Applying Organizational Excellence at Lean Six Sigma Conference

Six Sigma Escape Room winners
Six Sigma Escape Room winners

Building off the success of the 2019 event, over 500 quality professionals came together in Phoenix at the Lean and Six Sigma Conference where they focused on applying lean and Six Sigma for organizational excellence.

Quality professionals are uniquely positioned to lead their organizations through today’s ever-changing landscape of disruption and transformation, and this year’s conference featured sessions, workshops, and speakers aimed to help attendees optimize excellence and growth though change management, data analytics, strategic alignment, and more.

I have been able to meet people from all over the globe and from a variety of industries all focused on the same thing–continuous improvement.

Lindsay Lapatinsky
Keynote Speakers

Monday morning kicked off with Dr. Gregory Watson’s keynote address on the art of leading change in the age of Quality 4.0. As an ASQ Fellow and past chair, Watson brought his breadth of knowledge on Six Sigma to the presentation where he walked the audience through the development and popularization of Six Sigma. Organizational excellence in Quality 4.0 cannot be created and sustained by statistics alone, Watson explained. It must also be nurtured and fostered through strategic decisions and executive team buy-in. Watson discussed Deming’s profound knowledge and the quality imperative to rethink the profession and its methods to adapt to the age of Quality 4.0. For those interested in continuing to learn about the role of quality in executive leadership, Watson is currently working with the Quality Management Division on a free 12-part webinar series on managing for quality. Register for this webinar at https://my.asq.org/communities/events/28.

Award-winning illusionist Stuart MacDonald provided a completely unique look at quality at his Monday evening keynote address. MacDonald began his presentation by performing his signature magic act, much to the crowd’s delight. His performance, which fooled famous magicians Penn and Teller, was improved by lean processes. He led the audience through his professional introduction to lean and process improvement and his strategies to implement a 30-day continuous improvement plan that allowed him to improve his act by 100%. The audience left with practical tools for applying continual improvement—and a few magic tricks up their sleeves.

conference presenter
Stuart MacDonald’s keynote session

Founder of The Kaplan Mobray Leadership Institute and award-winning author of The 10Ks of Personal Branding Kaplan Mobray welcomed attendees to the second day of the conference with his address on the role of passion and creativity in organizational excellence. After energizing the audience with his saxophone skills, Mobray got specific on how quality professionals can use personal performance improvement to achieve operational excellence. By using interactive and creative exercises, Mobray engaged the audience to explore new ways to solve problems and create problems to solve. “Improve the experience,” Mobray said, “and you elevate the result.”

Closing out the 2020 Lean and Six Sigma Conference was speaker and coach Gregory Offner. Offner focused his presentation on the benefits of proactive change management. Beginning his presentation by playing the piano, Offner guided attendees through his experience with damaging his vocal cords and nearly permanently losing his voice. Offner provided insight on how to disrupt effectively while maintaining daily business operations. He used his personal story of disruption and transformation, along with 16 years of sales and consulting experience, to discuss the value of micro-disruption and continuous self-improvement.

Between concurrent sessions, workshops, and Gemba walks, there were plenty of opportunities for attendees to learn about a variety of topics. A few of the standout sessions focused on artificial intelligence, escape rooms, and process observation.

One of the most buzzed about sessions was the Lean and Six Sigma Escape room. Hosted by ASQ Six Sigma Forum members Jessica Colon and Bob Kollm, this interactive session put participants’ lean and Six Sigma skills to the test through a series of clues and puzzles. Participants were split into teams and rooms where they used quality tools, strategies, and even a chi square to unlock the answers to the puzzle first.

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Grace Duffy led the concurrent session “The Importance of PLAN in PDC/SA or DMAIC”. Highlighting the importance of effective planning, Duffy explained how a Modular Kaizen approach uses concepts of lean and Agile to fit process improvement into manageable daily work activities. Attendees particularly enjoyed the former NASA Quality Manager’s example of the importance of pre-team initiation preparation.

This year’s Gemba Walks, hosted by Master Black Belt Chad Smith and Management Consultant Bob Kollm, focused on the Ohno-Inspired Way of Truly Understanding the Current State. In this interactive session participants learned about process observation and put their learning into action. Other conference participants may have noticed the gemba walk happening, as the group traveled around the resort and conference to observe hotel staff cleaning guest rooms and “flipping” hotel space.  

Attendees in hotel room
Gemba Walk participants observe a hotel room cleaning.
ASQ Divisions

This year’s conference would not have been successful without the support and sponsorship from the Lean Enterprise Division and the Six Sigma Forum.

The Lean Enterprise Division is a global network of professionals helping individuals and organizations apply proven and leading edge lean principles and practices to achieve personal and organizational success.

“Not only are the sessions and keynotes fantastic year after year, the Lean and Six Sigma conference is one of my favorite networking events. The conference is the one opportunity a year I have to network with LSS professionals face to face. I have had the pleasure of meeting mentors, coaches, teachers, colleagues, and friends at this conference that have helped me grow professionally and personally throughout the years.”

                -Lindsay Lapatinsky, ASQ Lean Enterprise Division Chair

The Six Sigma Forum increases the use and impact of Six Sigma globally by building relationships, learning collectively, and advancing knowledge.

Sponsors and Exhibitors

Nova Southeastern University

Park Avenue Solutions

ASQ Six Sigma Forum

ASQ Lean Enterprise Division


Creato Performance Solutions

EngineRoom/MoreSteam

MoreSteam/EngineRoom

TRACtion Service

Minitab LLC

Gemba Academy

University of Tennessee

QI Macros for Excel

OpusWorks

ASQ Pheonix Section

ASQ Reading List: Lean and Six Sigma

Data scientist, industrial engineer, and Six Sigma Master Black Belt Jeff Veyera tells us what are his best book recommendations to master lean and Six Sigma.

Meet Jeff Veyera at the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference! Veyera will be at the Quality Press bookstore, located in the Grande Ballroom, on Sunday February 23 and Monday, February 24.

Lean and Six Sigma are the two most successful quality improvement strategies, but implementing them effectively is not an easy task. Author of the upcoming book Culture is Everything: How to Become a True Culture Warrior and Lead Your Organization to Victory, Jeff Veyera has spent his career solving difficult business problems with lean and Six Sigma. Today, he’s sharing the quality and lean and Six Sigma books on his shelf that he can’t live without.

Continue reading “ASQ Reading List: Lean and Six Sigma”

September Roundtable: Agile vs. Lean

Lean and Six Sigma Conference

Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss lean and other topics like change management and risk management at the 2020 ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference. Register today to continue the conversation

Over the past few years, Agile has gained popularity. This methodology emerged as a solution to manage projects with a number of unknown elements and to counter the typical waterfall method. Quality practitioners have observed the numerous similarities between this new framework and Lean. Some have speculated that Agile is simply the next generation’s version of Lean. These observations have posed the question:

Is Agile the new Lean?

Members of ASQ Influential Voices shared their thoughts:

Sara Haynes:

I’ve worked with both Agile and Lean in my career. To me, asking if Agile is the new Lean is a little like asking if carpentry is the new plumbing. They are different trades, used for different purposes. Agile is a methodology of designing and developing products, and Lean is a methodology for streamlining operations. I worked at a company that transitioned from a traditional waterfall approach for design requirements, to an Agile method. What struck me most was the dramatic increase in the sense of urgency. It’s hard to get excited about a deadline that is 8 months away – 8 days feels much more real.

Lean is an approach to operations that focusses on flow. Identifying and eliminating barriers that stop flow, and implementing quick and easy solutions now vs. expensive and capital-intensive solutions. With software development, where Agile is most commonly applied, the hardest part is making the first release. Once you have the final release, it’s simply a matter of copying. Whereas with hardware development, the hardest part is not making the first prototype, it’s getting to mass production: being able to produce your design consistently, efficiently and cost-effectively. These are very different challenges that require different solutions. Agile, vs. Lean.

Read her blog.

John Hunter: 

No, Agile is not the new Lean.

There are many useful concepts, tools and practices within what people refer to as agile software development. And the same can be said for lean. But they are distinct approaches (the links in this post flush out this idea more for those interested in learning more on that topic). That isn’t to say an organization cannot design their own solution that adopts ideas found in each approach. In fact doing so for software development makes sense in my opinion.

If you decide to transform your management system using lean management practices as a focus I think you can do great things. I would delve deeply into lean and also learn about Deming and agile software development. And if you decide to create an agile styled management system then do that and learn from Deming and lean as you continually improve. In either case continually iterate and improve they management practices that are used.

Read the full article on his blog.

Nicole Radziwill:

The short answer to this question is: NO.

The longer answer is one I’m going to have to hold back some emotions to answer. Why? I have two reasons.

Reason #1: There is No Magic Bullet
First, many managers are on a quest for the silver bullet — a methodology or a tool that they can implement on Monday, and reap benefits no later than Friday. Neither lean nor agile can make this happen. But it’s not uncommon to see organizations try this approach. A workgroup will set up a Kanban board or start doing daily stand-up meetings, and then talk about how they’re “doing agile.” Now that agile is in place, these teams have no reason to go any further.

Reason #2: There is Nothing New Under the Sun
Neither approach is “new” and neither is going away. Lean principles have been around since Toyota pioneered its production system in the 1960s and 1970s. The methods prioritized value and flow, with attention to reducing all types of waste everywhere in the organization. Agile emerged in the 1990s for software development, as a response to waterfall methods that couldn’t respond effectively to changes in customer requirements.
Agile modeling uses some lean principles: for example, why spend hours documenting flow charts in Visio, when you can just write one on a whiteboard, take a photo, and paste it into your documentation? Agile doesn’t have to be perfectly lean, though. It’s acceptable to introduce elements that might seem like waste into processes, as long as you maintain your ability to quickly respond to new information and changes required by customers. (For example, maybe you need to touch base with your customers several times a week. This extra time and effort is OK in agile if it helps you achieve your customer-facing goals.)Both lean and agile are practices. They require discipline, time, and monitoring. Teams must continually hone their practice, and learn about each other as they learn together. There are no magic bullets.

Information plays a key role. Effective flow of information from strategy to action is important for lean because confusion (or incomplete communication) and forms of waste. Agile also emphasizes high-value information flows, but for slightly different purposes — that include promoting:
- Rapid understanding
- Rapid response
- Rapid, targeted, and effective action

Read the full article on her blog.

Luciana Paulise:

Companies nowadays are no longer focusing on standardizing and ensuring quality. Quality is no longer value-added, is required. Lean and six sigma implementations are falling short, not because of quality issues, but because employees are not engaged enough to change. Unhappy employees equal unhappy customers. Now what, is agile the new lean?

Lean and six sigma process improvement approaches started in the auto industry and manufacturing in the ‘50s, and were successfully applied to other industries. Nevertheless, the software industry that grew significantly during the ‘90s realized that these quality practices were not fast enough. They needed to iterate faster to innovate faster. Being the customer favorite became a survival need, and they couldn’t do it without the ideas of their employees. Millennials in their workplace started asking for different ways of working. That’s how a group of IT experts developed the Agile Thinking Manifesto in 2001. They applied lean principles and tools to reduce waste and combined them with other idea generation tools and team enablers to bring innovation to the workplace more easily.

While lean provides a set of methods like 5S, kanban, just in time, agile is a cultural mindset, a way of thinking about how an organization should work. As Stephen says in his book The Era of Agile “in any particular organization, the practices that emerge will be the result of an interaction between the agile mindset and the specific organizational context”, which may include lean practices. So it is not “either agile or lean”, you can be both. For example, when I implement 5S, I always include in the training an introduction to an agile “we culture” mindset, so that team members can understand the true purpose behind the implementation.

Read the full article on her blog:

How Lean Helped Me Travel To Egypt With Just $500

This is a guest post by Sunil Kaushik, an ASQ Influential Voices blogger who is planning a round-the-world bicycle tour with a mission to train schools and universities on quality, all while exploring high-quality street food across the globe.

Sunil is a certified ASQ-SSBB, PMP, and SPSM with more than a decade of experience in project and quality management with Fortune 100 companies. He provides training on quality management at schools, universities, and corporations using innovative methods such as origami and food tasting. Read about his travels on his blog, Train and Trot.

All photos provided by Sunil Kaushik.

My wife and I have backpacked close to 40 countries and we are still in the nascent stages of traveling cheap. It is a process that will just keep going—this November, we plan to embark on a round-the-world cycling trip. In this blog I will be sharing one of our travel episodes-backpacking to Egypt with just $500 in my pocket and how Lean principles helped me do so.

As you read this, think about how you’ve incorporated quality tools into your daily life. Remember, you might be doing so without even thinking of your actions as “quality”!

Being a quality professional, one of the things I’m good at is keeping track of data of all my past trips. On this trip, 40 percent of my spending went on transport, 30 percent on accommodation, and remaining part was left over for food, drink, and sightseeing. Even before I planned a trip to Egypt I designed a value stream map shown below. Every backpacker will more or less follow these processes irrespective of the style, luxury or budget.

The next and the last thing I had to do was to just identify and eliminate the seven types of waste at every opportunity.

5S: As a backpacker, too many things are stuffed into my bag, yet few are very critical, like my passport, visa documents, credit cards, etc. Every item has a planned, allotted space in my backpack. Every time I take one out I have to put it back in the same place so that I do not waste time searching or at times panicking when I do not find it.

5S is the key. Before my trip I make sure I set all the things I need in order with the help of a checklist and then sort them. For example, all important documents and passport are deep inside, my camera and iPod are in a separate carry bag. Standardization is another important element, as I carry items that can be used for multiple purposes.  For example, a scarf can be used as a head scarf, towel, or a bag to carry items.  A Swiss army knife also has many uses.  Creativity is the limit and helps in utilizing the space inside the backpack efficiently. I have been able to get the weight of my backpack down by at least a pound from my previous trip by applying the 5S principle and it weighed just 4 kilos on this trip.

Plan Destination – Wait For the Pull Signal: I stopped waiting for an airline to throw an offer to a particular destination I intended to visit. Instead I made a list of destinations and just kept looking for any offer to come up. One day, I saw a two-way ticket from Mumbai to Egypt for $280. I had no reason to think twice. In short, I started looking for a pull signal.

Develop Schedule – Wait Time Is the Key: I planned for a 14-day trip to cover the entire length of Egypt, see all the wonders of the world (six in total), and at the same time I made sure I did not push myself too hard and got to spend enough time at each place. The key is to reduce the wait time, be it in the train station, bus station, ticket counter, etc. I  booked overnight trains , took care of my accommodation, etc., in advance.

Getting In: Though the visa fee for Indian citizens is $25, the embassy was in a different province and I outsourced this part to a travel agent for additional $10. This way I saved lot of time, transportation cost, and stresses (Muri).

Getting Around: I planned in such a way that I stayed in localities which had easy access to public transportation, the market, and reduced unnecessary motion to go around. I downloaded a nice map to my smart phone and borrowed a bicycle from my host for shorter distances (less than 8 kilometers) and used subway, buses, and trains for longer distances.

Surprisingly, many are unaware that all it takes to get from downtown Cairo to the pyramids of Giza is a 20-minute ride on the subway followed by a short ride in a shared minivan, and it costs hardly $5 to get there. It just costs a dollar from the airport to downtown by bus and I get to see the real country this way and that is what backpacking and the lean principle Gemba (the real place) talk about.

Eat/Drink: This is where visual management comes into play. I avoided restaurants with multilingual menus in tourist areas. I preferred those that have a sign board and menu in the local language, are filled with locals, and which serve better local food for less money. If I have a problem in communicating I go with today’s menu or chef’s recommendations. Family-run restaurants have hardly let me down as they care more about their reputation and customer.

Sleep: My first preference is Couchsurfing, which is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. I feel the cultural authenticity when I stay with the locals more than in a hotel. It is fun and it is safe, too. But it is a bit tricky; not every request on Couchsurfing will get a very welcoming response and one important factor is the way we write a request to our host. I made sure all my requests were SMART ( i.e. I tell about myself, where am I coming from, when I will arrive, how long I intend to stay, and why I chose to stay with that particular host–could be that we share common interests).  Out of 14 days I couch-surfed for nine, which was a direct saving of at least $450 (extra processing) and I have new friends in Egypt now.

The second option was Airbnb–very similar to couch surfing though we need to pay our host, but it’s still cheaper than hotels.

See And Do: As an International Youth Travel Card holder, I got a flat 50 percent discount to enter Giza Pyramids, Egyptian Museum at Cairo, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, and Luxor Temple. The negotiation skills came into play at the Nile River cruise in a felucca. I started at 30 percent of the initially quoted price and we were able to settle at 50 percent of the price. Hence I avoided a huge, unnecessary fee (over-processing).

This is just my experience and there is no limit to come up with creative ideas to travel economically without compromising on quality.

Note: Many countries have warned against traveling in Egypt due to terrorist threats. I advise you to research the political situation and conflict zones before planning the trip. Of course, the techniques described in this post can apply to planning a trip in any country. You can read more about my travel on my blog, Train and Trot.