If you’re new to Lean Six Sigma, you’re probably asking, “Where can I find good Lean Six Sigma Projects examples?”
In this post, I’m not going to so much walk-through good Lean Six Sigma projects examples as much as I’m going to take you through the process of creating a strong Lean Six Sigma projects.
But first, why Lean Six Sigma? Simple answer. Efficiency.
If my time in the United States Air Force taught me anything, it’s that there is a process for everything. Lean Six Sigma is more than a way to ring out inefficiencies in business. Taken to heart, it’s a philosophy that can change your life and the way you attack problems of all stripes.
Laying the Groundwork
The first step in any successful project is to ensure you establish the correct scope. Establishing a realistic project scope shields you from the risk of going too big too soon.
When the Lean Six Sigma lightbulb goes off for executives, project managers, and front-line workers the tendency is to try to fix everything — now.
But try not to boil the ocean on your first project out of the gate.
Once everyone is in agreement on the scope, it’s time to get buy-in across the board. Lack of clarity kills projects, business relationships, and even friendships. It’s critical that everyone agrees exactly what successful outcomes look like.
And beware of “scope creep”. Even if you’ve never heard the phrase before, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
You begin a project. Everyone agrees to fix 1, 2, and 4. Next thing you know, John’s working on 4, Bill is focused on 5, and the whole team quickly careens off course.
Fight scope creep with a vengeance. After you establish the final criteria, vigilantly stick to the plan.
If you don’t, you’ll end up with a bigger mess than you started with.
5 Questions for Successful Lean Six Sigma Projects Implimentation
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to get into the heart of Lean Six Sigma.
As we discussed above, Lean Six Sigma can be life changing. It gives you simple tools to drive efficiencies, drastically reduce cost, and achieve perfect deliverables at a rate you never imagined possible.
The following five questions are the driving force behind the process. Examining your enterprise with these five questions can quickly drum-up a cornucopia of outstanding Lean Six Sigma projects examples.
1. Where Are You Wasting Time?
In life and business, we all have countless places where we’re wasting precious time. It’s tempting to say “Time is Money” … because its true. And when we examine the places we’re wasting time, it’s not long before we see we’re also wasting plenty of money.
But, as Jim Rohn says, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you can’t get more time.”
Driving efficiency from a cost perspective is key. But in my six years of practicing at the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt level, I’ve found the greatest awakenings come when people understand inefficiencies cost them time they can never get back.
More often than not, wasted time boils down to break-downs in communication.
When you’re scoping a Lean Six Sigma projects example, start with chinks in the armor of your enterprise communication. Do your stakeholders primarily use email to communicate throughout projects? How quickly does your team respond when someone needs an answer? Does your team communicate efficiently, or do emails sit in inboxes for weeks before they’re addressed?
And while the value of time is immeasurable in many ways, it’s critical to clearly quantify your problem while directly tying it to what the problem is costing your organization in real dollars.
Everyone in your organization gets a salary. It doesn’t matter how high or how low, you can directly tie everyone’s time to an hourly rate. Multiply everyone’s hourly rate by the amount of time delays in your process create.
You now have an exact dollar figure for how much delays cost customers and affect your bottom line? A simple two-week delay could be costing your company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But, again, don’t try to boil the ocean.
You’re not going to fix $40 Million in delayed product shipments overnight. It takes years of practice and several certifications before you have the knowledge and experience to tackle a project that large.
Start of small.
Tackle the $300,000 issue with your main customer. Go after the biggest issue within one department of your company. Focus on your Sphere of Control and in time you’ll be able to deal with your Sphere of Concern.
2. What Consistently Repetitive Processes Can You Eliminate?
Repetitive everyday tasks are notorious areas for defects.
When someone has been doing the same process one way day-in and day-out for 15 years, they are often shocked — even offended — when you suggest there might be a better way. But the mundane, repetitive tasks routinely introduce defects into a process.
The key with these repetitive tasks is to strive for “Poke Yoke”.
Pronounced POH KA YOKE, this is essentially mistake proofing. Examine every task executed within the project scope. Look for downtime. Find ways to improve the simplest tasks. Most importantly, identify the places in the process that create the most defects.
You’re essentially trying to discover how the process can be set up to produce a perfect product every time.
3. Where Do You Need A Standard of Work?
A standard of work is exactly what it sounds like. A clearly defined, uniform set of steps necessary to execute a task. A strong standard of work fortifies the workflow of repetitive processes you just eliminated.
This is where egos come into play. Be prepared for plenty of push-back. Every worker will have a different opinion on how something should be done.
Ideally, there there are three sides to every story; my side, the other person’s side, and then the truth. But the last time I checked we don’t live in an ideal world. With common processes you’re going to run into about 1,000 different sides.
When you’re defining a process that needs a standard of work, the key is to look at the variations and end states that come from different people working the same process.
Highlight discrepancies in final assembly valves or new customer quote rewrites. You want the same process with the same results from everyone involved in the process.
Odds are not every single person is doing the process the exact same way.
That’s a tough pill for many workers to swallow at first. But once they see the rapid growth in efficiency, followed by the drastic drop in defects it’s only a matter of time before they are all-in.
4. Where Are You Reinventing the Wheel?
These are my favorite projects to work on with people starting to learn Lean Six Sigma.
I have seen people adamantly justify why a process had to be completely redone from top to bottom more times than I can count.
People want to feel important. By constantly rewriting the way things are done, they tend to carve out a niche of importance for themselves within an organization. It’s a slight of hand that creates mini-fiefdoms in far too many businesses.
Look at your entire organization. Uncover the things you do day-in and day-out. How many of those processes don’t have a clearly defined standard of work? You might be surprised to discover just how much you’re reinventing the wheel.
But remember, we’re not trying to stymie innovation. Constant improvement and process growth are keys to Lean Six Sigma.
However, the granularity of repetitive tasks are often times the greatest stumbling blocks to breakthrough innovations.
5. Where Are Your Defects Produced?
Everyone in your organization has to understand what “correct” looks like. If all stakeholders aren’t clear on correct, you’ll never understand how and where defects enter your process.
If you only take away one thing from this post, always remember:
The customer of the process defines the defects!
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Not the CEO. Not the Project Manager. And definitely not the enduser.
Wait. I thought you just said the customer defines the defects? Isn’t that the end user?
The customer in this case is the customer of the process. And there is only one customer.
Get the customer of the process directly involved. Attain direct input from them about what incorrect looks like. This one simple shift in your perception around process improvement can reap incalculable dividends.
Are You Qualified for Lean Six Sigma?
There are thousands of certifications you can get to improve your prospects in oil and gas. Lean Six Sigma is certainly one of them. However, with Lean Six Sigma results rule.
More than a piece of paper, people want to know you have successful implementations with hands on experience. Yes, the certification matters. But, certification or not, once you know the process it takes roughly 60 seconds to tell if a person really knows Lean Six Sigma.
If you’re serious about getting into Lean Six Sigma, more than anything else, you have to be resilient.
I cannot imagine a business that would turn away Lean Six Sigma projects. But, if you invest weeks preparing solid Lean Six Sigma projects example and someone turns you down, keep going.
Find processes you can help improve at church. Volunteer at a homeless shelter and find ways you can help feed more people faster. Help streamline a little league sport. If all else fails, attack your garage or closet. How many times do you miss the same spot shaving?
Look at the smallest and simplest processes in your life, and lean them out.
When you use Lean Six Sigma, you learn Lean Six Sigma. It seems simple, but it is surprising how many people miss this point. If you want it bad enough and desire to truly understand Lean Six Sigma you only need one thing;
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Have you successfully implemented Lean Six Sigma projects in your business? What questions do you have about thee process? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your case studies and answer your questions!