Tag Archive | 6sigma

The rules to improve anything


This picture is an old-time classic about communication. Originally made as a joke about how software is developed, it has many different layers which represent very well many of the problems of lean deployments:

  • “What the customer really needs”: First rule: listen to your customer and make the goal clear. No goal = no way to know how success looks like. Simple.
  • “How the customer explained it”: Second rule: go to the gemba. Customers are typically good at explaining their pains and setting a goal (e.g. “ship my product quicker”) but they are not always so good at explaining why things happen (e.g. “you don’t have enough trucks, my product waits too long. You should buy more trucks to be able to ship product quicker”). The best (and only) why to find out what to do is observing the process. Do it.
  • “How the business consultant described it”: Third rule: improvement must be developed by those who really do the job. Experts are ok and can give great value to your thinking process. However, the solution must be owned by whoever runs the process. Hiring somebody and asking him “solve this problem for me” simply does not work in the long term.
  • “How the process was documented”: Fourth rule: standardize. This does not mean “document everything” or “create human robots”. Standards are instructions to make the job in the best way possible known. They are made based on the experience of everybody. Standards must be fair and easy to change. This a great explanation by the Lean Management Institute:


  • “How the project leader, analyst, programmer understood it”: Five rule: communication. Poor communication is the main root cause of project failure (interesting article here). The impact is even higher in Lean or 6 sigma. Keep communication in mind. Tell others what you are doing and why.
  • “How it was supported”. Last rule: be ready to fail. Failing is bad, failing and not being ready for it is catastrophic. Change is mostly based in PDCA, each test proves or refutes something, so being wrong ( = making an hypothesis that was proved wrong) is part of the game. Don’t panic and just be ready for it.


Are these rules enough to succeed? No, unfortunately. But keeping them in mind can increase your chances of success!

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.