March 31, 2008 | Barb Carr

Who said you need to replace your existing Six Sigma or Lean Program?

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Coming to System Improvements, Inc. as a Six Sigma Black Belt with ” the good, the bad, and the ugly” of Six Sigma company implementations, I often get asked how does the TapRooT® root cause analysis system tie in with the above pictured improvement systems and tools? During recent WebEx’s and conference calls, System Improvements, Inc. clients are often concerned about the cost of replacing their current highly invested Six Sigma Programs with TapRooT®. Peculiar thing is that companies questioned the same thing about Kaizen, Lean, and Six Sigma implementations as discussed in an article by Terence T. Burton. For those with existing Six Sigma Programs you can rest; TapRooT® does not replace the above mentioned processes but instead compliments the gaps in root cause analysis (Define and Analyze) and corrective actions (Implementation) to ensure robust proactive and reactive solutions to multiple system problems. For more about six sigma and lean practices integration with TapRooT® sign up for the TapRooT® Summit.

Below are some hard learned lessons, I picked up along the way that should be useful to current process improvement practitioners.

1. There should be no improvement “system” distinction between lean, six sigma, or any other improvement tool or process. People argue needlessly for days. Think about the old schools of psychology, you were either for nurture or nature, or crazy like Freud. Now schools teach that people are effected in the womb by the environment (nurture) and the cells develop (nature) like good soup. Needs to be the right temp and right conditions at the right time and don’t shake the pot. When we are born we are predispositioned to behave certain ways… all the music lessons in the world will not give you a good ear for music. Then it is up to the environment to guide the person. Point is that you must integrate the tools in a process that suppliment or compliment weakness and strengths. See an example of combining a six sigma tool and TapRooT®.

2. “Experts” who implement lean without truly understanding the integrated supply chain, the business needs, and the market will work improvement projects that sub-optimize other projects. A bad thing.

3. Perceived easiness of certain root cause tools in company experts’ hands… i.e. engineers, mechanics, operators, QA…, are actually limiting the analysis. As experts we developed rules-of-thumb and already “know” what the problem is. Funny thing, our children must be ignorant because all they want to do is ask a lot of why and what questions. It is not until we become adults that we know everything. Link to root cause research

4. YOU (the project black belt) must personally convince the boss to change to make the boss commit to a project; if you can’t too bad….Wrong! Influencing without authority means find the person the boss listens to and convince that person the project is the right thing to do…. there are a number of ways to “plant the seeds” of change.

5. Toyota experts developed excellent tools to improve their company… wrong. They went out and looked, understood their process, and then developed tools to represent their improvement needs. The problem with this is that we go out and buy fancy tools, put garbage data in from a company process that we do not not fully understand and then blame six sigma for its failure. You must understand the process used to improve, understand the process you are trying to change, and use tools to complement these processes.

6. Another major problem of six sigma is keeping safety, hr, and training as the outsiders who don’t see the “hidden factory”. Why… because of the initial low Return of Investment. When has your six sigma program observed the core competencies (skills and tasks) needed to perform their job and do it successfully? Does annual training still cover key skill needs?

Hope this helps and I see you in Las Vegas at the TapRooT® Summit.
Link to root cause research

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