Mistake Proof Your Process with Lean Six Sigma

Every process grows up in an ad hoc fashion and ends up looking more like a pretzel than a value stream. Often, this is the result of an error that's patched with a temporary workaround that, after a couple of days, becomes the standard way of doing business. Here's a workaround from my office building: 

proof your process with Lean Six Sigma

Of course, if the drain ever backs up and someone doesn't check it before they leave the restroom, we've got a very expensive water cleanup.

But isn't this how every business process is handled?

  • A problem arises...
  • In the haste to solve the problem and finish the job, a workaround is used.
  • In the day-to-day crisis management that arises from this kind of behavior, no one goes back to determine the root cause and mistake proof the solution.
  • The workaround becomes the standard way of doing business.

WWTD - What Would Toyota Do?

In these situations, I ask myself: "What would Toyota do?"
When a problem arises on the assembly line at Toyota, they:

  • Stop production.
  • Go and see what's going on.
  • Ask Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? to find the root cause.
  • Determine an appropriate countermeasure (not a workaround) to prevent the problem both now and in the future, and implement it.
  • Verify that it works. If it does, resume production. If not, repeat the 5 Whys.
  • Add it to their body of knowledge about how to produce things in a mistake-proof way.

Doesn't this make more sense than just patching the process with a workaround? It doesn't take that much longer and it provides lasting benefit instead of an ongoing cost.

What problems have you been working around? What does it cost in time and money to keep avoiding the problem? What would be a more effective, permanent solution? When can you implement it? Why not now?

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537,"

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