Nancy Vepraskas - P2Excellence - Atlanta GA A leadership Performance Company


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“Leaning” Back into Six Sigma and Lean

It’s time to make the critical shift from leading the business by yourself to leading an organization of people. At P2Excellence, we help you navigate the uncharted territories of organizational growth with clarity and confidence.
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I have recently been “leaning” back into Six Sigma and Lean work. I am finding that the blended work of Lean and Six Sigma has broader application than the old Six Sigma alone.

I particularly love the front end of the process which drives clarity around the charter:  What is the business case? What is the goal? What’s in and, more importantly, what’s out? And, just as importantly, who is in and who is out?

The front end of the process is followed by the SIPOC, and starts from the back:

  • Who is the primary, secondary, and tertiary Customer?
  • What Outcome do they want?
  • What Process gets them to the Outcome?
  • Who Supplies what? That is, what Input does the Supplier bring to the Process?
  • And lastly, what is critical to a quality customer experience, as measured by the Customer (CTQ)?

It all sounds so complex, until I was sitting with someone yesterday who said to me, “As I planned for our meeting, I asked myself these three questions:

1. What is the problem we are here to solve? I think you want to get everyone on the team using this software. (We learned that from the charter.)

2. You are my primary customer in this effort (we learned that from the SIPOC) and I think we agreed that what you wanted was to learn how to better use this software package yourself so you can encourage others (a validation of the SIPOC outcome).

3. Am I right that what you want is a clear, high level review that enables you to get on the system and practice, and then I can come back and answer questions?”

I had to laugh (to myself), because my client laid out exactly what SIPOC is meant to achieve. And then I thought, “Wow, I could use these tools everywhere, for work endeavors as well as personal activities!” Of course, for complex business tasks, I would be preparing and completing the actual forms, but in real life, I can jot down similar questions and notes on a legal pad or an iPad. Asking ourselves questions like:

What is the purpose of our planned action? 

What’s in scope and not? 

Who is involved? 

Who do we most need to make happy and what will it take? 

This line of questioning shifts the focus from me to the person who needs to be pleased with the plan (unless I really am the primary customer…and often I think that initially I am, when in fact I am not!).

 So, as I say that I am “leaning” into lean, what I am actually doing is asking better questions, creating stronger actions, figuring out what makes us all a bit happier, and using tools to make the whole process easier and faster. I challenge you to do the same.

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