Part 2 of 2: Improve and Control

DMAIC and Throughput Efficiency

In Part 1, we shared common shortfalls in achieving Throughput Efficiency by  Green and Black Belt project teams in the Define, Measure and Analyze steps of the DMAIC methodology. Here, we conclude our discussion with the Improve and Control steps.

Improve: Selecting effective and feasible countermeasures is key; however, teams frequently do not ensure the scope of the countermeasures is sufficient to address the scope of the root causes. Also, risks to the successful implementation of countermeasures are not always assessed. Once countermeasures are defined and planned, a representative pilot should be conducted to determine the likelihood of overall project success and, this is key, to estimate the expected Return on Investment (ROI) of the countermeasures. As with the COPQ in the Define step, calculating the expected ROI prior to full countermeasures implementation should be thoughtfully performed to quantify potential Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green and Black Belt project throughput efficiency. Finally, project management tools such as Work Breakdown Structure, Action Planning, and documenting Lessons Learned from the pilot are key to successful countermeasures implementation. When LSS projects fail to yield expected benefits, it’s more likely due to the poor utilization of project management concepts and practices than to the analysis performed in Define, Measure and Analyze.

Control: Properly displaying results with a series of “before and after” charts from the Define, Measure, and Analyze steps and calculating actual ROI excites everybody; however, little attention is often paid as to how the gains achieved will be sustained. Second to root cause verification in the Analyze step, standardizing the changes is the greatest weakness for many teams. Once the fire is out, nobody wants to do the paperwork, but if changes are not standardized, somebody will be solving this problem again in the future. Finally, teams often don’t take the time to document lessons learned from the project, or to share them with the organization. This can help future project teams and is key to organizational learning.

The goal of every team should be to maximize throughput efficiency of its DMAIC application by converting as much of the Cost of Poor Quality as quantified in the Define step into measurable benefits, as determined by the ROI calculation in the Control step. By following the checkpoints imbedded in each DMAIC step, achieving their respective deliverables, and managing conversion throughout the DMAIC methodology, teams can increase the probability of success, and their value to their organization.

Bob Seemer has been a Master Black Belt since 1991 and typically trains and facilitates more than 300 Green Belt candidates on 70 projects per year in all sectors.