Lean is not for us, as we really want to provide quality to our clients

Recently, I needed to undergo major surgery. Most staff will ask what you do professionally (probably to calm your nerves). In a haze of sedation and pain, I mostly answered “…something with Lean and Six Sigma”. It was good to hear many seemed to know what I was stammering about. A response I am sure I heard a few times was along the lines of….”Lean is not for us, we are about quality for clients”.

Now let me be clear, the care I received was exemplary, I can only bow my head in deep respect for all the staff in the hospital. The way they care about people, strengthens my faith in mankind.

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.

Pythagorean Theorem

Pythagorean Theorem by Walter McIntyre

Pythagoras may have come up with the Pythagorean theorem, or maybe one of his students. It is impossible to know for sure, so I’ll give him credit. We understand the theorem as the sum of the squares of the sides adjacent to the right angle in a right triangle, equal the square of the side opposite the right angle (hypotenuse). a2 + b2 = c2. See below.

Pythagorean Theorem

If you are reading this blog post, you probably already know this. But…can you see the other relationship.  The area of the squares associated with the sides adjacent to the right angle, when added together, equal the area of the square associated with the side opposite the right angle.

Central Tendency

Mean Median and Mode in Central Tendency by Walter McIntyre

Before discussing measures of central tendency, a word of caution is necessary. Customers do not feel averages. They feel their specific experience. As a result, while central tendency is an important descriptive statistic, it is often misused. For example, a customer is told that the average delivery time is noon, but his actual delivery time turns out to be 3:00 PM. The customer, in this case, does not experience the average and may feel that he has been lied to.

Innovation and Creativity in Motion

Many of the activities and strategies we use to innovate and manage are actually road blocks to creativity and innovation. Certainly, the enforcement of a time line and being cost conscience, are important, but only in respect to their appropriate place in the life cycle of a product or service.  When applied to the creative and innovative phases in this life cycle, they are disruptive and cause sub-optimization.

Innovation is a creative process that requires open-mindedness and a safe environment.  Creativity and innovation are processes that rely upon failure and the ability to learn from failure. You cannot create or innovate where failure is unacceptable or penalized.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The Lean Shop does not exist because of cutting costs.  It exists as a result of proven best practices. Sometime you have to spend money to save money.  This Lean bulletin is about determining both the most effective and the most efficient way to perform a task.

The axiom behind “You don’t know what you don’t know” is the same as for “If you are not measuring it, you’re are not managing it”.  There is value in knowing that a vehicle is in pre-loss condition and safe for the vehicle owner to drive.  But how do you know that these criteria are met?  Just guessing will cost you both time and money

Rolling Out Lean Principles in a Business or Organization

A brief outline of the steps to rolling out Lean in the work place. Bear in mind that I believe success depends upon leadership and mentoring instead of supervision.
First, listen and teach. Set up brief training sessions using classroom time, Gemba walks, 5S, and identifying waste. Teach the group to use Lean tools to recognize opportunities while walking their work space. Frame what you teach in terms of the listeners’ value proposition. This is to gain trust. As a leader, you should be selling instead of telling. Teach basic tools they can use right now. Have the group document a list of opportunities.
Second, lead the group into a baby step project.  If they haven’t done so already, have the team create a list of opportunities and chose which they want to tackle as a project. At this point they become a team instead of a group of individuals. Teach them tools for use in their chosen project and go out and get it done. As others see the team’s activities, you may see the number of individuals interested in participating increase. Allow this to happen. You may have to create more than one team depending business circumstances.
Third, after a successful project, have the team re-evaluate the list they created earlier. It will change based upon what they have learned. Tackle another project from the list. Get some momentum from successful projects. This increases trust. Encourage the team to take on smaller projects in their own work space. Act as a facilitator and a supplier of resources. Lead instead of supervising. Again, as others see the team’s activities, you may see the number of individuals interested in participating increase. Allow this to happen. You may have to create more than one team depending business circumstances.
Forth, you are now in the midst of a Lean rollout. You may want to christen the rollout with a name that is unique to the team or teams. Be careful about asking the team to follow you in the Lean implementation on a larger scale. You don’t want the team(s) to see the process as a “program” they are doing for someone else. They need to see it as something they are doing for themselves (remember the value proposition they started with). The team(s) need to “own” the initiative. There will come a time for them to see it on a larger scale.
Fifth, you don’t have to use special names for tools and projects. This can create pushback. Listen to the people you are working with and they will indicate when, if ever, it is appropriate to start adding special names. The main thing is to keep in alignment with the overall value proposition of the business and in alignment with the team’s value proposition.
Sixth, “keep the main thing the main thing” by not allowing the effort to become personally yours. The effort belongs to the group and the business as a whole. As much as possible, stay in a leadership mode instead of a supervisory mode.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score is a metric that gives an external scoring of the quality of your internal processes. It measures your performance in the eyes of the customer. Like all other quality measures, NPS is only useful when kept in context.

For example, if you survey every shopper that did not purchase from you or every customer with a bad experience, you will have a negative NPS. Conversely, if you survey only successful shopper interfaces, you will get a positive score.

Lean Six Sigma

We don’t have control, we have choices. The best we can do is improve our method of making choices and hope for good results.

This is the rub. We generally set ourselves up for disappointment and failure because we make emotional choices and don’t get the results we want. We assume that our environment is predictable and that the universe behaves according to a fixed process that coincides nicely with our expectations. The plain truth is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And sometimes, you are not even aware that you don’t know.
This may seem like a bunch of idle chatter, but the concept impacts businesses everyday. This is why Six Sigma and Lean are so important in our global economy. Reducing variability and making processes more predictable improves the quality of our decision making. Less emotion and more critical analysis.
I did an experiment while participating in a March Madness Basketball Pool this past year. I entered three different brackets. One bracket was based upon selecting my favorite teams, one was based upon my “gut feelings” about who would win, and the last I did using statistical data from experts in the college basketball world.
These are the typical decision making strategies seen everyday in business. The emotional decision, the gut feeling, and the critically analyzed decision. In the case of my brackets, the one based on my emotions (favorite teams) fared the worst. The Bracket based upon my gut feelings did marginally better. The bracket based upon statistical research did really well.
This is the point behind Six Sigma and Lean. Moving toward data based decisions.  It doesn’t  mean that using gut feelings is always bad. There is a time and place for everything. When properly implemented, Six Sigma and Lean will reduce variation in your processes and make them more predictable. This in turn increases the quality of our choices.