Lean Six Sigma by Michael George • project management • quality management

book cover of lean six sigma by Michael L. George - project management

Lean Six Sigma is about project management in a business context. The book goes through the major principles of Six Sigma and Lean methodology. Although I have found the reading a bit shallow here and there, you might treat it as guidance into the world of advanced project management.  You also need some basic background in Six Sigma best practice. Apparently, it’s not only about allocating people, assigning goals and milestones.

Anyway, have you ever thought about gathering only the right people together, putting them all in one room and using their skills to mitigate a problem or to improve on one area or process? Well, now you can do it by using Six Sigma. 

This method can focus on different objectives and scopes, such as to understand how the value stream flows or does not flow due to mistakes. It can also concentrate on delays, bottlenecks, prioritisation what’s important to customers in order to identify key process metrics. It can also get into brainstorms, generate ideas and prioritise solution alternatives, reduce equipment setup, develop or redesign procedures or standard work, or finally, reorganise a work area in order to improve workflow.

It is worth to say that the key to success is planning. Planning should be more than half of the total effort. It should start at least three to four weeks before the project or even months comparable to project scope or a company’s size. Sufficient time and effort should be allocated to gather existing data, obtain primary information from process stakeholders, identify the objective and scope of the event, and develop the agenda. Then you have to identify and invite the right participants for this event.

When you have your goal and team then you can start working on data using tools mentioned below:
• Value stream mapping and process maps to provide a common understanding of what is currently going on
• Gemba Walk to see at locations where work is done
• Process and value add analysis to identify non-value adding steps
• Rework your bottlenecks
• Build spaghetti diagrams to map the physical flow of parts or transactions in a facility
• DOWNTIME and TIM WOODS approaches to identify the different types of waste
• Pareto analysis using available data to focus the analysis
• Brainstorming
• Cause-effect diagrams
• 5 Whys to quickly identify potential causes
• Creativity techniques to develop solution alternatives, such as multi-voting and prioritization matrices to select alternatives
• Reduction and workload analysis to enable smaller batches and reduce cycle time

The book does not go through all the aforementioned tools, nevertheless, I believe that some elementary knowledge about them would enhance the whole Six Sigma project and would give you a much wider understating in generating the right hypothesis. 

The next phase is about addressing the proven hypothesis by generating potential solutions, evaluating alternatives and, finally, selecting the right set of solutions to implement. Before the full implementation, you should go with pilot testing which would give you the opportunity to determine optimal settings. In this phase, you have to remember about your key stakeholders which are process operators and owners, managers and others who might be touched by the issue. Their role is absolutely critical.

The last phase is the control phase. The main role of it is to establish controls which will ensure that the new business process will sustain at the desired level. This is also important because it will help you to decide when to take action and when to leave the process on its own. In the end, you don’t want to react each time something wrong happens. 

In conclusion, the Six Sigma approach should be used as an enabler for your business to improve performance on key operational metrics that are significant to the success of your firm. This is a crucial point to establish up front. To accomplish this, there must be alignment between the projects you select and the goals you want to achieve. Next, project goals and objectives should be in line with your organisation’s key metrics, goals, and annual targets. The success of every Six Sigma project should be observable to helping your company move one step closer to achieving its strategic goals.

Lean Six Sigma : combining Six Sigma quality with lean speed
by Michael L. George

Final rating:

Interesting story
Complexity of ideas
Flourish language

Book details:

Size: 300 pages
Published: 2002


Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads:

Other useful links:
Six Sigma on Wikipedia:
Website of Six Sigma Institute:
Other books about project management: The Age of Agile by Stephen Denning

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