Using Theory of Constraints to Accelerate Lean Six Sigma

Improvement Insights Blog

Using Theory of Constraints to Accelerate Lean Six Sigma

Theory of Constraints (TOC) can give us insights into how to accelerate Lean Six Sigma and get results in a day. Here’s how:

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

“You know, I’ve been around Quality for almost 30 years now; 30 years exactly, almost. If I think about it, it’s super cool… but why is it so slow and so unsticky? Why is it taking so long for it to get everywhere? I’ve come up with some theories about that.

“If you’re familiar with a technique called “Theory of Constraints,” there’s a whole process to figure out why things aren’t running as quickly as they should. The first [step] is to identify the constraint. Well, I believe our constraint is this old policy that we kind of got stuck in our brains. Some limiting belief about how this is all done: through two- and four-week Black Belt trainings, and then four- to sixteen-month projects. Too slow, too long, right? Think about that: that is just how we’ve been doing it, and it’s just how we made it.

“Maybe what we should do is change that, which is what I’ve really done with my Agile Lean Six Sigma Trainer Training. What we’re trying to do is get people to produce results. We’re not trying to produce belts. Let’s be clear about that: that is not it. Our outcome is to get faster, better, cheaper, more productive, more profitable, less patient harm… all of that kind of stuff. These are the outcomes we’re seeking to achieve. Now, do you need two- and four-week Black Belt trainings to do that? No! That is not a requirement, right?

“So what we have to do is exploit that constraint. What I’ve done over the last 20-odd years is I’ve systematically started to automate things that used to take a long time to teach in those trainings, and make them just automatic using QI Macros. Things like the Control Chart Wizard to pick the right control chart and Control Chart Template Wizard to pick the right template, and the Data Mining Wizard to build entire improvement projects from raw data without any training at all.

“So this is how we exploit the constraint. We can set up our training so that there’s some pre-work so we get teams together that actually have data about a real problem to solve, and then we bring them in for one day of training: one day. Half a day of Lean, half a day of Six Sigma using QI Macros on the Six Sigma side to automate all of that analysis, and then have them just go out and start making improvements. The companies that are doing this are getting results. It’s not that you don’t eventually need to know the other stuff; I’m not saying that. You just don’t need to know [all] that to start. That’s dumb. It’s overproduction. We’re sticking things to people’s brains that confuse them. I think that’s just wrong.

“So we exploit that constraint by automating as much as possible. [Automating] everything in the Six Sigma world that used to take a long time to teach or train. They don’t need to know formulas, they don’t need to know decision trees, they don’t need to know a lot of things that we used to have to know in the last century. In this century, the QI Macros automates all of that, all right?

“So then we subordinate everything else to that. Our goal is not a belt; our goal is results, and so we change how we approach our training. We change everything else to get people with real problems to solve and a team that is in that area. Then we get them into a room, teach them and apply what they’ve learned to solve that problem, and then implement the results as the post work.

“I’m telling you, the people that do this are getting results, right? This this is kind of a very different way of going about it, but we’re using Theory of Constraints to say “What’s the constraint?” Well, it’s old limiting beliefs about how this all works. It was invented in 1988 by the Motorola corporation and rolled out and then became kind of a standard, and then everybody said, “Well, that’s how it has to be done.” No, it does not. That’s nonsense.

“There’s other limiting policy beliefs: That we have to have top-down support before we do anything. No, you can do this wherever you live. You don’t have to have the high honchos “anoint you with the power of Quality.” You don’t need that, right? What you need to do is start solving problems, and this can be done very quickly and easily.

“So that’s applying Theory of Constraints to change how we approach Six Sigma so we start getting results immediately. One of the phrases I wrote down and I found in my journal is “If you want to spread the gospel, you have to give away the Bible.” If I want to spread the gospel of Quality, I have to give away the Bible. If you go on our website you’ll find my Agile Lean Six Sigma book: “Agile Process Innovation.” You can download a copy of that or you can buy a copy off of Amazon. That’s the “how to,” but I also have free Yellow Belt training. I charge for the certification, but the Yellow Belt training itself is free, right? Giving away the Bible. And then I give away my Agile Lean Six Sigma Trainer Training, right? So if you want to learn how to teach people the way I do so we get results in a day, you can go learn how to do that online.

“I’m giving you – for free – everything I know over the last 30 years to get results, because that’s what your leadership team is looking for. Not belts, results. As soon as you shift your attention to results, you change how you approach everything, right?

“So this is my approach. Some people will disagree with that. Too bad. It’s the 21st century. If we aren’t Agile, if we aren’t fast, nobody’s going to care. Nobody is going to care, and Six Sigma will go [away].

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s go out and improve something. Let’s make America hassle-free.”