BACK TO BASICS

Eight Simple Steps

Improve your data collection process with a concise plan

by Mohit Sharma

This article was featured in January 2016’s Best Of Back to Basics edition.

Collecting data is a critical and important step in putting a project together. In experience reviewing projects, I have seen Black Belts often make mistakes in collecting data. This affects the overall result.

A Six Sigma practitioner must first create a comprehensive plan to facilitate data collection. Simply stated, the beads must be with you before you sit down to string a necklace. Here is my eight-step process for data collection. We will call our example project "Project Y." (Steps one through five are shown in Table 1).

Step one: Identify whether Project Y is continuous or discrete.

Step two: Write down the operational definition of Project Y. This is important because everyone involved on the team should understand Project Y in the same way. For example, a project on reducing the cycle time of a transaction can have different interpretations by different users if the operational definition of "cycle time" is not clearly articulated. Importantly, if required, the operational definition must have a mathematical formula to ensure uniformity.

Step three: Identify unit, defect, opportunities and specification limits for Project Y before you proceed on the data collection plan.

Step four: Identify potential X’s set for Project Y. Again, it is important to collect data on X’s set along with Y in one attempt.

Step five: Write down the operational definitions for X’s set as well.

Step six: Identify a statistically validated sample through Minitab or any other similar tool. Remember, a selected sample must represent the characteristics of the population. Using different sampling techniques to identify a sample is acceptable. (See Table 2 for steps six and seven).

Step seven: Create the data collection plan: 4W1H is a simple lean Six Sigma (LSS) tool that can be used to create the data collection plan. The 4W’s are: What?, When?, Where? and Who? The H is How? or, the method used.

Step eight: After the data collection plan is ready, create a data collection template in which the data will be captured (Online Table 1).

To ensure uniformity in data capture:

1. Capture the unique wire transfer number in column one (Online Table 1).
2. Capture the account number and relevant details of the same wire adjacent to "Wire No." in the same column (Online Table 2).
3. Repeat the same process for the rest of the wires picked in random sample (Online Table 3).

This is a simple eight-step process, but following it provides remarkable results in the analyze phase of any define, measure, analyze, improve and control project; it’s a tried and tested, practical solution that avoids rework in data collection. Aside from preventing added work, it also provides authentic results. It is a solution that is all about putting the horse before the cart.

Bibliography

Waddick, Patrick, “Building a Sound Data Collection Plan,” iSixSigma, http://tinyurl.com/data-collect-pla.

Mohit Sharma is assistant vice president for Genpact in Gurgaon, India. Mohit earned his master’s degree in marketing from Symbosis University in Pune, India. He is an ASQ member and a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

I will be sharing this article with LSS GB prospects pursuing their certification.
--Ismael Cruz, 03-19-2015

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