Six Sigma Project Problem #1 - Reverse Engineering
Over the last several decades, I've had a chance to look at lots of Six Sigma improvement projects. People send them to me for review. Some hope to get certified. Even though I have pretty clear guidelines about what to provide, few people seem to be able to follow the recipe.
One of the things I find most annoying is when people try to take some improvement they stumble upon through gut feel, trial-and-error and dumb luck and reverse engineer it into an improvement story. How do I know? Did you ever try to fake a term paper in high school or college and know it wasn't very good? Your teacher could sense it couldn't they? Here's some of the things I notice:
- Backing into the root cause and countermeasures - Invariably the fishbone diagram looks like a random walk of made up stuff. The countermeasures and action plan are pretty thin as well. It's as if someone thought: "We're here! Wow! How did we get here?" Then they start trying to retrace their steps.
- Limited Data - Often they provide just a single Pareto chart with less than 20 data points. If it was a real problem, they'd have more data.
- No Control Chart - Usually, any data about performance has been lost or never collected. But how can anyone tell if they've improved anything without a control chart? How can they sustain the improvement?
- No Control Plan - They have no system to monitor performance and take corrective action if the process veers off course again.
I don't know why they waste their time and mine. Are they really that afraid that they won't be able to get Six Sigma to solve the problem?
The solution is simple: 1) start with real data and 2) let the data lead you to the root cause and countermeasures.
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