With every improvement project you learn something valuable and a tool for improvements that need to happen quickly are Kaizen events. Kaizen events are rapid responses to very specific areas usually taking 3-5 days. Kaizen events are not difficult, but if you do not put the appropriate planning in place before you begin you will not realize any improvements. To begin with a basic structure of a Kaizen event should include the following:
- Training-what Kaizen is and how it works.
- Defining the problem/goals
- Documenting the current state
- Brainstorming and developing a future state
- Developing a follow-up plan
- Presenting results
- Celebrating successes
The most important thing to remember is that a Kaizen event is driven by two principles: What can we continuously improve and what waste can we eliminate? Those two principles bring us to my next point.
What Can’t Kaizen Events Do?
Kaizen cannot solve any 6Sigma problem. It is a tool that works best with situations that are not heavily focused on metrics. Situations such as yield improvements or variation reduction would not benefit from a Kaizen exercise.
There are many tools for a Kaizen checklist, but as with most 6Sigma tools the best advice often comes from your belt. If you are looking for a quick introduction to 6Sigma without the total commitment often necessary for a 6Sigma improvement project, Kaizen may be your answer.
The great thing about Six Sigma is that it puts you into the habit of seeing things in an ordered and identifiable view. This skill is highlighted in the way Six Sigma teaches you how to select projects. Project selection is the single most important decision you will make for your improvement initiative. If you pick the wrong project, it will kill your resources and your revenue. If you pick the right project you can create a new culture, introduce a new way of thinking and make a truly remarkable company.
In picking projects there are 3 core components to consider: the business case, the project charter and the benefits analysis.
The Business Case
In Six Sigma you will hear a lot about the business case and how a strong case correlates to a strong project. The business case is a the document that your improvement effort will build to answer why there needs to be an improvement and what type of improvement you will use. This document is typically used to convince sponsors of a project’s necessity.
The project charter is what you will use to tell the project team what improvements you are doing and how you will measure their success. Project charters are much more detailed than the business case and often serve as a guide for the project manager. Your belt will be able to help you determine which specifics your charter needs.
Now I know this sounds like a fancy business word, but a benefits analysis is where you will win or destroy support for your project. The benefits analysis is the financial projections for your improvement project and in my opinion, a benefits analysis should be done prior to building a business case. The analysis is designed to tell you what is to be expected in terms of resources, financial investment and returns on those investments.
Selecting a project is one of the most important steps in an improvement process and as with all these blogs this is a summary, your belt will be able to guide you through picking a project and designing a process that works best for the culture of your organization.
DMAIC is a staple of Six Sigma methodology and like all things Six Sigma, the better your understanding of the tool the greater its abilities. So just what is DMAIC? Basically it’s a problem solving tool, what is great about it is that it specifically works with unknowns and teaches your staff how to use a lack of information to their advantage.
What is DMAIC?
Define: This is where you will put in the most work, because at this stage you will be setting the ground work for all of your changes. You will need to define everything here, specifically critical to quality variables and identified process problems.
Measure: Collect information and review data. The catch to this step is to ensure that your measurement systems are substantiated. When using measurements you will need to ensure that they are measuring specific data and that the measured data aligns with your organization’s goals. Not sure how to do this? Have a conversation with your belt and your executive team; they will point you in the right direction.
Analyze: In this step you will be asking your staff to study the relationship between processes and qualify their impact on the quality of your products or services. Ideally you will want knowledgeable staff involved in this process, but how do you start and what do you do? Talk to your belt, they can guide you effectively and easily through this process.
Improve: This is the area that will allow you to humanize 6Sigma from your staff by focusing less on measurements and more on innovation. You should be looking for suggestions and then moving on to a process of elimination. This is an area where I like to implement ‘dry runs’ of the solution to show me where the process improvements are realistic and where they are not.
Control: This is one of the most important parts of the process, but it can only occur once the other steps have been completed. Failure to complete the previous steps guarantees that you will be perfecting the wrong change. In this step, the devil is very much in the details. You must be vigilant and flexible; your belt will help you put together the best control strategy for your organization.
DMAIC is all about making a change work for your organization. You don’t have to produce complicated charts and statistics for it to work for your organization, but you do have to understand how it works. Although this is a simple summary, there is enough information to get started. When you are ready to get down to detail and create a DMAIC strategy, SPC can help.