problem solving to frame strategic business challenges without Six Sigma."
I also asked a former Toyota friend, Tracey Richardson, to chime in and she wrote:
"So one of the first questions I would ask (regarding profit margins)  how many of their KPI's are lagging indicators that they are reacting too, which is waste within that profit margin (answering the general question Mark asked not about the video).  There is really no tool involved with the question, that takes some go-see, understanding of measurements, tools come much later when we determine - what problems are we solving and how do we know.  So I agree Mark questions before tools :)"
The guy then creates a red herring by complaining:
"It’s a shame so many lean only practitioners won’t acknowledge the added benefit of the DMAIC methodology and some of the Six Sigma tools."
I never said there's no added benefit to Six Sigma or DMAIC. I just want this Six Sigma guy to stick to Six Sigma, where there is added benefit. Him teaching incorrect things about Lean isn't helping anybody.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another false dichotomy of #Lean & #SixSigma

As shared on Twitter... it's flatly incorrect. Lean also helps very directly reduce defects through problem solving...


Monday, August 7, 2017

Why are we so obsessed with tools?

This is from a healthcare consultant's website....  Lean is just a bunch of tools? That's not what Toyota says... it's also a management system and a culture. Is the "tools in the toolbox" mental model holding back Lean and holding back healthcare?



The text:

Which method is best… Lean or Six Sigma?
Remember that these are tools and methods. Is a hammer better than a screwdriver or saw? Each tool is appropriate for a specific task or function. In our experience, the Lean toolbox is the place for most organizations to start. Lean is intuitive and easy for managers to put into practice. Lean methods lay the foundation for "process and flow thinking." However, most organizations find that they will rapidly need the rich statistical toolbox of Six Sigma. This is especially true when dealing with complex issues of patient flow when the obvious improvements have already been completed.
I've also never found an organization that's run out of "obvious improvements." This toolbox view can perhaps drive short-term improvement... but is that it?

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Six Things Wrong with the "Six Roles" of Lean Six Sigma

I received a promotional email from a company that makes money by training and certifying belts.

This infographic lists six roles... I was curious if I could find six things wrong with the diagram and the assumptions of many approaches to "Lean Six Sigma." Click on the illustration for a larger view.


For one, the emphasis is on training and projects. That's, at best, a starting point for the adoption of a new management system and an organizational culture.

Two, why do you need so many levels of belts. The only apparent difference between White and Yellow belts is that White Belts aren't allowed to participate in projects? Why would you exclude any employee's input? That sounds like an excuse to sell yet another belt for another fee.

Three, I'll emphasize that everybody should be involved in improvement (that's the Kaizen approach within Lean)... and, again, not all improvements should be considered a "project." Small "just do it" and PDSA style Kaizen improvements are small and don't require project formality.

Four, why are process issues being reported to Green Belts and Black Belts? Where is the role of the actual managers of areas in which the belts work? A better Lean approach would have direct supervisors, managers, directors, and above being made aware of problems and opportunities for improvement, not just belts.

Five, can a "Master Black Belt" really be "responsible" for implementation and culture change? That's the role of executive leaders.

Six, "champions" shouldn't just support change, they should be directly involved by setting goals and direction... and clearing obstacles along the way.

Well, I found six problems or concerns. What about you?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sometimes, Professors are Wrong Too

Just because you're an "adjunct professor at Georgia Institute of Technology’s Scheller School of Business" doesn't mean you can't be wrong about Lean.

The professor, who has a deep background in Six Sigma, maybe shouldn't be teaching about Lean. I'm not qualified to teach about Six Sigma, so I don't try telling people what Six Sigma is about.

I do know Lean pretty well.

As other posts on this blog point out, a statement like this is very incorrect... factually incorrect...

As written here:

"Six Sigma uses the DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) method to reduce defects. Lean, derived mostly from the Toyota Production System, focuses on cycle time reduction by eliminating non-value-added steps."

The implication is that Lean doesn't help reduce defects. The implication is that Six Sigma is the only way to reduce defects. That's all untrue.

See the Toyota Production System page that explains how Lean is about improving flow AND quality. Improving flow leads to better quality. And, Lean has methods (tools like error proofing and management mindsets) that very directly improve quality.

I wish Six Sigma people would stick to teaching about Six Sigma.

Would you let a physics professor teach biology? Would you "merge" the departments into something called "Physology" or "Physics Biology?"

That's my problem with Lean Sigma... the incorrect things that get said about Lean.

I'm not against Six Sigma. I agree that Lean and Six Sigma can be complementary. But not if you think Lean doesn't address defects. Visit a Toyota plant and see...
"Six Sigma uses the DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) method to reduce defects. Lean, derived mostly from the Toyota Production System, focuses on cycle time reduction by eliminating non-value-added steps."

The implication is that Lean doesn't help reduce defects. The implication is that Six Sigma is the only way to reduce defects. That's all untrue.

See the Toyota Production System page that explains how Lean is about improving flow AND quality. Improving flow leads to better quality. And, Lean has methods (tools like error proofing and management mindsets) that very directly improve quality.

http://www.toyota-global.com/company/vision_philosophy/toyota_production_system/
"Six Sigma uses the DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) method to reduce defects. Lean, derived mostly from the Toyota Production System, focuses on cycle time reduction by eliminating non-value-added steps."

The implication is that Lean doesn't help reduce defects. The implication is that Six Sigma is the only way to reduce defects. That's all untrue.

See the Toyota Production System page that explains how Lean is about improving flow AND quality. Improving flow leads to better quality. And, Lean has methods (tools like error proofing and management mindsets) that very directly improve quality.

http://www.toyota-global.com/company/vision_philosophy/toyota_production_system/

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lean Doesn't "Sacrifice Quality"

Ah, the irony of an article that seeks to dispel "myths" about Lean Sigma then going and spreading an unfortunate myth about Lean.

See this article from Quality Mag:

10 Reasons Organizations Do Not Use Lean Six Sigma

They bust a few myths, but then they say this, unfortunately:
"By only doing Lean [and not Six Sigma] you sacrifice the benefits of quality." 
No no no no no no.

This is just factually incorrect.

Again, I'll point you to the Toyota web page for the Toyota Production System.

TPS is about flow AND quality. They go hand in hand. Better flow leads to better quality, and vice versa.

Lean and TPS have so many methods and mindsets that improve quality in very direct ways, such as:

  • Error proofing
  • Andon cords (stop the line)
  • A culture of not blaming individuals for systemic problems
Stop saying Lean alone would hurt quality. Somebody who doesn't understand Lean might go "implement Lean tools" in a way that hurts quality, but that's their fault (yes, I'll blame somebody) and not the fault of Lean.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nope, ThedaCare & VMMC Still Don't Do Six Sigma or "Lean Sigma"

Back in 2013, I wrote about a publication that described that Virginia Mason Medical Center does as "Lean Sigma."

As Dwight Schrute would say on "The Office":


I've very directly asked Virginia Mason's CEO Dr. Gary Kaplan if they do anything with Six Sigma and he says no. 

They use Lean, as in the Toyota Production System. No belts. No formal Six Sigma.

The same is the case at ThedaCare. I know because I've asked them. They don't do Six Sigma.

So, if an organization doesn't do Lean and Six Sigma, you can't call what they do "Lean Sigma."

It's just Lean.

There's a book on the market about Lean Six Sigma for hospitals that makes the same sloppy or misinformed error:

Does it matter? Yes, it matters. Wrongly giving credit to Six Sigma encourages people to sink time and resources into an approach that might not be necessary. If you want to use Six Sigma, then great. If you want to combine Lean and Six Sigma, go for it. 

Just don't call refer to Lean as "Lean Sigma."