Tag Archive | Setting goals

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.


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 (http://ow.ly/2GbIP7)

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.

Alice: Would yo…

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

There’s so much to learn from the Chesire Cat.

Admit it: you don’t know where you are going

W. Edwards Deming once said, ‘if you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing’. In the same way, I believe that if you can’t describe the goal of your project clearly, you don’t know why you are doing it.

Let me be very clear about this point: if you don’t have a crystal clear goal, your lean project will probably fail. Even if things go more or less well – which is not very likely without a clear goal, but may happen for some unknown reason –  you can’t prove it because you don’t have anything to track your progress. In 99% of the cases, the best structure to describe your goal is this: ‘make something go up’ or ‘make something go down’. And that’s it. It’s so simple that it is very difficult to do.

Goals should be related with H-Q-D-C metrics: Health (Safety, Environmental), Quality, Delivery and Cost, in order of importance. Some people include also the Moral category, but the first four are appropriate in most cases. Avoid goals like ‘implement a system to optimize the customer experience’, which are misleading and unclear. Follow the ‘make something go up/make something go down’ rule and convert it to ‘reduce complaints’, ‘reduce waiting time’, ‘increase sales’… force you to define what you really want to accomplish. And please, eliminate the words ‘optimize’ and ‘implement’ from goal descriptions. ‘Implement’ makes me especially nervous because it means, in many cases, that somebody knows (or at least thinks so) the solution to the problem to solve. In that case, don’t start an improvement project and simply put the solution in place.

When talking about religion, love and many other aspects of life, it is ok to be ambiguous and unspecific. ‘I love you’ is definitely a much better option than ‘my love for you has been on average 56% this week’. But when you are working on a lean project, be specific. Please.