One common thing I’ve seen recently is when asking people how they would describe their process using metrics. Instead of telling me what's typical or what most commonly occurs in their process, they will tell me the extremes or the worst it could possibly be and has in the past.
Just imagine I’m considering moving to the Philadelphia area from down south and I'm concerned about winter weather. Someone might tell me, "You know, it can snow up to 30" around here. And that's true. There was a blizzard Jan 22-24, 2016, that dumped about 30" of snow in the region. And do you know when the last storm that dumped 30” before that was? Jan 7, 1996 - over 20 years previously!
The average snowfall in the Philadelphia region is 13" of snow per year. I know what you're thinking, that can't be right! Sometimes it snows 13" in one storm. Don't forget that years like 2020 bring that average down significantly. That's why statistically minded people like to talk about confidence intervals for predicted values as measured by the mean and standard deviation which provides a more complete answer than a single number.
Why do some people quote the worst case? Is it that they don't want to get blamed if the business has a "bad day"? Are they trying to level-set expectations for others? We see variation every day. Is it any surprise we see it in complex transactional or manufacturing processes? The way to be more consistent is to remove the factors that lead to variation in output.
It's tempting just to say sometimes, "Guess we had a bad day with scrap today." I hope tomorrow is a better day. "Hope" is a lousy CI strategy. Instead we need to understand the process and what is critical to quality. Maybe the way to reduce errors in documentation is to have clear work instructions and forms that are easier to fill out.
It's true that in a call center, for instance, some things are beyond our control. A heavy call volume day could lead to longer wait times. Still, if we know that Mondays tend to be heavy call volume days we can staff accordingly.
We could also work on the interactions with the call center staff to make sure that they can find the information they need quickly. Sometimes it requires a technology investment to link systems. Sometimes it's a matter of finding the little improvements we can make to trim call wait times.
Possibly we should create a FAQ. Perhaps we need to create folder shortcuts to save the 10 seconds of clicking through a complex folder hierarchy, especially if we do it many times a day.
While some things are beyond our control, very often we're not taking advantages of the simple things that can make a difference and help mitigate those days when call volumes are high. And, if you've come up with improvements in your workflow, is there a system to share that with everyone who needs it?
Enjoy the summer weather. All the best.
Fall Certification Series:
We've been building online courses now for the last few months and can deliver training using video conferencing. In-person training onsite is best for making real improvements to your operations. Still, you can do a lot of improvements by filming an area or process and sharing online. Courses are scheduled for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
Click on the links for specific dates and course agendas.
Courses are held on a rotating basis among participant locations to expose students to several different industries and projects.
Project coaching is included as well and courses will be offered in a hybrid or online format, depending on the social situation at the time.
CI Terms Defined
If you want to make your operations or processes better you need to measure them as they are in their current state.
Then, as you make improvements, you can see if the changes really made a difference in the metrics you are assessing or if they had no effect or a negative effect.
Once I had a manager who told the whole department that we were charging too much time to the 'Office Time' account. He asked that we charge time to other accounts. To me that is just hiding the problem instead of seeing how things actually are.
Baselining is used to compare one process against the same process after improvement. If compared to external enterprises we use the term benchmarking.
Video Links from Youtube:
What is Six Sigma? - 3.5 minutes. A humorous clip of a young Ashton Kutcher having a conversation with his TV dad on That 70's Show