You found the root cause now what do you do?

When an improvement team finds the root cause or causes of their process improvement problem they usually start to develop solutions using a Solution and Effect Diagram.[1] The Solution and Effect Diagram produces a number of potential useful solutions that the improvement team must sort through and prioritize to determine which are the most practical to implement and achieve the improvement goals set forth in the AIM statement. The prioritization process can be a confusing and time consuming process for an improvement team since they need to develop criteria to prioritize the solutions against, develop a rating scale, achieve consensus, and then do the prioritization.

To help simplify the prioritization process an improvement team can use a Solution Prioritization Tree. The Solution Prioritization Tree starts when the team has discovered the root cause or root causes of their process improvement problem and they have a number of potential solutions to evaluate as shown in Figure 1.

The Solution Prioritization Tree has a number of sections on its branches that the Improvement Team needs to fill-in to help in their analysis and prioritization of the potential solutions. The various sections of the Solution Prioritization Tree are a cluster of factors that helps the team to map the relationship between the problem, root causes and solutions. This process is useful since it helps the improvement team to:

  • ensure the solutions will bring about change that impacts the goals in the AIM statement positively
  • ensure the solution(s) selected address the significant main cause(s)
  • ensure that any solutions considered improve customer satisfaction with the process being improved
  • guide the team in determining the effectiveness and implementation of their solutions
  • help the team evaluate which solutions should be implemented

Constructing a Solution Prioritization Tree involves the following steps:

  1. Draw a Solution Prioritization Tree for each root cause found in the Cause and Effect diagram as shown in Figure 1.
  2. Label the front left box with the root cause name.
  3. List potential solutions developed on the Solution and Effect Diagram which address the root cause and place those in the boxes labeled Potential Solutions. Only three potential solutions are shown in Figure 1 but there may be many more.
    1. In the box labeled Improvement Steps detail the specifics that would be required to implement the potential solution attached to it.
    2. Develop a consistent set of Prioritization Criteria to rate each potential solution and its associated methods and tasks required to implement it. For this example we have used the following three criteria:
      1. Impact on the AIM Statement goals – will this particular solution contribute to achieving the goal(s) detailed in the AIM Statement
      2. Implementable – is the solution one that can be implemented easily and be cost effective.
      3. Improve Customer Satisfaction – improvements will increase customer satisfaction

Depending on the particular problem being solved other prioritization criteria may be more applicable and should be used. It is permissible to use more than three but too many criteria can make the prioritization process complicated and not user friendly.

  1. Rate each of the solutions on the three criteria that are chosen. Use the following rating scale for each of the prioritization criteria to see if improvement will be made in the process being improved:
Rating Scale Impact Implementable Customer Satisfaction
0 No Improvement Not Feasible No Improvement
1 Minor Improvement Some difficulty Minor

Improvement

3 Major Improvement Somewhat easy Major Improvement
5 Significant Improvement Easy Significant Improvement

 

  1. Impact:

0 – no improvement will be achieved in the process

1 – minor improvement will be achieved in the process

3 – major improvement will be achieved in the process

5 – Significant improvement will be achieved in the process

 

  1. Implementable:

0 – not feasible to implement

1 – Implementable but with difficulty

3 – Somewhat easy to implement

5 – easy to implement

  1. Customer Satisfaction

0 – no improvement in customer satisfaction

1 – Minor improvement will be achieved in customer satisfaction

3 – Major improvement will be achieved in customer satisfaction

5 – Significant improvement will be achieved in customer satisfaction

  1. In column one the improvement team should decide the appropriate rating on this particular solution and how it will Impact the goals set forth in the AIM Statement. Each potential solution should make a contribution to achieving the desired future state of the process being improved. Usually, no one solution will achieve the total improvement but a few solutions when implemented in parallel will accomplish the desired change.
  2. In column two the improvement team should determine how Implementable the proposed solution will be. A solution that is implementable is one where the changes to the process can be accomplished quickly, with minimal costs, and will be accepted by those doing the work.
  3. In column three the improvement team needs to decide how Customer Satisfaction will improve with the proposed improvement to the process.
    1. In column four multiply the rating in column one, two, and three together to get a total score for each potential solution
    2. In column five the improvement team makes a Decision on whether or not to adopt the solution and implement it – (Yes/No).

To determine how many solutions to implement the improvement team needs to develop a project plan showing the sequencing of those potential solutions that scored high, resources required to implement them, timing, responsibilities, and targets to be achieved. This will give them an idea of how much they can take on to achieve the improvements desired.

 

Example: Approved Vacant Position Not Being Filled Quickly:

vacant position

Effective Use of Special Purpose KJ Language Processing

KJ Analysis is a method of developing insight into themes and relationships among issues. It helps drill from high-level issues at one level of context (usually abstract or vague) to a more detailed set of common, reusable statements. KJ is particularly useful in software because people have a tendency to state problems as abstract characteristics they do not like as opposed to making data-based statements about what they need. KJ is helpful in creating a flow-down of information leading to solid requirements at an appropriate level of context.

KJ can be used effectively in Six Sigma projects. And Six Sigma practitioners can benefit by a proper understanding of the approach.

Jiro Kawakita, whose Japanese initials “KJ” are the tag for the methodology he founded, deserves a great deal more visibility and credit for his insights and contribution to practical data-driven learning. As an anthropologist in the 1950s, he was confronted with lots of snippets of factual language data from his field research, and he had an “aha!” about using rules of abstraction to group the data and distill useful fundamental messages. His problem was not unlike today’s software developer’s in many areas of requirements development and problem formulation – where there is a sampling of data that touches on many important aspects of the story. Kawakita found a robust way to amplify the signal and reject a good amount of the noise in that data.

Contrasting KJ and Affinity Diagram

A number of web sites describe KJ as another name for an affinity diagram. This is an unfortunate generalization. Table 1 outlines some key distinctions between the two. Central is the fact that KJ focuses on facts, putting some rules around the traceability and clarity of every piece of language data introduced. This reduces variation in the meaning to be distilled – recognizing that no amount of language processing can overcome vague and ill-founded facts (garbage in/garbage out). Affinity diagrams, on the other hand, often encourage brainstorming, letting all ideas into the mix. Even before each tool kicks in, this difference in the incoming data is a major distinction.

Table 1: Contrasting KJ and Affinity Diagram
Affinity Diagram KJ Analysis
Preparation Little or none, spontaneous Care taken in constructing a “theme” question
Source Material Ideas, brainstorming Facts, data gathering
Grouping Quick, informal, logical grouping; often based on keywords; often no limit on group size – grouping is encouraged Pensive, in silence, based on “the story being told” in each note; typically three maximum per group – “lone wolves” are encouraged
Titling of Groups Quick, informal, “printer problems,” “poor communication” Disciplined, using rules of abstraction; complete sentences that answer the theme questions
Reflection/Post Processing Little or none, a stack of groups is often it Cause-and-effect dynamics, voting and conclusion statement powerfully capture insight

The nature of language processing driven by each tool is quite different as well. KJ carefully guides team thinking on what constitutes a language data group and limits the size of each group. The rationale for grouping is different in KJ – specifying abstraction as the guiding force. A KJ invites factual data like the black text at the bottom of the “ladder of abstraction” (Figure 1). Through grouping with other data that tells a related story, KJ labels move up in abstraction (as illustrated by the more general phrases in the red and blue moving up the ladder). This is a right-brain association activity. Affinity groupings often allow or encourage logical left-brain grouping.

Figure 1: The Ladder of Abstraction

Figure 1: The Ladder of Abstraction

Three Special Purpose KJs

One “hidden” power of KJ is its ability to adapt to special uses. Table 2 outlines three KJ types that have been most useful. The thing that creates a new KJ type is the “theme” statement – the question that is inviting all the data as factual answers. Small changes in the theme statement, even within one of these types, can make a big difference in the team experience building it, and in the outcome.

Table 2: Special Purpose KJs
KJ Type Theme Data Uses
Weakness
or Problem-
Formulation
What has been preventing us from…? Fact related to problems or obstacles (A major customer became confused with all the options and pulled out of the sales process.) Formulating a problem; focusing on where to do more detailed problem-solving work
Context
of Image
What scenes and images describe…? Word pictures (Forgetting to record information in his log, a staffer then fills it in from memory.) Understanding an environment
Requirements What are the key requirements for…? Needs – Solution-free (Users define customer quality control procedures as required for their region.) Finding themes and underlying messages in a complex set of needs

Weakness or Problem-Formulation KJ – This KJ is probably the best place for a new facilitator or team to start. The theme takes on a weakness tone, looking for problems, obstacles, challenges, etc. The power in a weakness orientation is that it focuses a team on facts – and on the present and past. In contrast with the affinity diagram, this KJ does not seek ideas or brainstorming. That is an important point. It might seem more optimistic to say, “What can we do to improve X?” But that would seek ungrounded ideas. Turning the same situation around to a weakness view, it becomes, “What are our key problems with X?” That creates an entirely different set of responses. Sounds a bit pessimistic, but actually it is that way for a positive reason – to pull out the most pertinent, useful facts.

Figure 2: A Problem-Formulation KJ

Figure 2: A Problem-Formulation KJ

Context or Image KJ – A context KJ, also know as image KJ, seeks to document and distill powerful word pictures describing an environment. It is the KJ with the broadest reach. At first, many people have trouble distinguishing this from a problem-formulation KJ. A context KJ calls for all manner of images that describe “the way things are” in the environment of interest. Problems and weakness may show up as part of that picture – to the extent that they provide useful answers to the theme question. In addition, a context KJ may include images about future trends, and situations and dynamics that are neutral or positive. The problem-formulation KJ, with its focus on weakness, puts a narrower filter on the incoming data.

Requirements KJ – A requirements KJ calls for functionality in answer to a theme question such as, “What are the key requirements for…?” Many times the facts are in the form of a quote, representing a customer or “actor” describing what they need or would like to be able to do. “I can track and change my own orders online” or “For at least three years, we need to manage a mixture of the newest and some of the oldest technology” would be examples of basic fact statements at the base of a requirements KJ.

When to Do a KJ

To help decide whether to do language processing and, if so, whether to use affinity or KJ, consider these steps:

  1. Articulate the theme: the top-level question the team would like to use the data to answer.
  2. Develop the list of participants the team would like to see working on this.
  3. Gage the prospective value of the activity on these dimensions in the Language Data Processing Planner form below.
Language Data Processing Planner
Assign a prospective value for each activity, scoring anywhere between 1 and 5

Score

Perspective 1 5 _________
The participants already have a common view of the data they would bring Participants have different data and different perspectives. There is value in their seeing the issue from one another’s perspective
Complexity 1 5 _________
The issues (regarding the theme) are not particularly complex. The hierarchy and/or relationships among the data are pretty constrained and easy to see already. The issue is complex. There are many ways the data could be distilled. It is not easy to see what the distilled answers would be.
Urgency

1

5 _________
Most participants would not see this as an issue worth spending time on. Most participants see the value in better understanding this issue right away.
Communication/
Documentation
1 5 _________
We already have the data in a form that is communicable or reusable by others. The data regarding this issue is dispersed. It is hard to see the forest for the trees.
Total
Score
_________

Interpreting the Planner Score:

Up to about 6 – Team KJ not worthwhile. Consider simple affinity or net-touch grouping by a smaller team, or no data processing if appropriate.
About 8 to 10 – Reconsider the theme and/or participant list.
About 12 and above – A KJ is probably worthwhile.

If a team decides to do a KJ, it should remember the data input fundamentals in the illustration below:

Figure 3: Data Input Fundamentals

Figure 3: Data Input Fundamentals

More on Language Processing

  • The Original KJ Method by Jiro Kawakita, Kawakita Research Institute, 1991.
  • The Language Processing Method by Shoji Shiba, et al, CQM, Boston, 1995.
  • Language in Thought and Action by S.I. and Alan R. Hayakawa, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, fifth edition, 1990.
  • Customer Visits by Edward F. McQuarrie, Sage Press, second edition, 1995.

Scrubbing the Data – Part of the KJ discipline involves “scrubbing” the language on each of these incoming notes. Each note wants to be stated in “report language.” Also, the message in the note wants to be clear and unambiguous to any reader downstream – especially those who did not take part in the building of the KJ. Team members can help that process by putting each of their own notes to the test, rewording as necessary, before coming to a KJ meeting.

After KJ Is Done, Then What?

A good KJ session should yield several rewards. First, the team that created the KJ usually finds big gains in shared understanding about one another’s perspectives and facts. By working together to group, title and arrange their data, a team gets inside a common thought process about important meanings and dynamics.

For people who were not on the team, a KJ is a very efficient communication document. If the team had spent the same few hours in chairs around the meeting table with someone taking notes, it would be a longshot that many others would read and understand the notes. The KJ, on the other hand, is a 2-D pattern-oriented device that almost immediately conveys lots of information and related thought process to those who were not there. It is perfect for the “one-minute manager.”

Last but not least, over time a KJ can help the team that built it to remember and reflect back on their thinking. It can reboot the group mind months or even years later. KJs should be kept in an accessible place (and as online shareable versions) to get all possible benefits.

U.S. ARMY RECOGNIZES BEST LEAN SIX SIGMA INITIATIVES OF 2016

In their continuing search for a more efficient military, U.S. Army officials now annually honor those who have developed methods for saving money, improving operations and increasing combat readiness.

To do so, the Army has turned to Lean Six Sigma.

Since 2006, the Army has seen thousands within its ranks become Green Belts, Black Belts and Master Black Belts in Six Sigma. They have used Lean Six Sigma methodologies to save the Army more than $19 billion through eliminating operational inefficacy and improving services.

In May, Army officials held a ceremony in Washington, D.C., to honor 13 programs across 11 departments that ranked as the best Lean Six Sigma initiatives for 2016. In all, the projects saved millions of dollars and eliminated wasted time and effort by military personnel.

They’ve also made the Army stronger. Money saved from Lean Six Sigma programs can be “ploughed back into war readiness,” Karl Schneider, the senior career official performing duties of the undersecretary of the Army, said at the ceremony.

How The Army Uses Lean

The Army’s use of Lean Six Sigma methodologies began in 2006. The billions of dollars saved since that time have included cost savings in current programs, avoiding costs in future programs and generating revenue from reimbursable activities.

By 2010, the Secretary of Defense had made Lean Six Sigma a necessary step within the cost-benefit analysis of any new Army project. By 2011, the Army reported a 700-to-1 return on investment from the Lean program.

The Army continues to move toward its goal of making Lean Six Sigma a self-sustaining effort within the military branch’s numerous departments. The LSS Program Management Office helps facilitate the training needed to make Lean methodology a “routine way of doing business” across all Army departments.

The 2016 Award Winners

At the ceremony in May, held at the Pentagon, the 13 award-winning Lean programs came from a variety of departments. Three departments earned the Process Improvement Deployment Excellence Award:

  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller, for Lean projects that led to a total of $66.2 million in costs savings, cost avoidance and revenue generation.
  • The U.S. Army Medical Command for programs that led to better healthcare services for military personnel and cost savings of $5.7 million.
  • The 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe for programs that led to greater commander involvement and a cost savings of almost $3 million.

Benefits of Six Sigma Training

All of this means that opportunity is there for servicemembers who wish to earn Six Sigma certification. They not only can become involved with cutting-edge projects during their time in the service, but also attain skills that make them attractive job candidates after leaving the military.

While the roots of Six Sigma lie in industrial manufacturing, use of the methodology has become widespread across many different industries, as well as with nonprofits and government organizations.

Those with security clearance also can get the inside track on jobs with defense contractors, a growing industry that frequently utilizes Six Sigma.

As the Lean Six Sigma program shows, the Army values the benefits of those with training in Six Sigma. It not only creates savings for taxpayers, but provides solid employment opportunities for military personnel.

How to Explain Six Sigma by Using the Profit Triangle

Once a person becomes a Master Black Belt or deployment leader within an organization, they may spend a lot of time explaining to other people what Six Sigma is and how it can help the company. They may have to convince many skeptical people, who always see the deployment costs but not the benefits.

Two things must be clearly understood before trying to explain Six Sigma to anyone.

Focus on Financial Savings

Financial savings is a key objective of Six Sigma. While this should be fairly straightforward, it is not always clear up front what the (hard) savings will be. Finding the true costs of poor quality can be a difficult job. For example, if a project is aimed at improving the throughput of a certain machine or process, but the current demand is lacking, then there will be no hard savings. However, if the demand is 20 percent above budget and the project team can improve the throughput, this could mean a significant profit increase.

Another difficulty in finding the true costs of poor quality is that when working on the main problem, sometimes a variety of smaller costs and issues are resolved as well. Usually those issues are not listed when the financial analysis is being made. In most successful projects, one improvement affects another. For instance, improving productivity may boost morale and decrease material costs.

The focus on savings can be made even more difficult when company controllers are afraid to be held accountable for the savings and lack the operational skills to see the benefits.

Improving the Total Business Process

In addition to achieving financial savings, Six Sigma is a program that helps improve the total business process. Six Sigma is not a group of internal consultants (Black Belts) available to fix processes when they are broken. Six Sigma should evolve in a structured continuous improvement program in which everybody has a place and a clear goal.

With this background, the question remains: “How do you explain Six Sigma to colleagues?”

Profit Triangle

Profit Triangle

A tool called the profit triangle can help clearly describe Six Sigma’s role in the organization. It focuses on both continuous business improvement and financial savings. Often used in marketing theory, the profit triangle simply shows what a company needs to deliver to its customers to make a profit.

All Sides of the Profit Triangle

The three sides of the profit triangle are value creation, internal operations and competitive advantage. All are important for a company to be profitable. An organization must excel in all three areas if it wants to be among the best in class. Like a triangle, all three aspects are linked – a company’s performance on one side will have an impact on the other sides.

If its internal operations are not well structured, a company will find it difficult to create value and be highly competitive. Six Sigma began as a focus on improving internal operations. The methodology is targeted on the processes within an organization. Of course, it is better to build in excellence when business processes are first being developed and designed, but often operational processes have to be improved to be made excellent afterward.

Six Sigma and its tools are not limited to production processes. Sales, marketing, and research and development departments also are filled with processes that can be improved. While a company might have a natural competitive advantage because its competitors have such poor products or sales efforts, in today’s marketplace this is unlikely. Therefore, organizations need to excel in all areas.

Companies that use Six Sigma are striving for operational excellence. Six Sigma is a data-driven, structured, continuous improvement program that works at a company’s foundation to help it reach operational excellence. Six Sigma can support all three sides of the profit triangle.

Operational excellence is the goal – Six Sigma is a means to that goal. And the profit triangle can help explain Six Sigma’s role.

Effective Use of Special Purpose KJ Language Processing

KJ Analysis is a method of developing insight into themes and relationships among issues. It helps drill from high-level issues at one level of context (usually abstract or vague) to a more detailed set of common, reusable statements. KJ is particularly useful in software because people have a tendency to state problems as abstract characteristics they do not like as opposed to making data-based statements about what they need. KJ is helpful in creating a flow-down of information leading to solid requirements at an appropriate level of context.

KJ can be used effectively in Six Sigma projects. And Six Sigma practitioners can benefit by a proper understanding of the approach.

Jiro Kawakita, whose Japanese initials “KJ” are the tag for the methodology he founded, deserves a great deal more visibility and credit for his insights and contribution to practical data-driven learning. As an anthropologist in the 1950s, he was confronted with lots of snippets of factual language data from his field research, and he had an “aha!” about using rules of abstraction to group the data and distill useful fundamental messages. His problem was not unlike today’s software developer’s in many areas of requirements development and problem formulation – where there is a sampling of data that touches on many important aspects of the story. Kawakita found a robust way to amplify the signal and reject a good amount of the noise in that data.

Contrasting KJ and Affinity Diagram

A number of web sites describe KJ as another name for an affinity diagram. This is an unfortunate generalization. Table 1 outlines some key distinctions between the two. Central is the fact that KJ focuses on facts, putting some rules around the traceability and clarity of every piece of language data introduced. This reduces variation in the meaning to be distilled – recognizing that no amount of language processing can overcome vague and ill-founded facts (garbage in/garbage out). Affinity diagrams, on the other hand, often encourage brainstorming, letting all ideas into the mix. Even before each tool kicks in, this difference in the incoming data is a major distinction.

Table 1: Contrasting KJ and Affinity Diagram
Affinity Diagram KJ Analysis
Preparation Little or none, spontaneous Care taken in constructing a “theme” question
Source Material Ideas, brainstorming Facts, data gathering
Grouping Quick, informal, logical grouping; often based on keywords; often no limit on group size – grouping is encouraged Pensive, in silence, based on “the story being told” in each note; typically three maximum per group – “lone wolves” are encouraged
Titling of Groups Quick, informal, “printer problems,” “poor communication” Disciplined, using rules of abstraction; complete sentences that answer the theme questions
Reflection/Post Processing Little or none, a stack of groups is often it Cause-and-effect dynamics, voting and conclusion statement powerfully capture insight

The nature of language processing driven by each tool is quite different as well. KJ carefully guides team thinking on what constitutes a language data group and limits the size of each group. The rationale for grouping is different in KJ – specifying abstraction as the guiding force. A KJ invites factual data like the black text at the bottom of the “ladder of abstraction” (Figure 1). Through grouping with other data that tells a related story, KJ labels move up in abstraction (as illustrated by the more general phrases in the red and blue moving up the ladder). This is a right-brain association activity. Affinity groupings often allow or encourage logical left-brain grouping.

Figure 1: The Ladder of Abstraction

Figure 1: The Ladder of Abstraction

Three Special Purpose KJs

One “hidden” power of KJ is its ability to adapt to special uses. Table 2 outlines three KJ types that have been most useful. The thing that creates a new KJ type is the “theme” statement – the question that is inviting all the data as factual answers. Small changes in the theme statement, even within one of these types, can make a big difference in the team experience building it, and in the outcome.

Table 2: Special Purpose KJs
KJ Type Theme Data Uses
Weakness
or Problem-
Formulation
What has been preventing us from…? Fact related to problems or obstacles (A major customer became confused with all the options and pulled out of the sales process.) Formulating a problem; focusing on where to do more detailed problem-solving work
Context
of Image
What scenes and images describe…? Word pictures (Forgetting to record information in his log, a staffer then fills it in from memory.) Understanding an environment
Requirements What are the key requirements for…? Needs – Solution-free (Users define customer quality control procedures as required for their region.) Finding themes and underlying messages in a complex set of needs

Weakness or Problem-Formulation KJ – This KJ is probably the best place for a new facilitator or team to start. The theme takes on a weakness tone, looking for problems, obstacles, challenges, etc. The power in a weakness orientation is that it focuses a team on facts – and on the present and past. In contrast with the affinity diagram, this KJ does not seek ideas or brainstorming. That is an important point. It might seem more optimistic to say, “What can we do to improve X?” But that would seek ungrounded ideas. Turning the same situation around to a weakness view, it becomes, “What are our key problems with X?” That creates an entirely different set of responses. Sounds a bit pessimistic, but actually it is that way for a positive reason – to pull out the most pertinent, useful facts.

Figure 2: A Problem-Formulation KJ

Figure 2: A Problem-Formulation KJ

Context or Image KJ – A context KJ, also know as image KJ, seeks to document and distill powerful word pictures describing an environment. It is the KJ with the broadest reach. At first, many people have trouble distinguishing this from a problem-formulation KJ. A context KJ calls for all manner of images that describe “the way things are” in the environment of interest. Problems and weakness may show up as part of that picture – to the extent that they provide useful answers to the theme question. In addition, a context KJ may include images about future trends, and situations and dynamics that are neutral or positive. The problem-formulation KJ, with its focus on weakness, puts a narrower filter on the incoming data.

Requirements KJ – A requirements KJ calls for functionality in answer to a theme question such as, “What are the key requirements for…?” Many times the facts are in the form of a quote, representing a customer or “actor” describing what they need or would like to be able to do. “I can track and change my own orders online” or “For at least three years, we need to manage a mixture of the newest and some of the oldest technology” would be examples of basic fact statements at the base of a requirements KJ.

When to Do a KJ

To help decide whether to do language processing and, if so, whether to use affinity or KJ, consider these steps:

  1. Articulate the theme: the top-level question the team would like to use the data to answer.
  2. Develop the list of participants the team would like to see working on this.
  3. Gage the prospective value of the activity on these dimensions in the Language Data Processing Planner form below.
Language Data Processing Planner
Assign a prospective value for each activity, scoring anywhere between 1 and 5

Score

Perspective 1 5 _________
The participants already have a common view of the data they would bring Participants have different data and different perspectives. There is value in their seeing the issue from one another’s perspective
Complexity 1 5 _________
The issues (regarding the theme) are not particularly complex. The hierarchy and/or relationships among the data are pretty constrained and easy to see already. The issue is complex. There are many ways the data could be distilled. It is not easy to see what the distilled answers would be.
Urgency

1

5 _________
Most participants would not see this as an issue worth spending time on. Most participants see the value in better understanding this issue right away.
Communication/
Documentation
1 5 _________
We already have the data in a form that is communicable or reusable by others. The data regarding this issue is dispersed. It is hard to see the forest for the trees.
Total
Score
_________

Interpreting the Planner Score:

Up to about 6 – Team KJ not worthwhile. Consider simple affinity or net-touch grouping by a smaller team, or no data processing if appropriate.
About 8 to 10 – Reconsider the theme and/or participant list.
About 12 and above – A KJ is probably worthwhile.

If a team decides to do a KJ, it should remember the data input fundamentals in the illustration below:

Figure 3: Data Input Fundamentals

Figure 3: Data Input Fundamentals

More on Language Processing

  • The Original KJ Method by Jiro Kawakita, Kawakita Research Institute, 1991.
  • The Language Processing Method by Shoji Shiba, et al, CQM, Boston, 1995.
  • Language in Thought and Action by S.I. and Alan R. Hayakawa, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, fifth edition, 1990.
  • Customer Visits by Edward F. McQuarrie, Sage Press, second edition, 1995.

Scrubbing the Data – Part of the KJ discipline involves “scrubbing” the language on each of these incoming notes. Each note wants to be stated in “report language.” Also, the message in the note wants to be clear and unambiguous to any reader downstream – especially those who did not take part in the building of the KJ. Team members can help that process by putting each of their own notes to the test, rewording as necessary, before coming to a KJ meeting.

After KJ Is Done, Then What?

A good KJ session should yield several rewards. First, the team that created the KJ usually finds big gains in shared understanding about one another’s perspectives and facts. By working together to group, title and arrange their data, a team gets inside a common thought process about important meanings and dynamics.

For people who were not on the team, a KJ is a very efficient communication document. If the team had spent the same few hours in chairs around the meeting table with someone taking notes, it would be a longshot that many others would read and understand the notes. The KJ, on the other hand, is a 2-D pattern-oriented device that almost immediately conveys lots of information and related thought process to those who were not there. It is perfect for the “one-minute manager.”

Last but not least, over time a KJ can help the team that built it to remember and reflect back on their thinking. It can reboot the group mind months or even years later. KJs should be kept in an accessible place (and as online shareable versions) to get all possible benefits.

Six Sigma and KPI’s: Your Operating Expense Ratio (OER)

Running a business can be expensive. No matter what industry you’re in, what services you offer, or products you make, there’s an ever-changing cost for doing business. Typically, how expensive it is to operate your business determines how profitable you are. Likewise, your operating expenses determine your return on investments, growth aspirations, and revenue. While there are multiple ways to determine how expense your operations are, the most straightforward is your operating expense ratio (OER). This ratio considers all your day-to-day expenses and compares them to your overall success. Yet, what can you do to improve your OER? Learn how Six Sigma is changing hundreds of organizations’ OER’s for the better!

What is OER?

OER is your operating expense ratio. This calculates essentially how expensive it is to operate your business. Costs, such as maintenance, sales, R&D, rent, and more are all used when calculating your OER. In a basic ratio, you sum up your operating expenses for a set time and divide it by your sales revenue for the same period. In the end, you have a ratio that you can use to compare your operating expenses to yourself and other organizations within your industry.

Most organizations will use their OER to compare quarterly reports to each other, analyzing how it changes over time. Ideally, you want to see your operating expenses decrease and sales to expand. However, this is easier said than done. If your OER is lower one quarter or below average compared to others in your field, Six Sigma offers multiple tools to improve it.

Six Sigma and OER 

One of Six Sigma’s most noticeable features is reducing waste. Whether it’s production, manufacturing, or equipment, Six Sigma methodologies can reduce your overall waste tremendously. Our Lean Fundamentals course provides you with the greatest insight into doing precisely this. Combining with the fundamentals of Six Sigma, Lean introduces you to proper data collection and management. This allows you to analyze and see where your organization is producing the most waste. By cutting down on waste production, you can decrease your operating expenses. Additionally, producing less waste leads to a greater return on your equipment, machines, and workforce. These, plus more directly improve your OER.

Kaizen Approach

Another way to improve your organization’s OER is to use the Kaizen approach. Kaizen focuses on improving the communication within an organization and seeking where to make improvements. These areas include improving customer satisfaction and your staff’s problem-solving. Likewise, it increases your products’ quality, staff loyalty, and employee skillsets. With Kaizen, you work from within to greatly improve your organization. As a result, your organization is more efficient and positively impacts your OER.

One key factor about OER’s you must remember is that it must be compared to similar companies and organization within your industry. For example, if you’re a product manufacture and you compare your operating expenses to an R&D firm, your ratio will be abnormally high. Likewise, you must compare your ratio to yourself across multiple periods to properly analyze how it changes with time.

Six Sigma and KPI’s: Your Customer Retention Rate

When operating a business, there are a few key metrics you must keep a close eye on. While knowing how expensive your business is to operate is a priority, customer retention is equally important. Customers are the backbone of your business’ success. Whether you sell a product, offer a service, or perform research and development, you depend on customers wanting to buy from you. Yet, how exactly do you consider your customer base? In this article, we will go into detail about your customer retention rate, what it is, and how to use it!

What is Your Customer Retention Rate?

For Six Sigma professionals, we recommend using your customer retention rate when analyzing your customer base. This calculation not only sees how many customers you keep over a period but also how valuable they are. Furthermore, it considers the extent of customers you keep after the acquisition. Of course, gaining new customers is always the main objective. Yet, if you’re constantly losing customers after only a few payment cycles, you could be wasting more money than you’re earning.

Keeping existing customers will always be less expensive than acquiring new ones. As a result, it’s your goal to keep your current customer base happy and buying your products or services frequently. However, this is easier said than done. For most organizations, loyalty programs and reward schemes are put into place. Basically, “the more you shop with us, the more perks and bonuses you will receive”. Think airline frequent flyer programs or cash back options with credit cards.

How Do You Calculate Your Customer Retention Rate?

Additionally, calculating your customer retention rate depends on a few variables. First, you must calculate the number of customers you have at the beginning of a designated period. Then, you must divide that by the number of customers who remain with you in the same period. However, these figures depend heavily on where your data comes from.

For most organizations, customer relationship management software is used to see what customers are actively purchasing products and which are not. However, not everyone uses a CRM system. If your organization doesn’t, your next best option for data collection is customer feedback surveys. You can instruct your Six Sigma Green Belts to create, distribute, and collect these surveys from customers. Afterward, you’ll need to organize and analyze the data. Are customers happy with your product? How likely will they stay? These questions are tailored to your company and reflect very specific customer bases.

How to Use Your Data

Of course, data is only good if you can use it. When calculating your customer retention rate, compare yourself to others within your industry. This will directly show how “average” your rate is. If you want to improve your customer retention, there are specific Six Sigma tools you can use to do so. However, the most noticeable is the Kaizen method. Kaizen works from within your organization to improve operations, product quality, staff loyalty, and ultimately customer satisfaction. This five-step tool has helped hundreds of companies increase their customer retention by simply fixing minor process from within the organization. If you want to improve your customer retention rate, contact us today to enroll in our Six Sigma courses!

Six Sigma and Business Analytics: Monte Carlo Simulation

Doing business is all about taking risks. Whether you’re deciding to become a full-time entrepreneur, open a new office, or invest in a company, you’re taking risks. However, not all risks are necessarily “risky”. Let’s explain. While you may be taking a risk by venturing into a new investment scheme, chances are you will analyze the actual risk before you begin. Likewise, most business risks are carefully thought and planned through. Yet, how can you accurately predict how risky your next business decision will be? Six Sigma is your go-to process improvement methodology. With a foundation in data analysis, Six Sigma proves to be a great tool in operating your organization. That’s why it’s no wonder that Six Sigma professionals use the Monte Carlo simulation for their problem-solving and risk assessment needs!

What is Monte Carlo Simulation? 

By definition, Monte Carlo simulation is a mathematical tool that assesses the likelihood of certain outcomes. By using problem-solving and risk assessment techniques, it approximates the risk of a particular result. This simulation uses a variety of data input and is ideal for most fields and industries. More importantly, Monte Carlo simulation provides you with insight into the most likely, least likely and an average outcome for your situation. When you have questions such as “Will this investment yield a high return?” or “How expensive with this project be?”, Monte Carlo can calculate approximate predictions.

How to Use Monte Carlo Simulation

Like most Six Sigma tools, Monte Carlo depends heavily on the data you provide. In most cases, more data is always better. With additional data and multiple variables, it’s easier for the simulation to provide you with precise estimations. When using this simulation tool, you’re building a model of possible outcomes. It will display ranges for the certain outcomes, also known as a probability distribution. Likewise, the simulation can run for any designated amount of time. For example, if you want to know how expensive your next project will be over the course of 18 months. Or, if you need to know your return on investment for every quarter for the next three years 

Six Sigma and Monte Carlo

Although Monte Carlo simulation is an ideal tool for most professionals, it is not bulletproof. Providing the wrong data, inaccurate variables, or unrealistic ranges will not offer the most accurate results. This is where Six Sigma comes into play. As a Six Sigma professional, you understand how to properly mine, sort, and analyze data sets. Likewise, you also have experience managing other Six Sigma employees who collect data for your project. When using Monte Carlo, you should use historical results to create the most realistic range to test. Likewise, comparing your simulation results to past experiences can help determine if you ran the program correctly.

It’s important to remember that Monte Carlo is purely a simulation and does not guarantee exact results. However, enrolling in our Six Sigma professional courses and training will prepare you for this and more business analytics tool in the future!

Six sigma Job- Assistant Manager

Designation Assistant Manager – Call Center – 3 Opening(s)
Job Description

Summary:
Primary objective is to supervise and manage Call Center Inbound team & to deliver continuous results, drive improvement through initiatives, identify gaps and fix them.

Job Responsibilities:

Controlling absenteeism / shrinkage
Handling a team of 5+ TLs and operators (60+) reporting to TLs
Planning leaves and motivating the team members
Analyzes data/ reports and provides recommendations to improve business performance
Constantly work on improving the main KPIs like Productivity / AHT / Quality.
Highlighting process performance to Senior Management
Analyze daily / weekly reports – MIS
Interact with management
Act as a bridge between the middle and senior management
Do Appraisals
Ensures departmental standards for Quality, Variability and Efficiency are met or exceeded
Give subordinates opportunity to develop their own expertise and delegates effectively to ensure shared responsibility for work output
Drives process improvement within the Business Units by implementing new ideas/ concepts
Tracks and minimizes variance observed in the calibration results

Desired Profile:

Seasoned Assistant Manager with overall 4+ years of experience and min. 1 year as AM.
Should at least be a Graduate, MBA preferred
Experience in managing Outbound campaign preferably customer service.
Should have simultaneously managed multiple campaigns.
Preferred candidate with experience in Financial Services/Call Center.
Exposure to Six Sigma Methodology will be an added bonus.
Proficiency in MS Office (Excel, Visio, Word and PowerPoint) required.
Knowledge about dialer and its functionality should be clear.
Should have initiated various activities /projects which has made significant impact in the process organization.

Who should join?

Candidates who are result oriented.
Who have relevant experience.

Desired Profile Please refer to the Job description above
Experience 4 – 6 Years
Industry Type Banking / Financial Services / Broking
Role Assistant Manager/Manager-(Technical)
Functional Area ITES, BPO, KPO, LPO, Customer Service, Operations
Education UG – Any Graduate

PG – Any Postgraduate – Any Specialization

Doctorate – Doctorate Not Required

 

5 Biggest Risks Six Sigma Faces Without a Governing Body

Since its inception in the late 1980’s, Six Sigma has become increasingly popular throughout hundreds of industries. Across the world, professionals are finding new ways to use the process improvement methodology to their benefit. However, with this growing demand for Six Sigma, the business method faces a series of potential setbacks. On top of the list is the lack of a governing body. Unlike other popular educational institutions, Six Sigma does not have a single governing body that regulates the methods taught by practitioners and trainers. As a result, Six Sigma is now possibly in jeopardy. But what are the actual risks Six Sigma faces without a governing body?

Lack of Consistent Training 

The first and more apparent risk Six Sigma faces is a lack of consistent training. Since every program can offer different training or certification, it’s impossible to know what students are learning. While some practitioners may offer highly renowned Six Sigma training, others may only provide abysmal resources for the same course. In this scenario, a governing body would set concrete training and certification requirements each belt must achieve.

Lack of Organization

As a result of inconsistent training, Six Sigma lacks overall organization. This is especially apparent when professionals apply to new positions or move to different organizations. Without a governing body, it’s difficult to know exactly what training an employee has and what their skill set is. While consistent training is the first step, an organized, structured approach to training and skill requirements comes next. 

Loss of Transparency  

Similar to the first two risks, the absence of a governing body places a lack of transparency across Six Sigma. Without this system of checks and balances, it’s impossible to know what trainers and certifiers are offering. Likewise, it’s equally as difficult to know what they are offering. By failing to distinguish the difference between ‘certification’ and ‘training’, or the belts, practitioners will offer whatever the customers are willing to buy. This is especially dangerous when the buyer is ill-informed about what the course covers and its requirements for certification. 

Abundance of Illegitimate Training 

Next, a loss of transparency directly leads to an abundance of illegitimate training and certification programs. Without a governing body, practitioners’ courses do not need to meet a specific standard. As a result, prospective Six Sigma professionals face running into illegitimate practitioners on a wider scale. Read this article to see what you should do when faced with this situation.

Growth of a Poor Reputation

The last risk Six Sigma faces from a lack of a governing body is a growing poor reputation. Over the past few decades, Six Sigma and its professionals have created a higher standard of process improvement that organizations desire. Without a basic standard across the methodology, well-qualified professionals risk their reputation at the hands of a few sour apples.

Like most negative impacts on a process, there are countless chain reactions that will occur. Six Sigma is no different. The longer we go without a proper, official governing body, the more severe risks we will face in the years to come.