Double Your Quality in Half the Time

Lean Six Sigma Lesson 2

Focus on Defects

In Lesson #1 we talked about the Fix-it factory and all of the defects they correct. To double your quality, you will want to slash your defect rate, and it’s much easier than you might think.

Pulling Together the Right Team

In Lesson #1 we also talked about the importance of using existing data to laser-focus the problem to be solved. Until you have a control chart showing defects, a pareto chart showing 1, 2 or 3 major contributors to the problem, and a problem statement, you aren’t ready to start a team. Once you have a clearly stated problem, you can identify the right members for your team. Note: Get the right people in the room but don't send an army. The effectiveness of a team goes down exponentially when you start adding more than seven people.

Just in Time Training

Most “All-or-Nothing” Six Sigma programs send their “Black Belts” to four weeks of training and their "Green Belts" to at least one week of training. These individuals come back from the training, catch up on all of the work they missed while away and forget most of what they learned. Studies show participants forget 90% of what they've learned unless they use it within 72 hours.

Make your training stick! Consider using 2-hour, just-in-time (JIT) training before teams start solving a key business problem. A brief overview of the "Magnificent Seven" tools, control chartpareto chart, and Ishikawa diagram, and team members have all they need to start delivering immediate, dramatic results. If you need help getting a team off the ground check out our training and coaching services.

Time: Properly focused, a team will only need 4-8 hours to find the root causes and recommend countermeasures.

Getting to the Root Cause

To identify root causes, use the fishbone or Ishikawa diagram.

  1. Put the problem statement in the head of the fish and the major causes at the end of the major bones. Major causes include:
    • Processes, machines, materials, measurement, people, environment
    • Steps of a process (step 1, step 2, etc.).
    • Whatever makes sense
  2. Begin with the most likely main cause.
  3. For each cause, ask "Why?" up to five times.
  4. Circle one-to-five ROOT causes (end of "why" chain)
  5. Verify the root causes with data (Pareto or Scatter Diagram)

Identify and Implement the Countermeasures

The next step is to identify the countermeasures required to reduce or eliminate the root causes.

  1. Transfer the problem statement and primary root causes to a countermeasures matrixcountermeasures matrix
  2. For each root cause, identify one to three broad countermeasures (what to do).
  3. Rank the effectiveness of each countermeasure (Low, Medium, or High).
  4. Identify the specific actions (how to do it) for implementing each countermeasure.
  5. Rank the feasibility (time, cost) of each specific action (Low, Medium, High).
  6. Decide which specific actions to implement. Once your action plan has been developed you should disband the root cause team and assign a project manager to oversee the implementation. While this may be one of the team members, it doesn't have to be the whole team. Better to use their time on one of the next big bars!

Our Six Sigma Action Plan is a downloadable PDF which contains an outline of the process just described and some fill in the blanks worksheets. For more help, consider the book Lean Six Sigma Demystified. The Ishikawa diagram and countermeasures matrix are included in the QI Macros for Excel. Download a 30 day evaluation copy.

Avoid the Common Pitfalls

Pitfall #1: Starting an unfocused team. If you start an ad hoc team, by the time you have a control chart, pareto chart, and problem statement, you’ll no longer have the right people on the team to solve the problem. And you’ll have trouble deciding where to start because each person has a different focus.

Solution: Focus first, then start a team.

Pitfall #2: Chartering a Team. Many Six Sigma programs advocate “chartering a team," but this is a recipe for endless meetings and delay. Properly focused, teams rarely need more than 4-8 hours to find the root cause and identify countermeasures.

Solution: Laser-focus your improvement projects BEFORE you start the team. Then hold a half-day or full-day meeting to analyze root causes.

Pitfall #3: Whalebone diagrams. When searching for root causes, if your fishbone diagram turns into a "whalebone" diagram that covers several walls, then your original problem statement was too big.

Solution: Go back to your pareto chart. Look at the biggest bar. Gather the data to take the analysis down a level to get more specific. Draw a pareto chart of this data and create a new problem statement. Then go back to root cause analysis.

Pitfall #4: Boiling the ocean. Teams have an unflinching urge to fix big problems. If you've done a good job of laser focusing your problem, you'll have a specific type of defect in a specific area to focus on. If you let the team expand its focus, you'll end up whalebone diagramming and have to go back to a specific problem.

Solution: Get the team to agree to solve just this one issue, because its solution will probably improve several other elements of the overall problem. Assure them that you'll come back to the other pieces of the problem, but first you have to nail this one down.

Having trouble getting results from your current teams? Do you have a mission critical problem that needs to be solved now? We can help get your teams laser-focused on your mission critical problems. In as little as one day, Jay can provide just in time training and take a team through a root cause analysis session. For consulting call 303 756 9144 or check out our Lean Six Sigma Training options.

In Lesson # 3 we will discuss how to Double Your Speed without working any harder.

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