Culture of Process Improvement

Cultural Aspects of Six Sigma Process Improvement by Walter McIntyre

Whatever the process improvement methodology used, when properly applied, it produces a change in a business’s culture. Outlined below are some behavioral changes necessary to sustain a customer focused process improvement effort.

View the business as an organization of processes:
• If you view the business as an organization of processes, then managing the business becomes managing processes.
• Processes are interrelated and, as a result, they interact with each other. Changing one affects the others.
• If the appropriate processes are in place, managing those processes is managing people. Not the other way around.

Listening and Speaking Skills

Listening and Speaking Skills by Walter McIntyre

A process improvement team is from the beginning a team of investigators. They investigate process performance by looking for improvement opportunities and the root causes of problems. All of us have seen detective programs on TV where a sleuth investigates a crime. They ask questions, listen, set up stakeouts, and eventually discover what really happened. Process improvement teams follow the same strategy. They ask questions, listen, and monitor processes. All of this to discover the root causes of process problems. An improvement team will use all four basic communication skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. These skills become the lubrication that allows a diverse group of team members to work through an improvement project successfully.

Government and History

Government and History by Walter McIntyre

Our current day politicians seem to want to berate Washington, our government and everyone that is there. Don’t be fooled, all of them are trying to become what they criticize, insiders. These naysayers have lost site of the importance of knowing and understanding history. Actually, they should be embracing the history and talent that resides in our nation’s capital. Many decisions that shaped our history, and the modern history of the world, were made by men and women, in desperate times, showing great courage from political office or appointment. There is much we can learn from them. The same cannot be said of any other city in the United States, or any demographic involving corporate headquarters.

Voice of the Customer

Voice of the Customer by Walter McIntyre

Typically, there is not a single voice of the customer.  They are fractioned into multiple groups, each with their own perspective.  Each group may also have different voices in different circumstances.

For the Six Sigma team, identifying the customer involves more than collecting information about who is purchasing the business’s products or services.  Those who purchase the products and services are just one of several customer groups.  Some other classifications are internal supplier/customer hand-offs, customers of competitors, former customers, and potential customers.

Operational Excellence Teams

Operational Excellence Teams by Walter McIntyre

In Operational Excellence, Innovation teams and production teams have different functions and purpose. They also have an area of overlapping responsibly. Both play a critical role in improvement efforts.

Production teams are typically made up of the production line employees, the doers, and have the responsibility to optimize the existing production process within existing SOP’s. They see the production process at the ground level, in fact, they experience it. It is this closeness to the work that makes their engagement so critical on a daily basis. Their’s is the domain of continuous improvement in small, but critical steps.

Being Fearless

Being Fearless by Walter McIntyre

The lens we view the world through can lead us to incorrect and destructive decisions. Perspective is everything when we face difficult problems. It is the difference between being fearful or being fearless. This is true in our personal lives and in our professional lives.

If you are going to tackle the most difficult problems and opportunities at work, or face down Iife’s most trying events, you must move quickly from asking why the problem exists to what you are going to do about it. Not that the “why” is not important, just that it is only the beginning, not the end of successful resolution. Asking why is only a lens to see that the problem exists. Asking what we are going to do about it is a different lens that leads to action.

5S and Lean

5S and Lean by Walter McIntyre

The 5S tools are associated with Lean thinking. The objective of Lean thinking is to provide a business with long-term profitability by developing a more effective workplace, which is accomplished by eliminating waste in the work environment. The result is a safer workplace, improved product quality, and lower costs for both the business and its customers.

Lean thinking may result in a reduction in work force, but that is not its purpose. In fact, the application of lean thinking for the purpose of reducing the work force is not lean thinking at all. Since some companies have done this, lean thinking has been given a bad reputation and has made waste reduction efforts more difficult.

Lean Value Proposition

Lean Value Proposition by Walter McIntyre

The basic Lean and business value proposition in looks like this:

Profit = Perceived Value – Inherent Value

Lean process improvement projects address the Inherent Value piece of this equation. The idea is to reduce the inherent cost of production and delivery of the product or service. A common mistake that teams make is to assume that inherent value issues are not customer driven. This is a case of being inwardly focused instead of a more balanced focus (inward and customer driven).

“I See You” Management

“I See You” Management, by Walter McIntyre

Connectivity between human beings is the beginning of synergy.  It is written in our genetic code and expresses itself in our drive to connect to others and be part of a group. Since this is how we are wired, it only makes sense that the most effective management styles, as far as us humans are concerned, leverages this aspect of our specie’s corporate psyche.

I would call this “I See You” management. I did not coin this phrase, but since I cannot remember who did, I will use it for this post. The way I see things, “I See You” management is based upon three levels of recognition.

Estimating Project Timelines

Statistically Estimating Project Timelines by Walter McIntyre


Why is it that projects more often than not come in behind schedule and over budget? This question drives business executives crazy. Why shouldn’t there be an even split between on time project delivery and late project delivery? These are valid questions.