All 3 entries tagged Process

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May 01, 2011

Rewarding Bad Decisions?

I came across some literature earlier, where the author argued that there should be separation between the decision-making process, and the outcome of the decision, when it comes to rewarding decision makers for their work. I think that this makes sense in principle, as his argument for this was that there are many other factors that can affect an outcome, which are far beyond the decision maker's control.

This got me thinking about investment banking, and the high-profile that bankers' bonuses have received in the last few years especially. Bankers seem to receive a bonus regardless of how their decisions have played out. But is this because their decision processes are being measured and rewarded, and these are generally robust and deserving, or is it only due to the culture of greed and not linked to them having a good process? I don't know much about the activities of investment bankers to be honest.

Perhaps there is a case that there should be a transition to this system, if it is not being practiced. I think the public who have been forced to bail-out banks around the world would appreciate this, knowing that at least the practices of the bankers were worth rewarding. I appreciate that investment banking is fast-moving, and the methods we have learnt about might not always be appropriate for that, but it might be a good step to restoring public confidence in them.


November 30, 2010

You cannot get away from them!

Everything is a process. It seems obvious, and I think for me it was a little already. You have a process for grooming and dressing yourself in the morning, several for cooking dinner, one looong, drawn-out process for creating a PMA that you don't want to throw away immediately (;-)). Having Jan Gillett spell it out quite useful though, especially when applying it to the service sector. The five questions we were challenged to use were:

  1. What's the process?
  2. What's the purpose of it?
  3. Who is the customer?
  4. How can you measure the result?
  5. Is there a way you measure it within the process, to predict the outcome?

These help you to define what you are doing, which as we know from Six Sigma's DMAIC, is the first step to improving anything. It can be hard to work out some of these, in certain situations, but I feel that sometimes, simply having an appreciation of their existence can be enough.

I also really enjoyed the rest of Jan's time with us. Learning more about Kano, and how you can try to work out what will appeal to people's excitement needs was really interesting. Tokai Rika was a fantastic example of a company where workers get to engage their brains, with their involvement in control charts. I feel like I really get how useful they can be now, when it comes to using them to prevent problems, and collect knowledge about a process, or even to work out how to fix it if something isn't right (step-by-step, find and eliminate the special causes). Then you can work on reducing the variation further by targeting common causes.


November 28, 2010

Learning By Doing – The Meccano Exercise

The Meccano exercise was a great demonstrator of the characteristics of a production line. I really enjoyed it too, and I feel like I learned a lot. For me, one of the best parts was that it was drawn out over three days. Often with something like this, you get three hours and you’re done – this felt more like a real project in the way that we had time to try things, reflect on and learn from the experiences, and improve based on them. It was amazing to me, how much room for improvement there was, on a process that originally seemed quite standard, and typical of what you might find on most assembly lines.

We were using DMAIC, guided by our black belt (!), but it never really felt like we were approaching things in a particularly structured way when working in our groups. This made getting started quite hard, and showed me the value of having a step-by-step way of doing things, at least at first. 

Our approach, eventually, was to try to reduce the variation in time each process took each operator to do, to streamline our line. We settled on a target of around 2:45 mins, and began to redistribute the amount of work in each individual process, so that five people (plus one supplying parts in a logistical role) could do the work of seven, and in less time overall. We also found that it was possible to break the processes in such a way that the first two operators could work simultaneously. All in all, I think we were quite successful, and given more time to get used to it, I’m almost certain our output variation would have reduced further!

Multiple rounds of trial and error based tests took place to achieve this – PDSA in action. I learned the importance of having the right people in the right roles (playing to their strengths, nimbleness of fingers especially!) and communicating within the line, as well as seeing control charts in practice. One other important thing was getting a feel for how stressful the job of a production line worker can be – I was stressed, felt like I was bad at my job when I was causing a bottleneck, too warm generally, etc, and none of this even mattered! But also, I know how having a positive, enjoyable working environment can make all the difference to productivity and satisfaction. That’s something I would really like to create in the future.


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