LEAN SIX SIGMA and BEYOND!

December 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

By George Daniels

Numerous companies are now using or have been introduced to lean and/or six sigma concepts for improving performance. If you are not using them or are not familiar with them, then without a doubt you will be at a disadvantage to those that have.

There are now institutes and numerous resources available to assist in lean and six sigma programs, and the Plexius Group has a team of experts to as well. The first program implemented by our experts using both lean and six sigma was almost thirty years ago before it was even named.

However the critical issues not addressed by many of these resources is how to make these efforts a manageable and sustainable process, how to transition an improved process into a new innovative one, and finally how to insure the efforts are in sync with the business strategies and customers’ needs.

The following pictorial from The book “Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving” by S A Partners helps to visualize these points:

The  model suggests what in fact happens in most businesses. The experts, the consultants and the “six sigma belts” come in and tackle the cream off the top (above the water line).

As the manger you can’t help but be impressed with the results, feeling you got your monies worth.

If they have not left you with an organizational system of continuous improvement then the true bonanza will not be visible nor will it be worked on.

It is this effort that is the most valuable to your business today and every day after.

The objective is how to get below the water line. The Plexius Approach does just that and is only three steps:

1)       Alignment and Synchronizations of actions with Strategy

2)       A Management System that ties improvement efforts with business goals and customer needs

3)       A problem Solving Culture driven by the business goals and Customer needs

All improvement efforts must be aligned with your future direction and its needs in order to optimize their value. Our group is qualified through our unique “Life Cycle Methodology” to provide solutions to this issue. It is about the future product and service decisions relative to the market needs and technological trends. Thus the Plexius Group provides you with the critical business intelligence that allows you to create alignment with surety and minimize risk. The last thing you want is a major effort improving yesterday’s needs.

Next if you have numerous improvement projects going on, as the CEO you know how difficult and time consuming the management process is and how you are concerned that each project is focused, controllable and measurable to results. This becomes the second required element. The need for management reports that drive the improvement process. You cannot review all projects all the time in person. The reports we use today such as P&L’s, Balance sheets, Cash flow, project reviews and the like are insufficient at best.  A Management process that drives improvement, that ties improvement to business goals and that ties business goals  to customer and internal needs would be invaluable. It is invaluable and the Plexius Group will assist you in developing and implementing a proactive, improvement driven, results oriented management process. A simple Management Operating System (MOS) to drive your future.

The third step is to tie the MOS to the actions of each improvement team effort. This provides the structure for a continuous improvement culture, where each and every employee is bettering the performance of the company within their skills, measurable and verifiable. Not just the consultants and “belts”. The results are the water level recedes quicker allowing for new projects to be tackled and breakthroughs to occur.

If you are a Shingo Award or Baldrige Award recipient then this is probably not knew as the approach outlined above  is a prerequisite to being the Best and moving beyond just a Lean and Six Sigma project.

Answering the following questions is a good barometer and thought provoker.

  1. You do not know or are unsure of the number of improvement projects in your company.  True——   False——-
  2. The improvement projects are generally led by specialists.  True—–  False—–
  3. You have already done lean or six sigma.  True——  False——-
  4. Your cost reduction results per year are less than 5%.True—- False–
  5. The number of improvement projects is far less than the number of employees.   True—-  False—-
  6. Too often we seem to be fixing the same problem.  True—-  False—-
  7. Innovation is scarce or limited. True—  False—
  8. The number of improvement projects is limited by management’s time and the number of experts. True—  False —-
  9. You do not have a report that summarizes the improvement in business objectives and customer needs by project. True— False —

Every question answered “true” is an opportunity. If you would like more information or further the conversation please contact me at george@plexiusgroup.com.

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Life-cycle Analysis and IT Alignment

September 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

Generally speaking “IT Alignment” addresses both doing the right things (effectiveness), and doing things right (efficiency).  In the literature on IT Alignment there is much talk of the degree to which business and IT “understand” each other, know the other’s “domain”, or “trust and respect” each other.  But, as the widely read Jerry Luftman of the School of Management at the Stevens Institute of Technology says, “While alignment is discussed extensively from a theoretical standpoint in the literature, there is scant empirical evidence regarding the appropriate route to take in aligning business and IT strategies.”

To Plexius, IT and business are mis-aligned when the market has shifted, but the IT is still working on projects designed for a world-gone-by.  IT Alignment centers on having an IT delivery cycle that is tuned to the market, business, and technology life-cycle windows that the business itself must adapt to.

When capabilities are not available as they are needed, they detract rather than add value in the same manner as a late-to-market product development cycle.  It is within the context of the life-cycles that drive business decisions regarding:

  • IT project and program governance
  • Project scope management
  • Agile development techniques
  • Build versus. buy decisions
  • Sourcing decisions, and
  • IT organization structure

The single most dominant driver of why business views IT to be “mis-aligned” is the time-to-implementation.  Too often, from the business view, “new function takes too long.”  If the market has a total life-cycle of 18 months and getting the new capabilities added to the Applications Portfolio takes 6 months, most of the market will be gone before the IT enabled business is ready.  On the IT side of the coin, too often business comes to them with a requirement that must be available in 3 months but requires 6-9 months to complete.  Regardless of the cause, when an IT system is delivered too late the new offering’s prospects are bleak and the IT project is deemed a failure.  There is much written about the high rate of “IT project failure.”  Many of these failures involve projects that were conceived, started, or managed out-of-cycle with actual business need.

Businesses should understand the external market, product/service and technology life-cycles that determine the size and scope of real product/service opportunities.  They need to synchronize the current product/service with at least two future market changes/disruptions.  In making plans to attack these markets they must plan to have all of their capabilities in place at the right time, including the information technology that is needed.  That is the “what” of IT Alignment.

IT and the business, understanding the cycle times at hand, must ensure that development and implementation speeds can accommodate them.  This drives build vs. buy decisions and insource vs. outsource or cloud computing decisions.  It greatly raises the return-on-investment-bar on large scale, long-delivery time, mega-projects.  Because cycle times are far shorter now than just a decade or two past, it almost certainly requires that development projects are scoped in such a manner that tangible, material benefits can flow in 6 months or less.  Its amazing how aligned things seem when everyone is zigging and zagging at the same time.

To find out more contact Doug Brockway doug@plexiusgroup.com or at (617) 834-0067


[1] “Assessing Business-IT Alignment Maturity”, December 2000

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