As we prepare for the upcoming Food & Consumer Products of Canada CEO Executive Conference, it’s important to reflect on what tools companies really need to unlock their potential. The CEO has input from the board, share holders, competitive intelligence, advocate investors…; and they have some type of improvement effort that is not solving their most painful and economically disstressing issues.
The most common toolsets have some flavor of Lean and Six Sigma involved, but there are lots of other choices including Shainin Tools and TPM. How does the CEO rationalize how their company is to improve and how do they get all players, across all silos to be actively involved? This begins with a good look in the mirror, it is one of the most important diagnostic tools people and companies have. It is also one of the least used. BTW, choosing a label is one of the most often used and it is the least important. Call it Lean and you still have a need to solve the deep problems that call for lots of data. Call it Six Sigma and you still need to focus on time and get agreement on how work is to be accomplished at all levels of the organization. Call it TPM and investors still want profit improvement this year,
Lean and Six Sigma have always been joined, but they are separate but equal partners. Ask any of the implementers from the mid 80’s at Motorola and they will tell you that Cycle Time Reduction accelerated everything.
How does an implementation look if you don’t just hit the ground running with Six Sigma or Lean?
1. Take an honest look at yourself and define who you are and who you need to be.
2. Align strategy and annual planning with the honest view of you.
3. Define the few metrics, besides financials, that show that we are making progress or not.
4. Align reward systems with metrics and define the cheater metrics as well in the reward system. Make sure what is rewarding is also in line with the metrics for the majority of your employees who work for you because they believe in what they do. Some examples of this type of person are most of your technicians, engineers, nurses, pharmacists … Communicate strategy and plans broadly and consistently.
5. Map the Value Streams of the few key end-to-end processes. Map flow of materials and services, flow of information, and flow of cash.
6. Identify disruptions in two passes. First pass is the process, as it exists today; the second is the process, as it will exist if you meet near term growth targets. The disruptions are your project areas (Goldratt is right). Don’t get hung up on hard savings (today’s issues) vs. soft savings (growth facilitating projects). Just make sure there is a balance between the two.
7. Charter and plan projects, preferably as part of next year’s operating plan.
8. Take care of the human architecture. This has two forms. The first is team dynamics; make sure your folks who need to be trained have been trained. This includes the seven basics tools and in my world would include many of Shainin’s tools. The second is choosing and nurturing champions and change agents. The common advice of “best and brightest” is necessary but not sufficient. You choose change agents based on something that is encoded in their DNA and is easy to measure. Just know that I believe that the advice that a good change agent is a good manager is terrible advice.
9. Do Lean – Standard Work, 5s, SMED, TWI, and other Lean tools are among the best variation reduction tools you will ever meet. I can get many of you the first 75% of most of your BB projects with these tools and I can do it in the gap between M and A in DMAIC. Why would you do it any other way? Go get the first 75% and then see what is most important.
10. Do Six Sigma – this is for those things that don’t give you what you need with Lean. This may be because they require much more sophisticated analysis tools. It is more likely they just need more time and someone willing to roll up their sleeves and do the blue collar grunt work of digging through massive amounts of data and making sense of it (analysis phase tools).
11. Do TPM – this is to assure everyone understands processing equipment can and has to always run right.
12. Share the learning broadly and democratically. What I mean by this is that very little of what is done in Six Sigma or Lean is sensitive enough not to be shared with everyone in your company’s value stream. Those who are driving improvement will always stay ahead of those who are trying to learn by watching.
As anyone who has done this successfully knows, there is overlap between all of this. Don’t go deciding Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, TPM, or any other CI label is the answer until you have defined clearly where the opportunity is. And don’t choose a label that puts a fence around your corporate intelligence.
First things first.