Do as Little as Needed, Not as Much as Possible

Improvement Insights Blog

Do as Little as Needed, Not as Much as Possible

Too many teams try to use every tool in the Six Sigma toolkit. It’s counterproductive. Here’s why:

“I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma for Hospitals” and QI Macros [software].

“For a number of years, I’ve been a fan of Tim Ferriss, the author of “The Four Hour Workweek.” In “The 4-Hour Chef,” he spends a whole chapter talking about how he takes a process, breaks it all down and makes it simple and easy to learn. One of the things that I found in there (and I’ll just read this, because it makes it a little easier for me), he says, “Do as little as needed, not as much as possible.” As little as needed.

“I find people in Lean and Six Sigma [think] “Well, we need a SIPOC diagram and we need a project charter and blah blah blah…” Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe you just need a control chart, a Pareto chart and a fishbone [diagram]. Maybe you don’t need every tool in the book. Maybe you don’t need to do everything, right? Simple. Simple. “Do as little as needed, not as much as possible.”

“Simple works; complex fails, right? Simple works; complex fails. Don’t try and do the most complex thing in the world. Don’t try and do a design of experiments on something that doesn’t need design of experiments. I’ll point you back to number one: Do as little as needed.

“Then this last piece is the minimal effective dose. How little do you have to do to start getting the results that you want? That’s what I’ve described in my book “Agile Process Innovation.” We don’t have to spend two or four weeks in in belt training. In as little as one day we can get people trained, analyze a problem, get results. One day! Minimal effective dose.

“The people who are doing this discover that out of those situations… you know, maybe there’s 20 people in four teams, and out of those, one or two or three people really show the aptitude to go on into becoming a Green Belt, a Black Belt, a Master Black Belt. Send those people to the higher level training so that they can take the next step, but let’s not waste a lot of time and energy training people who don’t have it or aren’t interested or don’t want to. I don’t know, whatever it is.

“It’s kind of a big fat book about cooking, but there is one chapter in here… if you want to get it out of your library [you can] just read the chapter on how he breaks tasks down so that you can get maximum results with minimum effort.

“I think that’s part of the genius of the way he approaches everything. He even talks about Pareto’s rule. He says Pareto [says] maybe less than 20% (maybe 5%, maybe 1%) of what you’re doing is going to produce the most result. Stop doing all that other stuff. Wow. Here’s a guy talking about Pareto’s rule and how it changed his life. I think it can change yours as well.

“That’s my Improvement Insight. Let’s go improve something this week with as few tools as necessary.”