All entries for Wednesday 16 January 2019
January 16, 2019
In this post, I would like to share my reflections on the two things that surprised me the most during the PIUSS lecture week.
Everybody knows how common variation is. It doesn't take you always the same time to go to work, you don't wait the same time at the supermarket queue everyday, your phone calls with your friends don't last always the same time etc.
During my undergraduate studies at the electrical engineering school, I had been taught about statistics. I knew that when designing a robotic hand or a signal processing application, I should bear in mind that processes follow probabilistic rather than deterministic models. But I had never imagined how frequent this variability is in manufacturing processes where the procedures taking place are identical every time.
When we did the aeroplane competition in the class, I expected that there would be variation in the process outcomes because our hands are not as reliable as machines. But when Graeme presented his project in the candy company, Ι didn't expect to hear about the huge process variation and its consequent cost. This is something that had never crossed my mind!
One of the pillars of SS projects is the cooperation within the teams. At the beggining of the year, I was really scared about having to work in groups. I was afraid that the language barriers and the cultural differences would inhibit our communication.
During this module, I think that I joined five different teams. And it was by far, one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had so far. It is so amazing to see how a team can build on an idea step-by-step. In teams, everyone is useful. Even if someone doesn't understand what is going on,it is not a problem! You just have to slow down and explain to him/her the procedures; but in this way, you can resolve latent misunderstandings.
Sometimes, there is stress and you might become more aggresive. For instance, when he had the aeroplane competition, there was a lot of pressure because if we lost, we wouldn't eat cake! As a consequence, some arguments arose. But when we were calm, we approached each other in order to apologise. And then it was so nice to leave all the bad feelings behind, embrace the other person and work as a team again. As Helen Keller used to say ''Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much''.
On my very first day at the Six Sigma (SS) class, two months ago, I wrote my first post about what I thought this theory is all about. At that point, I perceived Six Sigma as a powerful tool that in a mysterious way transforms its inputs into the desirable outputs, like the Fourier theory. And I proved to be completely wrong.
The Six Sigma theory is about change. Changing the process, changing people's mindset, changing the common practises, changing the managerial approach to problems. There are those who love change,
but the vast majority of people is hostile to whatever modifies their routine. The changes that SS introduces don't happen because employees are bored, like Snoopy, and they really want to do something different.
So the first step, before even starting to implement any new methodology, is to ensure that people are happy with it and that they perceive it as a way to improve. Also, the adequate training should be provided to them, so that they keep up with the new situation and they don't feel lost, like Sally
To the contrary, they should feel happy and confident with it and realize that they have to change because
Now that everyone is happy and familiar with what SS is all about, the time has come for the DMAIC structure to be implemented. And that is the point where I got surprised with this whole theory. DMAIC is not an ingenious invention like the Fourier theory, however it is extremely powerful and effective. Its usefulness does not derive from the fact that some genius came up with the idea that time can be transformed into frequency (Yes, I love Fourier ), but from the fact that it tries to approach the problem in an organised way by using this five-stage strategy. It requires deep understanding, clear goals for the future, some technical skills in order to apply the statistical models and the Taguchi Design of Experiments, but mainly it requires cooperation, reflection and learning. Learning from the mistakes, learning from the processes, learning from your collegues, learning from the improvements.
To me the most important lesson that I was taught from this module is that you don't have to know everything in order to face a problem. You just have to be able to understand the existing situation, organise your approach to the solution, discuss with other people, be open to feedback and new ways of doing things and appreciate everyone's contribution. And that is why I am happy to have chosen a SS-centrered dissertation, because I think that this theory makes you cultivate a mindset that is useful in improving not only the performance of an organisation but also the quality of your everyday life!