Archive | May 2014

Speed loves quality

Anyone who has been for a while working in continuous improvement has heard several times the motto: “Lean is for speed, 6sigma is for quality” in any of its multiple versions. I was trained myself in 6sigma before I started working with Lean experts. I used to believe that Lean was just about speed. But this is false.

These posts by Mark Graban can help anybody see why:

One of the best parts in my opinion is this:

“I asked my NUMMI-trained plant manager back in 1996 which thing our plant had to fix first – quality or productivity.

He wisely said “Both. They go hand in hand.”

And this is very true. Speed without quality makes no sense, but quality without speed is also a bad option. Speed drives quality for many reasons: quicker learning cycles, problems are easier to see (since smaller batches are possible), problems can be fixed quicker (ever faced a company with a slow system to implement improvements?), etc…

No doubt, speed loves quality.

Non-value added


Is it better doing something useless or doing nothing? Doing nothing, absolutely!  Counter-intuitive? Find out more now!

If you are doing something useless, you are wasting resources. Somebody (the boss? the quality department?) might think it is critical work because “things have always been done this way”. It is possible that you do that useless stuff wrong (oh no!), therefore afecting parts of the process that are really important. Maybe one day will come when you need that time and resources to do something really productive, but everybody will be very busy doing the wrong thing, and the value-added work will wait forever.

So please, if there is nothing to do, do nothing. It is way more productive.


Learn & do

When I started working in lean & six sigma, I got many hours of formal training. I read some books. I really thought I knew how to do things. But I was wrong.

It was when I started doing real work when I could see how important it is learning by doing. In fact, it is probably the only way. I’ve heard many colleagues saying the same thing and have coached people through the same process. And once you have tried it, you know it is the right way. Formal training is necessary, but not enough.

Art Byrne explains the deep relationship between learning and doing in this post. I find it great:

Remember: Focus on the doing!


After several posts on goal setting, I’ve found this post about a different type of  goal setting exercise: the case when it is related to people development. Here it is:

It’s an interesting read about the most important part of any lean initiative: developing people. When working in this, forget about the classic H-Q-D-C set of metrics and focus on people development aspects. There are some different versions out there, all of which have many similarities. The one proposed in this case (using a weight losing program as example) is this:

  • Behavioral goals: changing a specific action/routine.  (e.g. “weight-loss friendly routines” like eat breakfast every day). These are routines you commit to, which are checked periodically.
  • Competency goals: improving an ability.  (e.g. enhancing the ability to make healthier choices when it comes to food and exercise) . They typically require gaining knowledge, practicing skills, and shifting perspectives.
  • Outcome goals: accomplishments that move you toward your aspirations. (e.g. lose weight)

When teaching lean, it’s important to keep this in mind. People new to lean will need to know why the are learning/using it (e.g. what’s the purpose), will learn new skills on the way (e.g. root cause analysis) and most important, must use new routines (e.g. “go and see” when a problem happens) that must be checked periodically until the behavior has changed.

Can’t buy me love!



If you haven’t heard it before, it’s time to know the shocking truth. You should not care too much for money in your lean projects (sing with me, ‘I don’t care too much for money, for money can’t buy me love’ 🙂 )

We already know that we usually have 4 types of metrics to improve: H (health, environmental) > Q (quality) > D (delivery) > C (cost). Please read ‘>’ as ‘more important than’. This only applies to long-term relationships,of course. It loses it’s power if your business model is mostly short-term oriented (‘one-night-stand style’).

Health is definitely your first option. It’s not just a ‘politically correct’ choice. Even if you don’t have a drop of ethics in your blood, you want your people to be safe and happy. It’s just more efficient. Nobody wants to work in a place where you can get hurt. Healthy people come to work. Happy people go the extra mile. But it’s more important than that, creativity booms, ideas flow. H has big impact and enables Q, D and C. And since of course you do have ethics, you are killing two birds with a stone.

Quality has a limited impact in H, but it is critical to D and C. It makes no sense to make crap quickly. Low quality rates increase reprocessing and this is the worst enemy known for delivery and cost. Even worse, the product credibility can sink and this is a road you don’t want to walk.

Delivery is not simply speed. Nobody has to do any product or service simply quickly. What you need is to have it done at the customer’s rate, not later, not before. Just in time. A good delivery rate is more important than cost, no doubt. A good product/service delivered on time is a much better option that a good product delivered cheap but late. Of course, some customers will be happy to get their product some days later if they are told upfront and the price is better, but in this case you are not being late. You are just in time (and maybe have discovered a new customer segment at the same time)

And cost.

Cost is the beginning and the end of it all. All metrics impact in it, but focusing only in money can be your last decision. In Mike Rother’s words “No matter how much an organization tries to resolve its problems by cost cutting, it makes no real impact and can even negatively affect the customer experience (

If all this sounds coherent to you so far, it’s time to say that it’s not that simple. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

To improve is to change…

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

Winston Churchill

Incremental and frequent change is often the key to success. Incremental because small changes are notably easy to accept and their risk is more controllable. Frequent because they help create a “culture of continuous improvement” and everybody gets used to both success and failure without taking them too seriously.