Lean Methods Quality Thoughts

Analysis of Lean Six Sigma

This is a post in my organizing “between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to provide a high level analysis of Lean Six Sigma.

I first encountered Lean Six Sigma (L6S) two years ago (2017). This post is based on my L6S Yellow Belt and L6S Green Belt trainings. I am now L6S Yellow Belt certified, on my way to become L6S Green Belt certified. This is required by the company where I’m currently working.

The decision-making in L6S is data-driven. This is part of the long-term, cultural transformation which L6S strives for. L6S is about data! The L6S problem solving is done in five clearly defined phases (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). The goal is to identify the most significant variables affecting the output of the process. A rule of thumb is that 85% of the variation in any process is controlled by two to five critical process input variables.

The objectives of L6S are to:
– Identify the biggest problems
– Assign the best people to fix these problems
– Provide them with all the tools, resources and support needed
– Guranteeing them uninterrupted time to focus on permanently eliminate the problems

The assumptions in L6S are that:
1. A system can be put in place to ensure that improvements are maintained for the long term when these critical process input variables have been identified.
2. The need to inspect and measure the process outputs can be eliminated, if the process inputs can be controlled. The inputs can be considered the causes, while the outputs are the effects.
3. The process inputs that need to be controlled can be found by a structured, problem-solving methodology.

L6S acknowledges that the equation that relates process output to process inputs doesn’t have to be simple. Process outputs can, for example, be a function of many process input factors. Some of these factors may affect the output in a non-linear fashion. The factors can also be co-dependent. Interactions might, in other words, be going on between the variables. My question, however, is how often an equation can be determined that relates process outputs to process inputs in a business environment?

I used to be an authorized Personal Software Process instructor and certified Team Software Process coach, and have personal experience of using the kind of statistical process control in L6S on myself, in my projects. My conclusion is that it is only in special cases that it is possible to determine an equation that relates process outputs to process inputs. Cognitively heavy processes (that is, processes where you think a lot, like in software development) are difficult to put under statistical process control. I have tried! I don’t think my personal software process ever was under statistical control.

I suspect that it is not possible to determine an equation that relates process outputs to process inputs for the great majority of processes. Work that requires creative thinking is by its very nature unpredictable. There is a claim in L6S that most processes are only 3% to 5% value add, and that the majority of processes are non-value add. Maybe, just maybe, only 3% to 5% of the processes are under statistical process control?

Related posts:
Analysis of the CMM, PSP, and TSP

Lean Organizing People

Respect for people

This is a post in my organizing “between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore Bob Emiliani’s emphasis on Respect for People.1

Bob Emiliani has written several books and papers where he presents Lean as a management system. He describes the interplay between the Continuous Improvement and Respect for People principles in Lean.

The Respect for People principle “extends back to the 1900s.”2 Respect for People is “deceptive in that it seems very easy to understand and apply, but it is not.”3

The principle consists of two parts at Toyota: (1) To “respect others,” and “make every effort to understand each other,” in order to “build mutual trust.” (2) To “stimulate personal and professional growth,” and to “share opportunities of development,” in order to “maximize individual and team performance.”4,5,6

Respect for People can “never be completely comprehended.” “It takes years of thought and practice” to understand it well.7

The Respect for People principle “has been around for many decates,” but it has “only rarely … been put into effective practice.” The focus has instead been on “the near-singular pursuit of productivity and efficiency improvements to lower costs and increase profits.”8

Already in the 1800s, “business thinkers … began to press for improved cooperation.” R. Whatley Cooke-Taylor wrote, for example, in 1891 about the “strained relations often existing under the modern factory system.” He pointed out “some grave dangers … which the future may have in store for us in this connection.” The “cure” Cooke-Taylor proposed was “that of co-operation.”9

“Co-operation,” in this case, meant a business “operated jointly by labor and management,” combined with “profit-sharing.” Respect for People was seen as “a practical necessity to reduce conflict and help achieve higher productivity, lower costs, and better quality.”10

Taiichi Ohno wrote in 1988 that the “most important objective of the Toyota System has been to increase production efficiency by … eliminating waste.” But Ohno also wrote that “respect for humanity” is “equally important,” and that the “respect for humanity” has been passed down from Toyoda Sakichi (1867–1930), the founder of the company, to Toyoda Kiichiro (1894–1953), Toyota Motor Company’s first president.11

I think that the Respect for People principle is generally applicable, regardless of whether its Lean, Agile, or something else. And I find it interesting that Toyota’s Respect for People was lost with the birth of Lean thirty years ago. Similarly, I think the Respect for People in Sociocracy, i.e., the emphasis on equivalence,12 has been lost in Holacracy, where the process is all that matters.13

I agree with Bob Emiliani that the Respect for People principle is “anything but trivial to understand.”14 Too many are too focused on processes and tools “to notice the foundational principles.”15

1 Bob Emiliani, The Equally Important “Respect for People” Principle (2008) (accessed 2017-01-14).
2 Ibid., p. 1.
3 Ibid., pp. 1, 8.
4 Ibid., p. 2.
5 Toyota Motor Corporation, The Toyota Way 2001 (Toyota City, April 2001).
6 Toyota Motor Corporation, Sustainability Report 2007, p. 57.
7 Bob Emiliani, The Equally Important “Respect for People” Principle (2008), p. 2.
8 Ibid., p. 2.
9 R. Whatley Cooke-Taylor, Modern Factory System (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, London, 1891), pp. 459–461.
10 Bob Emiliani, The Equally Important “Respect for People” Principle (2008), p. 3.
11 Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production (Productivity Press, Portland, 1988), p. xiii.
12 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making (Eburon, 1998), pp. 44, 167, 168.
13 Brian J. Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), pp. 21, 110, 111.
14 Bob Emiliani, The Equally Important “Respect for People” Principle (2008), p. 8.
15 Ibid., p. 5.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts
Bob Emiliani on Scientific Management and Lean Management

Agile Articles Lean Methods

Bob Emiliani on Scientific Management and Toyota Management

Bob Emiliani

Bob Emiliani is a professor of Lean Management. Here is his post on the historical parallels between Scientific Management 100 years ago and Toyota Management today.

People flocked to Scientific Management to become consultants. They would then install something similar in appearance to Scientific Management. Soon an efficiency movement was born, which installed dilutions of Scientific Management.

Similarly people became aware of Toyota’s Production System (TPS) in the 1970s. Interestingly, most studied the technical aspects of TPS, but not the human aspects. Soon a small army of consultants started to sell TPS tools. TPS is seen as a production system. Yet, TPS was Toyota’s management system. In 1988, the term Lean production was introduced. This resulted in a huge army of consultants and the Lean movement was born, which implemented dilutions of TPS.

Business leaders are devoted to finding the latest tools that help them achieve short-term gains. Consultants are more than happy to help, regardless of whether the movement is called Lean, Agile, or something else.

Here are Bob Emiliani’s recent blog posts.