All entries for November 2013
November 30, 2013
The concept of Six Sigma lends itself towards the theory of a learning organisation. A top down and bottom up (i.e. top management commitment and employee involvement and empowerment) is key to achieving a successful Six Sigma/process improvement project. Therefore, the concept of knowledge management, sharing and developing knowledge among employees, is important to achieving a successful Six Sigma improvement project, and also lends itself towards the concept of a learning organisation.
However, the reason to have this learning organisation environment within the business is so that important knowledge certain individuals have is freely available and easily shared amongst staff. This is because when implementing Six Sigma, or another process such as Lean, or something like the EFQM Excellence Model, self reliance and drive is of key importance to ensure the project works. However, along with that, understanding the importance of people within the process and getting them to buy into the process, and have a voice to express how they feel, is also fundamentally important to ensuring a process improvement project works.
Therefore knowledge transfer is important for a variety of reasons, mainly in sharing knowledge and developing thought when looking at analysing and improving existing work processes. Furthermore, the concepts of Six Sigma, empowering employees, encouraging communication and participation, all have links to the learning organisation.
November 27, 2013
Some readings for my PMA today have led to me drawing some interesting conclusions on whether Lean and Six Sigma are compatible, or whether the concept of Lean Six Sigma is not a viable. Essentially what I have found out is that Lean Six Sigma is a further development of Six Sigma itself, drawing upon Lean's focus of reducing waste and utilising speed in processes. However, it is interesting to note that some concepts of Lean and Six Sigma may in fact be contradictory.
This can be seen when whilst utilising Lean, and subsequently the process of reducing waste in a process, that this could ultimately affect control under DMAIC within Six Sigma, as the process itself has been fundamentally changed. This could therefore create a very real problem when trying to incorporate a Lean Six Sigma process, as the process may be fundamentally different.
Essentially, as not all components of Lean and Six Sigma are the same (sometimes they are pulling in opposite directions), the use of a Lean Six Sigma program can see a sub-optimisation occur. This could be where one process, for instance Six Sigma, takes the dominant form within Lean Six Sigma, and the benefits traditionally associated with a successful Lean program become minimalised.
Therefore, whilst Lean Six Sigma in theory offers some advantages, it is not necessarrily a 100% complimentary system.
November 24, 2013
At its most basic level, Lean is all about having a perfect value creation process, that ensures there is no waste reducing customer value. It is all about being as efficient as possible when it comes to producing something, with no factors occuring that increase waste with the customer getting the fullest value available. Essentially, management focus shifts from departments being seperate entities, with their own individual processes, to the organisation being one flowing process. This is done largely through value stream mapping, which maps a process in its entirety from start to finish, and highlights where value is added, and where waste occurs in a process.
It can therefore, theoretically, lead to an organisation acting upon these issues, to ensure that the customer recieves the maximum amount of value. As companies better understand their processes, it also sbsequently breed organisational learning, whilst the organisation can respond better and faster to changing customer demands and requirements. Furthermore, Lean is not solely used in manufacturing processes (although it originates from Toyota), but can also be applicable to the service industry. It is essentially a way for an organisation to think and act, rather than produce. It is essentially all about understanding the purpose, the process and the people.
Right, that is some information that people selling Lean say, now it is time to find out just how good it really is and what it does from academic references! My currently limited knowledge says it is a useful tool when implemented correctly, and that it shares some similiarities to Six Sigma (in that you map processes). However, further reading will be required to correctly judge this process! On to the PMA!
November 20, 2013
Today's class led to us getting down with Taguchi and his statistical methods. The Taguchi loss function is one way an organisation can ensure that it meets the customer's expectations. It also means that an organisation that does not necessariy hit its target value can however time after time meet the expectations and needs of the customer provided it falls inside the upper specification and lower specification limit. Therefore, it is a useful tool when looking an organisation's production, and allows to see how much variation occurs in a process (for example, how wide a guitar neck is where it joins the body).
There can however be some drawbacks when using a Taguchi Loss Function. There can be a tendency for organisation's to focus on how much they can away with (i.e. what can we make that will just meet the specification limits) rather than focusing on trying to get closer to the target value and overtime, reducing the variation that occurs around it. However, it is a useful tool that can help to illustrate how much variation there is in an organisational process, and whether the organisation is consistantly meeting the customer's targets or missing them. It is also useful because the further away from the target value, the more economic loss an organisation experiences. Therefore, it can highlight potentially how much financial loss an organisation may experience.
November 19, 2013
The process of Kaizen has been briefly mentioned in class several times but with no real depth of explanation offered or explored, so I have decided to do some reading on the subject. The process of Kaizen, meaning Good Change, originates in Japan, and comes from Dr. Deming and Lowell Mellen. The phrase itself relates to incremental improvement which is not necessarily continuous or long term focused (although it is implied in Japanese/Deming ideology that it must be continuous (and subsequently, Kaizen ends up being continuous in most cases)).
Toyota is a well known advocate of Kaizen. This is through where if a defect occurs, the whole production line ceases to work with a solution being required (and offered) by everyone involved to solve the problem and improve the process. This would subsequently see an incremental improvement - or a Kaizen. Kaizen itself is heavily based on the Shewhart cycle (which is similar and inspired a certain W.E. Deming...) and consists of standardising an operation, measure the operation, gauge measurements against the requirements, innovate to meet these requirements and/or improve, standardise the new process and continue the cycle.
Therefore Kaizen, like many other quality improvement measures, is similar in what it is and how it works. It is a phrase that describes an improvement that occurs incrementally and is based on Deming's and Shewhart's ideologies.
November 18, 2013
After today's class I think it is fair to say, that I cannot make aeroplane parts. Having spent today's class mimicing a production line that manufactures planes (using Meccano), we learnt about how many factors can affect a process, and how that can cause delays, error, defects, and lead to the product not conforming to customer specification. I operated the process at the very end of the production line, and instantly learned of a whole host of problems that can occur.
Firstly, there was a lot of waste whilst I was waiting for the plane to reach me for me to finish the plane and add my parts to it. Secondly, manaufacturing errors that were only later determined meant that I was swamped by around three planes all at once, making it impossible for me to manufacture the planes at the required rate (of one plane per three and a half minutes) and made it extremely difficult for me to catch up from the backlogue. This detrimented the quality of what I was doing, as I chose to rush my work to try and catch up, rather than spend the full length of time I would otherwise have done to create a high quality, zero defects product.
This practical experiement has opened up my eyes to the dependence of processes within a system. Whether it is manufacturing an item, like in today's class, or working in a department on an organisation, the need for a successful system, with open communication between partners, accountability, flexibility and mutual understanding and support for one another is of key importance. If this occurs, a product that meets or exceeds the customers expectations could be reached.
How Process Improvement Programmes can help achieve this was then explored. The practical use of DMAIC highlighted how important it is to understand a process, and that it needs to be analysed in order to understand why the results experienced occured, and how they can be remedied or controlled to achieve a desireable outcome in the future.
November 17, 2013
Our group work ahead of Monday's presentation on issues surrounding change management when using Six Sigma and commiting to a process improvement programme led to some interesting discussion on the issues that can occur, why they occur and how to attempt to create situation where these issues do not occur. From our discussions on the work, we determined and established that in order to prevent any problems that occur with change, such as conflict, a loss of motivation, fear over new processes, a loss of job security, negative pre judgements, the following processes need to be looked at and implemented.
Management obviously needs to be commited to the change, to buy into the ideas and be able to positively portray this across to individual employees within the organisation. If senior management doesn't buy into the new ideas, why will employees? Furthermore, understanding the cultural change that needs to happen to ensure new processes and policies are embraced needs to occur. Communication needs to be open, flexible and easily accessible, so people at all levels are informed of the changes and if any people or department suffer problems, that they can express these issues. There needs to be an environment where employees are able to contribute and develop these new work processes and solutions to problems, and to understand the reasons as to why the change is occuring. The relevent training that is required needs to be implemented, with the organisation potetntially being restructered to avoid any departments or individuals becomming overworked if productivity increases. Perhaps most importantly (and briefly touched upon) is employee involvement. If employees are seperated from the processes when they are designed, and subsequently don't understand why they need to be implemented, they are a lot less likely to buy into the new ideas. If an employee/department helps design and/or refine a new process, they are much more likely to be motivated and committed towards helping to successfully implement the new process.
If these processes occur, change can successfully occur. This is outlined in the PMI improvment cycle which aims to ensure these problems and challenges are overcome. Essentially key problems needs to be addressed, with the gains understood by all in the organisation aiming to solve these problems. Then the gains need to be secured with the organisation repositioning itself which leads to the system as whole (as opposed to individual departments) being optimised.
The EFQM Model promotes a culture of continuous learning with employees, along with Deming and his theories on organisational behaviour. However, just by allowing and facilitating the opportunity for learning and the sharing of knowledge will not necesarily create the desired results or outcomes. Essentially a key componenet of organisational learning is the implicit learning that occurs between employees without it necessarily being apparent. Most uncodified knowledge is obtained through participation in social events and activites (i.e. being able to discuss problems with a supervisor, or an employee using a concept such as an intranet (see my blog about Caterpillar Inc.)).
It is therefore important that an organisation who wants to encourage learning and share knowledge (perhaps leading to a 'Learning Organization' (or perhaps not, just a quality journey)) that the correct processes are put in place to facilitate knowledge. Creating a culture where the workforce feel confident enough to share knowledge, and ask for help is extremely important, as employees who don't feel supported, or don't feel that they are being offered training or knowledge may lose motivation. Therefore, the following processes can help to encourage the sharing of knowledge: participation in groups, working alongside others, consultation, and having tackling challenges to solve, (to name just a few) can help to create work processes where learning is a by product. Furthermore, processes such as having direct supervision, mentors, shadowing other employees and coaching can also lead to the acqusition of knowledge (although these processes may be more time consuming and expensive to run).
Much learning at work occurs through doing things and being productive, and having the opportunity to share this obtained knowledge is extremely important. Finally, appraisals can also help reinforce learning, highlight areas for improvement that in turn can further motivate employees (provided relevent help and training is offered to strengthen these areas). However, they could also have a negative impact, highlghting the gap between what an employee can do and what an employer wants them to do, leading to a loss of motivation and commitment to an organisation if they feel they aren't good enough to fulfil the aims of the organisation.
I feel this blog highlights some of the more practical elements that the EFQM Model argues to implement, along with Deming's SOPK, and that in this case, this blog covers the section about sharing knowledge. It aims to highlight how organisations and employees can share knowledge, and how sometimes poor processes can lead to adverse results.
November 14, 2013
It is extremely important when implementing a quality improvement processes like Six Sigma to understand and successfully manage the change that may occur, to ensure that employees within the organisaton buy into the new practices and philosophies, remain motivated and proactively ensure the requreiments of the policy are carried out. Therefore, understanding change management is very important to an organisation. Why? Failing to manage change can ultimately cause alienation amongst employees, with conflict occuring. People are creatures of habit, and once routines and processes are changed, many may criticise the changes prefering the old methods. Furthermore, individuals may feel they are being criticised for past performance, with their conduct and perhaps future employability with the organisation being questioned and looked at.
Therefore, it is extremely important in Six Sigma to ensure that employees buy into the new processes that are being created and carried out. This can be done by informing employees why current processes are not satisfactory, why the new processes are being implemented and what the anticipated results of changing the processes will be. By having employees get involved in the restructuring of work, they may feel more valued by the organisation and will further benefit the organisation. Why? Because an individual is more likely to be motivated to do something if it is their idea that is being used.
Therefore, understanding how change may impact on the individual within an organisation seeking to become an excellence based organisation is significant. The majority of change programmes fail not because of the new processes being unsatisfactory, but because of issues that arise amongst employees.