As I was looking at some forums over the weekend, I ran across a poor fellow that was trying to improve his organization. He had been duped into thinking that he was a Lean Six Sigma Green belt trying to do things only a Master Black Belt could do. It was demoralizing that his willingness to improve was being blocked by an artificial barrier.
I have long taking the stance that I am a “reformed” Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. This is no slight to Dr. Frony Ward who I worked with to achieve the designation, as she saw little value in the multitude of statistical components needed to be a Master Black Belt (but proceeded to teach them and tell us why they were of little value). In the manufacturing world, Dr. Ward is one of the best.
Most of the reformation came from working in service industry and discovering through application that lean manufacturing tools and belt designations have so little to do with improvement. In fact, after reading Freedom from Command and Control did the pieces start to fit. You see manufacturing is different from service (in many ways) and all the efforts to improve were making things worse or new management decisions were reversing the improvements.
Here in the US it has become almost comical how in order to achieve uniformity of service and reduce costs we have increased them. Over-standardized and entrapped with technology costs have risen. In an effort to stem the rise in costs companies do things like outsource or share services which compound the problem.
The green, black and master black belt clan have created an elitist group to implement improvement through projects. Over and over again do I hear stories of organizations (that subscribe to the belt mentality) that show savings after each project. However, they never show up in the financial reports.
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. – Peter Drucker
With lean manufacturing tools like 5S, standardization does not allow for the absorption of variety of demand that customers bring. This variety is much greater in service than manufacturing. With tools, there is a missed opportunity to study this variety and design better systems through understanding customer demand.
The important part of the non-belt and tool crowd to know is that by studying the “what and why” of current performance and deriving customer purpose and measures you can learn to improve the systems you work in. The only class you need is to get knowledge of your system and its interaction with customers.
Armed with knowledge of customer purpose and measures you can begin to experiment with method and innovate. New methods will be found and the discovery of new ways for your problems in service will advance the thinking.
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