All entries for February 2009

February 25, 2009

Six Sigma and the enviroment

Working on PIUSS, 6 Sigma in my mind..

A couple of weeks ago I read an interview with an government officer defending that the amount of kids per couple should be controlled. The idea is that the world was not able to sustain more people. It is an understandable idea but not a simple explanation for 3 reasons:

-In most developed countries the population stable or even decreasing (Italy, France, etc)

-In several other big countries (developing and developed) the growth is rather small and mainly caused by immigration (Brazil, US, China...)

-The biggest growth is in very specific and usually poor countries (most of Africa, India, etc)

The consumption level of resources per capta is VERY small on most of the high growing countries and is massive on the rich developed countries (specially the US). That combination of factor is helping balance the situation.

I was discussing this matter with an expert about 1,5 years ago. And he told his major concern was not population growth or even increase in consumption of resources per capta but the amount of waste. He gave me an example that I found rather shocking. He said that the most efficient explosion engines only used about 14-18% of the energy potential contained on the fuel. All the rest was wasted on noise, smoke, lack of appropriate technologies, etc...Basically only about 200ml of each litre of fuel we use is really used to move the cars, all the rest is WASTED. He gave several other examples related tp water and paper. It was shocking.

I took 2 lessons out of the combination of the information's above. 1st. reducing waste, using everything more efficiently, recycling is an easier, quicker and more efficient way of helping save the planet. Imagine if we could reach a 6 Sigma kind of level to the usage of resources, being wasting anything an defect? Would we be saving the world?  Reducing variation and increasing efficiency on the process would certainly be a more noble (and in the long term better financially speaking) reason to use Six Sigma like techniques to improve production an processes...

Second lesson learned. Try not to waste. Water is scarce, energy too. Everything has an environmental cost and someday, be sure of that, that price is going to reflect on the actual financial cost of things. Water will be expansive, paper too. And depending how we handle it now things can be only reasonably expensive, not unaffordable...

MBE Education and variation…

Follow-up to Education and variation from Francisco's blog

Just came to my mind, after writing my last entry that the same way of thinking also applies to MBE. For example WMG`s process of moderating marks is just a way of trying to reduce variation in a subjective process. As we know taking variation is good, but in the specific process of moderation is it really good? Some prople might have their marks reduced, by that process. The moderator puting his finger is not a bit of tempering? Sometimes can`t this process be unfair if somebodys note is reduced (it seems that the answer would be know, since the module tutor could insist in the mark even if the moderator considered it too high, but is just a thought)

Just thinking....


Education and variation

I had tennis lessons when I was a kid (5-6 years old) and them another 2-3 years when I was about 19-20 years old and I having again now. I still prefer football but I rather enjoy tennis. I found tennis lessons here rather diferent from Brazil.

There are some diferences that are related to socio-economical issues and I will not discuss them. But one is the method. Things here are very technical and formal. Limits and standarts are very clearly adressed, processes and strategies clearly defined, method is very, very structured. In Brazil classes where less formal and structured, more improvisation, less theory and explanations.

I was thinking about that and a story came to my mind. Many years ago I read an interview with Alan Prost. He is a French who was one of the most successful formula 1 drivers ever. The interview was conducted by a Brazilian Magazine, therefore he talked a lot about Brazilian pilots. At that point, 2 of the top 4 pilots in the world were Brazilian (Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet). The reporter asked how could a poor country, with no special tradition in motor racing or car industry be so good ate producing pilots. Prost answered by giving an example. He said that if there were 2 pilots, being one Brazilian, racing on the desert and there was a traffic light with the red light on,the non-Brazilian would stop and wait  for the green light while the Brazilian would stop, look and if seeing nothing would go on. Taking away the bad example safety-citizen wise what he said is that Brazilians tend no to ne too attached to rules, to value improvisation and creativity. That fits very well in the stereotype the world has of us and the way people see our football, for instance.

Now what has that to do with the first bit I wrote? Well, in Brazil tennis lessons valued the Brazilian way of seeing things, the improvisation while here they are about a disciplined and structured process. In England they care more about variation, their tennis lessons are more 6 sigma, one could say. I think that style is better to produce regular tennis players, it will certainly fit more people and raise more people to a satisfactory level therefore is more appropriate for the objectives of tennis lessons in the level I intend to play. I would recommend the English Style as a better one just as I would recommend it  to an industry producing millions of products or conducting repetitive processes (what 6 Sigma was designed for). 

But there is a catch. If you talking training or producing something special, something that is different and peculiar (a fantastic player or a very specific and peculiar luxury product) perhaps the not-so-technical-and-structured approach could be better. Could make it easier to identify and customise. That`s arguable I recon, but I think that the fact that Brazil goes well in a sport that does not have that much emphasis on repetition but more in improvisation ike football and does not go that well in Tennis could work as a point (but definitely not as an evidence , scientifically speaking).

Yes...crazy and confusing entry really.

February 18, 2009

Common sense strikes back…

Follow-up to Good sense, organizations and people from Francisco's blog

Working on PIUSS PMAI found a phrase rather interesting "Common Sense is the least common of the senses" (better reference it just in case....(Pande, Neuman & Cavanagh ; 2000) ). It relates to my old post saying that most scientific knowledge I saw in my life in economics, finance, engineering, quality, process and so forth are organised and well presented common sense.

6 Sigma is no different. Common sense all the way. Even though I must say that the way it is presented, the toools, the way priorities are defined do stimulate some thinking that we don`t usually do. I realisedsome colleagues are having trouble perceiving the whole logic of thinking on a process and variation related way, and that what 6 Sigma can help with, to show the importance of understanding that logic and presenting a way to relate it to everyday practises and results. So it is a clever way to stimulate and take results out of common sense.

So if I had to say what is the most important aspect of 6S, the one you should really understand it would be: "Pay attention to processes, look at them carefuly and sistematically and take as much variation out of it as possible".

But when the concepts are understoos, it is common sense ain`t it?


February 14, 2009

Process thinking is rather addictive. – Argo`s case

As I said before since I began realising the whole process question I created the habit of always think about the processes around me. Again this happened today.

Went to Argos, they actually have a physical store in Coventry. They have a completely different selling process, where you choose on a catalogue in the store, pay on an ATM kind of thing and go and get your stuff on a balcony. Rather interesting for commoditized products. Could help appreciating the process, understanding where they saved money (Aykut was with me and we spent sometime discussing it) and them eventual problems, points of attention, how could I reproduce it somewhere else.

Very interesting process in which a whole business was created. Very good example of a connection between a process and a strategy.

February 09, 2009

Process Improvement Project – life

Again, quoting Deming, Life is Variation.

But if life is a set of processes (or perhaps one big process....) what if someone decided to use six sigma tools to improve that process? Of coursethe challenges would be enormous. First, defining what is improvement, what should be improved?   Is it getting a better salary? Having a longer/healthier life? Having the biggest amount of time for fun? But let`s supose you createa kind of balanced scorecard  (Hoshin Kanri would apply here by using the catch ball process with family or friends or you are the only stakeholder?) based on a personal mission and vision definitions (like the ones I created some posts ago) that would attribute points to several aspects of the life. The process improvement could be directed to improved that dimensions. Would that work?

We already do it on an unconscious way. Every decision we make is towards improving some dimension of our life (oh..I`m to lazy today, need to improve my comfort , forget about PMA`s, I`ll take a nap!).So we are always trying to improve that process. But if we did that on a conscious and structured way, would it work? I think so, because several of the things we do are  actually structured ways to do what we could have done by ourselves. For example taking  a  masters to learn something (not talking about the diploma or the status, just the learning experience). If we read enough books, reflected, discussed with a few people we could learn the same or even more. But having a structured place with people that have studied for many years, are able to recommend the best paths, can promote discussions, etc etc makes things much easier and fast. The same with the gym. You could buy a good book, do some studying, find out the best exercises go outside and do it! But the gym has a method, some machines that makes things easier, some guy giving you tips, etc etc.

So yes, a rational approach to life`s processes could improve it. Even though if you take it too seriously you might became the most boring person in the world!


Ps. I just remembered that there is a game I never actually played but my brother liked for a while, you probably know called "the Sim`s" and it is a life simulator (???!!!?!?!?!?). They do give dimensions that you must attend in order to your little avatar to have a happy healthy life. Is a bit like the scorecard idea I gave before...

February 06, 2009

About brothers, wars, humans…

I was thinking about the discussion in Abdul Blog, the one about the Gaza situation. I wrote on my comments that I believe Palestinians and Jews are brothers. It sounded very religious specially from someone who is not religious like myself. But I`d like to talk a bit more about why do I think we are all brothers and I have two kinds of justifications. First a set that I classify as the "scientific" set:

- We all came from the evolved from monkeys that used to walk around in Africa-Middle East somewhere. Same origin.

- The 3 major religions (Jews, Muslims and Christians) came from the same "father"  Abraham and were born in the same region of the world.

- It is genetically proven by DNA tests that Palestines and Jews came from a same common tribe thousands of years ago.

I could put some other scentific reasons but those are enough.

The second set of reasons is a bit more philosofical and if you wish poetical. It doesn`t matter if you are talking about Hitler, Gandhy, Churchill, Jesus, Plato, Pele, James Brown, Bush, Stalin, Mao, Penelope Cruz, Bobby Moore, Madre Teresa,  Sir Edmund Hilary, Fidel Castro, Onassis, Nietzsche, Beethoven, John Lennon, Gardel, Mandela, Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X. Simon Perez, Cristiano Ronaldo all those people just like any other one of us:

-Have fear

-Have been a baby someday

-Will (or have already) die

-Had a mother

-Fell pain

-Have hopes

-Have dreams

-Loved someone

-Need to eat, to sleep

-Are able to think and to create things

-Are able to feel

I know a feel people would argue some of those points for the most extreme names I listed (Jesus and Hitler, for instance) but I believe in that, I believe we are all made of the same material, we are only a little community living on a huge and mysterious universe and mysteriously being able to question ourselves therefore there's no sense in not considering someone my brother, my own for some minor differences such as the colour of the skin, languages or beliefs. What brings us together is much much much bigger then what keeps us apart. And I hope we all will understand that some day. Its hard and I`m just as guilty as the next man for not having achieved that. But I`ll always work out trying to do my bit.

So that`s why even though I do not like everything that comes from everyone I still think we are all brothers.

February 04, 2009

Variation and processes

Life is Variation, would say Deming. 

Since I started working with processes in a more structured (even though quite ignorant and naive way)  I always tended to think about everything in a processual way. Everything was a process that could be improved. Having a shower, going to work, the service on a restaurant etc (actually that is something that could be surprinsigly improved in many places I go in here). 

But now I`m going a bit deeper, I think about variation. I think how I would measure, how to improve, what possible special and common causes I could find, etc etc. A FANTASTIC way to do it is playing tennis. after many years I`m playing tennis again. And tennis is pretty much about consistency. Is about keeping the ball within limits and trying to make the process harder for your adversary so that you introduce a greater variation in his process. Conceptually speaking , hitting in a way that makes things difficult for the adversary so that he gets it wrong is introducing a special or common cause variation into his system?

Just thinking....

February 03, 2009

Showing appreciation for some people that deserve it…

A quick personal entry to show appreciation for 4 people that are really helping the class (or at least me) by using their blogs or feedbacks:


Our mysterious commentator. Sue you have not answered my question about who you are andhow we could find a way to make you able to write your own thoughts. If you rather discuss that by email, please write me: . Anyway, thanks for your participation and comments.


The master of the software/technical tips. Besides being a very nice fellow (and not wanting to kill me when I keep asking questions about his culture/religion...I`m glad he understood I`m just someone trying not to be so ignorant and not to have opinions without knowledge!). Not just a nice chap...

Louis (Kang):

Best blog user I know. Sometimes I disagree with some of his comments and just out of poor laziness don`t answer them. Fantastic comments and posts on everyone`s blogs. And I learned to admire people who really put effort into things the way he does. And besides that he is a Kiwi, and I so thankful with what I have, what I learned from Kiwiland...

Paul (Roberts):

I`ve studied 90% of my life. I`ve not attended some kind of formal education about 4 years in my life (being 2 of them the first two). So I met quite a lot of so called "teachers" . But two things I really admire in Paul are very hard to find around. 1st, as I said before, he walks the talk. He does what he says and believes, he is someone in which the word you can trust. Not suited for politics I guess.....2nd the quality of his work, how serious he does it, the quality of his effort. I really enjoyed his comments on my CBE PMA, I`ve found them mostly very fair and helpful and it is clear he really treated it seriously even though he read thousands of similar reports before. Fantastic example.

So, to the four of you, thanks for helping me (and some other I think) to improve.

February 2009

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