I have been stimulated by an article by Craig Tickel of GoLean6Sigma that argues that there are only 5 ways to improve a process:
- Reduce Non-Value-Added Steps
- Improve the Measurement System
- Reduce Common Cause Variation
- Reduce Special Cause Variation
- Move the Mean to Improve Process Capability
I love people who simplify and Craig has some great exhibits in his article, so what follows is not meant to be a criticism of Craig, it is rather pointing out that a strategic/operating model approach to process design is different from, and probably should come before, a Lean6Sigma approach.
As I thought about Craig’s list, I came up with the following list of additional ways of improving a process that stem from taking an operating model view of the problem, as opposed to a waste and variation view.
- Digitize or automate steps in the process to reduce cost or improve value delivered
- Combine steps in the process with similar steps in other processes to get economies of scale
- Link steps in the process with similar steps in other processes to get good practice sharing or standardization
- Separate the process into two or more processes or sub-processes to enable better delivery of different value propositions
- Outsource steps in the process to suppliers with better skills or lower costs
- Change the suppliers or the contract with suppliers to get better supplier performance
- Change locations for some steps in the process to attract more skilled staff or to access lower cost labour or capital or other inputs to the process
- Change the people model or the people working on the process to get better people performance
- Change the decision authorities related to the process or to steps in the process to get better decisions made (e.g. centralize or decentralize or ..)
- Change the overhead activities supporting the process such as finance or HR or IT or … to reduce overhead costs or improve value delivered
- Innovate steps in the process to develop lower cost solutions or greater value or less variation (this last point is starting to overlap with Lean6Sigma work)
For those of you familiar with the Operating Model Canvas, I have been mentally working through POLIS (processes, organisation, location, information and suppliers). I could go on (adding M for POLISM), but hopefully the point I am making is clear. Lean6Sigma is for improving a process that has already been designed to fit with the strategy and operating model. But often, what is really needed is a process redesign to get better alignment with strategy and operating model. While Lean6Sigma goes some way to achieving this, an operating model approach followed by Lean6Sigma is more likely to get the job done right.