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R Rajesh

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About R Rajesh

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    Rajesh Rajagopalan
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  1. A wiki defition of Simpson's paradox, also known as yule-effect states that, it is a phenomenon in statistics, in which a trend appears in several different groups of data but disappears or reverses when these groups are combined. How this happens? We always try to see relationship between the dependent (Y) and independent (X) variables. But there could be also a factor- called the confounding variable which can influence both your X and Y which we might not have considered while taking decisions. This plays a hand on the reversal of the trend!! Let us see some examples Example:1 Imagine a hypothetical case. Elections Ruling Party % won Opposition Party % won Candidate for Local Councillor Election 50% 45% Candidate for City Mayor Election 50% 40% Candidate for State Assembly Elections 40% 60% In a state(or province), two elections happens in some of the major cities - first councillor elections happen for the place/area, you live within a city, followed by mayor election for your city (due to unforeseen circumstances). Now sometime later, state assembly election comes. Even as in the first two elections, the members of the ruling party wins, the crucial assembly elections the ruling party loses!! While there is a correlation between a party and the candidate who represents the party , for each of the election, there could be other confounding factors such as people's perception of the party, in matters close to their heart or liking or any other lurking factors whose effects would have been failed to be studied or noticed. I also noticed some sites like https://www.britannica.com/topic/Simpsons-paradox, and also wikipedia for this topic , for further understanding and good examples. Conclusion: It is very important to identify confounding factors which can impact the causal relationships. Failure to do so, can create the Simpson's paradox. This could even confuse the decision makers to take a firm decision. The positive side of this is that it will highlight that there is something more to be explored to!!
  2. There are many reasons as why Green Belt Professionals do not use Hypothesis Testing despite they getting trained on it: 1. Time constraint due to Management needs: One of the foremost reason (in my opinion) is time. Companies (especially Corporates!!) do have their own agenda - in completing a number of Six Sigma Green Belt(GB) projects (or even Black Belt projects) within a stipulated time period(normally half-a year or a year)- For instance, in the case of an IT company, it can happen at every vertical (Say Banking, Finance, Health,Manufacturing...) - this depends on a company's needs!! This goal can probably be set by top leadership and/or a combination of market needs(from Company's strategic thinking or goal alignment perspective) and Key stakeholders/top mgmt. So every Continuous Improvement(CI) activity/project might have a curtailed time period and therefore this hypothesis testing might be overlooked. 2. Time constraint (induced due to size and complexity of the Data Collected): Time is a precious commodity. Normally, any CI project like PDCA, Six Sigma could take atleast 3-4 months of time and only with the help of a dedicated Sponsor or a process leadership team or a motivated set of individuals , a CI project such as a six sigma project(be it GB or BB) can be achieved.Now Assume (For simplicity sake, taken a crude and yet powerful(?!) example)that we are collecting data for efficiency(in terms of timely availability at the destination and prompt start from the bus depot-both measurable things) of bus transportation within a state or province. I need to have atleast 3-4 months of data to see a pattern of how bad (that's why you go for an improvement project. Is it not?) it is. Assuming now you have collected the data (do you ever thought data collection is an easy job always ? :-) ) Now as we move on to hypothesis testing, the complexity and size of the data collected becomes a big challenge. Multiple factors can come into play especially if the scope is for multiple bus transportation units(Different vendors operating different category of buses across multiple locations) in that said state or province. So the GB team may not have sufficient time to properly analyse and utilise the data collected given the time bound nature of Six Sigma phases. Therefore Hypothesis testing might not be preferred. 3. 'Cost' Factor: Any continuous improvement activity requires few things: Motivated Individual, Idea(to improve), Time and Cost. Often you get the first two (in that order), but the next two(Time and Cost) are vital things which determine if the idea can be implemented over a stipulated period of time. 'Time' and 'Cost' should go hand-in-hand to have an improvement activity. Having time alone and not having 'cost' is a problem. Hypothesis testing can turn-out to be a costly affair especially when analysis is made on complex and huge data and if there is not a proper guidance from a Black Belt or Master Black Belt (say, in case of a GB/BB project respectively), or if there is no subject matter expert(functional domain) associated for helping the GB team on providing the finer points on the analysis of the data collected.Therefore the GB team may consider in relinquishing this(hypothesis testing) exercise. I feel the aforementioned factors, are key reasons for Hypothesis testing not being used effectively. A special case scenario is also there. Fear Factor (Due to lack of Hands-On Experience): However well a person is trained on Hypothesis testing(for that matter any activity!!), unless the person gets a personal(hands-on) experience , he or she will not feel how and what it is to do a hypothesis testing. The fear factor(for some people it is difficult to overcome the inhibition) can cause a team to deny the use of hypothesis testing. Though this can be a rarity case(but i have seen people with such inhibitions because hypothesis is a demanding technique and which requires deeper understanding and usage and training knowledge is not suffice and practical knowledge also slightly steep and only by experience you get accustomed to that). Conclusion: Hypothesis testing is a very key activity in a continuous improvement exercise. Reason is that , you can statistically prove your point(read notion) or argument(Statement). It can statistically tell how significant or insignificant the factors that you took for your hypothesis is justifying the outcome.In other words, With hypothesis testing, we can actually see how much the statistical significance is being converted .into practical significance and how much it benefits the business. Therefore it brings so much value to the table. Its therefore, wiser to use hypothesis testing more so especially if the professionals are more trained in it.
  3. Root Cause Analysis(RCA) techniques have been there for many years. It is one of the most powerful techniques. Let us see some examples which uses Fishbone diagram,5-Whys ,some popular RCA techniques to take a deep dive answer to the question put forth. Before going into that , we will look into what a 'cause' is about and what a 'Root Cause' is. Definitions: Cause: It is the reason because of which something(event) is impacted or happened or someone is impacted by some means (positive or negative). Or in other words, it is the reason because of which there is a positive or negative effect on something/someone or something(event) has happened . When used in conjunction with root cause analysis , cause normally will portray an adverse situation/effect or used in negative connotation. People normally don't find the causes for things that go well (because assumption is that you know how to make it happen - that is a different subject/topic on its own. Lets not go there for the time being!!) . Root Cause: It is the primary reason(source) because of which an event would have happened that can be backed by some evidence or per the conclusion made by the person (probably under circumstantial evidence or based on gut feeling or using some custom based or analytical techniques such as 5-Whys, Paretto Chart...or using hypothesis testing.) who would have done the investigation (or done the root cause analysis). A cause can be deemed as root cause, if we are not able to drill down further or break into that (finding the reason for that situation to happen). This is where analytical techniques like 5-whys come into picture. Root cause(s) can also be found out using hypothesis testing (in Six Sigma or other statistical based methodologies). Now when can a cause or a 'set of causes' be deemed as a Root Cause or Root causes? When we know that for a problem(effect), if there is cause beyond which we cannot drill down for a source (primary reason due to which the effect or event has happened) or when straight-away know that there is only one cause for a problem, then it can be deemed as the root cause . If there are such multiple causes, then they can be deemed as root causes. We can also make an assumption (hypothesis testing) and with the help of statistical techniques can find the probable root cause(s). Picking a Single Cause (from a set of causes) to be deemed as a 'Root Cause' Eg:1Fishbone Diagram: Delayed Delivery of 'Pasta's for a family There was a 'delivery' agent company (who delivered Eateries to households in the nearby vicinity). One family in that area, ordered 5 'pasta's to this company and the sales representative said that it will serve(deliver) the order in 30 min. However after 45 minutes, still no signs of 'Pasta's was getting to that family. The Person who gave the order enquired on this with the customer care cell of the company. Even as the person in the customer care conveyed that her staff left and was on the way to the destination and should reach out to the person's home(destination) any time, she started thinking as why there was a delay in delivering. The customer was also thinking why it was taking too late. Now Customer care person was doing a digging as what really happened(because already the 'delivery' person left) and now she wanted to know where and how it became late. Putting a fishbone diagram she saw the potential causes for delay and tried to rule out each one if she could. She found out that everything was okay except for the 'Traffic Delay' which was not neither in her or in her company's hands. She realised that there was a planned protest , done by some protesters for a good cause, on that area where the customer was placed at. So she could correlate that with the 'Traffic Delay'. This was vindicated by another 'delivery' person who went to the same area to a different house for delivering an order. He also went bit late to that area and delivered it late and the customer called her and gave vent to his feelings. This 'Traffic Delay' cause, became the single Root cause as other potential causes were compliant and functioning as per they are supposed to or destined to and there was either enough or no evidence to support that they were malfunctioning or not in sync with what they are supposed to. Picking multiple causes (from a set of causes) to be deemed as 'Root Causes': Eg1:Fishbone Diagram: A national cricket team loses the final in a prestigious cricket tournament . The cricket board/management of that country analysed using Fishbone diagram, as why the team failed in the Final. Unfortunately when the board listed out that the potential causes (as depicted below) , it found that all causes had a part to play on different times of the match, right from 2 days before the match(practice) to during the match when batting during evening time the light was poor and sighting the ball was a problem in some of the areas of the stadium. and some team members playing poorly. As a result, the team lost . Now all of these causes were deemed as 'Root Causes' as in this case, the evidence was there for all these. Eg2:Fishbone Diagram: A national Football team loses to a minnows team in a league match in a prestigious Soccer(Football) tournament . The management team did a root cause analysis using Fishbone diagram and found that there were multiple reasons(causes) to loose the match, which are listed below. There was enough data (statistics) and visual display of the game (recorded) to see the set of causes which were deemed as 'Root Causes'. Eg:3 Fishbone Diagram: Production Defects in an IT project A software team delivers an application for an Insurance customer. After 2 days into Production, quite a handful of defects occurred and the customer was irate. The team did a root cause analysis using Fishbone diagram. They listed all the possible causes and found that except for the 'data centre' issue which was a one off case(for defects that happened on that single day when the fire ravaged that data centre) , rest of the causes were providing the source for these production defects. Hence they were deemed as 'root causes'. Why is the importance given for the causes and root causes? Because these causes/root causes are the sources of variation. You want to minimize your variation in your process . Is it not ? If you take a look at a DMAIC Six Sigma project for example, during the analyze phase, you would look at the potential factors that is creating the variation for your problem. Take the equation, y=f(x). You would like to know what are the 'X's , that would address the 'Y' . Not many times you may be able to provide the causes/root causes, with conventional analytical techniques, which could be due to size of data, data gathering is complex,due to cost of data gathering,....(typical scenario in a six sigma project) . So you make an assumption(hypothesis statement) and then find out the influential factors(cause or causes depending upon the assumption) . Accordingly, the factor(s) is/are deemed as root causes for the given problem on hand. So those factors(X) are addressed to improve Y. Conclusion: For every problem or effect that is happening or happened, there would be a reason/cause or reason(causes) because of which the problem would have occurred in the first place. Making use of proven and relevant techniques can help in nailing down the problem, at hand. Root Cause Analysis(RCA) of a problem helps in addressing the problem by specifically focussing/working on the root cause(s) identified and ensure that time is spent only on the actual issue and make sure that part is addressed. Ultimate Objective for anyone/team for doing the RCA is to fix the root cause(s) for a problem and ensure that there is minimal variation in the process(if the problem is part of a process) or ensure that a particular event or thing does not happen (if the problem is a standalone feature or entity) .
  4. Let us start with the need for Six Sigma. Six Sigma primarily focused on variation reduction.There were several methodologies such as DMAIC, DMADV, DMADOV, etc.,. Each had a slightly different flavour from one another in some phases of the six sigma project. Later the lean part also became prominent and together it became Lean Six Sigma and the focus was now modified to waste elimination and variation reduction. This was a super combo and had great telling effect for an organisation which was doing lean six sigma projects. Let me go highlight (to the best of my knowledge) the importance, relevance and business value that a Lean Six Sigma approach can bring to an organisation that makes use of it, in modern-day context. A Lean Six Sigma approach, 1. Can provide a roadmap as when(time-bound) to arrive at the outcome (organisational goal) for business strategy(ies)/objective(s) 2. Helps in providing a Systematic way of driving or realizing business objectives into tangible goals, and will have a dedicated team to achieve those goals 3. Helps in Agile SAFe. As Organisations across the world is moving towards Agile, many large organisations are moving into Enterprise Agile where hundreds and thousands of teams work on multiple products and those organisations employ a popular framework called SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework for enterprise) which uses Lean product development (applying lean principles). This helps in providing often a defect-free product as we focus on eliminating defects(wastes) and therefore productivity increases and we are able to seamlessly deliver our goods(can be any product or software application) on time. Sometimes this helps in ensuring deliverables are released on the fly(on demand) using DevOps and/or Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment processes , especially in IT sector. So this is an example of the Lean Six Sigma philosophy that is mentioned in the question. 4. Can help in RPA and Analytics. Before working on the automation , value stream mapping can be done and after improving the existing process, automation can be done. 5. Can provide a sort of knowledge on statistics and regression are needed for you to have an effective understanding of the algorithms, for Deep Learning. To the Six Sigma Ignorant people or Detractors: Six sigma does not come for free - it requires bit of time and money and energy (effort spent by few human resources). The question is whether it is good enough to sustain or do that in an organisation. Invariably the answer across organisations is a firm yes -because more often than not,the benefits outweigh these aforementioned factors. Why ? Thumb rule : Six Sigma is time intensive process. So it is carefully designed such that you take it only on certain parameters. Does your problem happening for quite some time and has given your customer a considerable amount of pain - monetarily or reputation-wise; is the problem happening for quite a while now; is there no immediate solution for this and that you don't know the solution as yet and also do not know the root cause for the problem; is the customer willing to wait for you to do a Six sigma - which will provide a systematic and scientific data gathering and analysis and then come up with a solution based on that? If you have the relevant answers for these questions only, then Six Sigma comes into picture. Also it can ask you whether your problem is aligned to your business goal additionally. What all these questions means that unless we have these answers applied, Six Sigma cannot be started or not ideal. That's why Six Sigma when done properly can yield expected results. Conclusion: In today's fast paced Agile world, every organisation wants to expand their business in an exponential way. We are in a digital era where we talk about Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Analytics (especially Big data). Every organisation wants to make use all of these to enhance its business. However be, an organisation is superior in any one of these aspects, if the processes within the organisation is not streamlined, still the organisation cannot achieve maximum capability. This is where lean six sigma in 3 different facets - as methodology , as philosophy, as Management systems come to play, as we saw above with some pointers. Imagine IT companies, saying 'First Time Right' , 'Zero Defect' in 'Integration Testing' Phase, 'System Testing' phase. How many times we would have heard this. This is applicable across other industries as well. Lean Six Sigma is not about executing six sigma projects. It teaches about the best practices for providing right tools and techniques for Problem Solving, Process Diagrams, Data Analysis, Quality Control, SPC,.... With the help of these tools and techniques, we can take the right ones for the right area. For instance, Value Stream Mapping and COPIS diagram can help in doing waste elimination. Some of the most productive tools can help in day-to-day life of an organisation bringing robust design. Imagine you do Root Cause Analysis (RCA) using Fishbone Diagram and did a paretto chart finding top 5 causes for the instability of a release of the most important product(of my customer). You did a brainstorming and with a Pugh Matrix, you choose one best option from several ones. Now you addressed the 5 causes immediately and within next Agile iteration(2 weeks) you fixed those issues and released the product. Everything is resolved. Customer is extremely happy and within a week he gives your organisation a new business similar to this existing one. Has this happened to you or not ? Or Will not this happen ? It will . With the advent of Lean Six Sigma, thinking pattern of people(approach to a problem) also gets changed to the better (personal experience and also i have seen many). Tendency is to view things laterally (outside-in perspective) and that helps in addressing the problems effectively. Therefore i personally, very strongly believe that Lean Six Sigma provides a significant contribution to an organisation, in terms of business value.
  5. Let me start with my assumption of what it takes to qualify as a Project in Project Management realm , a Project and a Process in Business Improvement or Six Sigma world. Project in Project Management Realm: In a one-liner , we can say a project will have an objective with a definite start date and a definite end date. Eg:1 Converting a meter-gauge rail(track) to a broad-gauge rail can be a project, for Railway engineers. Eg:2 Creating a software product can be a project, for an IT team. Eg:3 Constructing a shopping mall could be a project, for a builder Project in Business Improvement of Six Sigma context: A project will have a goal with a definite start and end dates. That will be accompanied by a strong business case explaining an explicit reason as why this project is needed in the first place and it will highlight the end dates for the various phases that a project might have. Process: In generic terms , we can say that it is a set of instructions/sequence of steps to achieve a particular activity/complete an event. Essentially , every process would have certain parameters which act upon as inputs and then there could be a set of actions or a sequence flow which would be necessary so that there is a tangible outcome which serves our need. That outcome becomes the output which will/can be consumed by other actors(could be another process /events/users/activities..) Eg:1 Setting up Continuous Integration(CI) is a key process as part of Continuous Delivery and Deployment(for delivering your IT delivery rapidly). CI includes multiple steps : 1. Check-out the latest code from the Code Repository (say GIT) and put that into local workspace(Developer's workstation). 2. Do your code changes on the local machine and unit test it thoroughly 3. Post a peer review (and after fixing comments, if any - unit test it again) 4. If everything ok, get the latest code from Code Repository, 5. If no difference found in the version of the code, then push the code to the code repository with proper comments 5. Automatically Build should be triggered (When a change is pushed). 6. If build succeeds, then ensure that your change is successfully working in the Integration box. Now as we see multiple steps are there. The sequence is important to get a successful testing of your functionality which is the outcome from this process. Eg:2 Code Review is a process - Steps involved: 1. Review the code. 2. Check if the code adheres to coding standards and guidelines. 3. Whererever the stds/guideline not followed, provide proper feedback comments. 4. Ensure the developer fixes the comments.5.Ensure functional misses are not there. 6.Ensure same mistakes are not repeated. 7. Ensure all comments are fixed. Now let us first compare and contrast a project in Project Management(PM) realm and a project in Business Improvement(BI)/Six Sigma world. We have compared and contrasted project in PM realm and in BI/Six Sigma realm. Let us now contrast a project and a Process in BI/Six Sigma context. Let me explain these difference with an example. Imagine an improvement project. An IT team's delivery quality is poor. They are getting multiple escalations and they are unable to meet their SLA of <5% defects in a critical application. This is happening for the past 6 months. Now team is doing an improvement project. It is trying to zero in the problem. It needs to fix the issue in 4 months time. Goal is to have <5% defects by 17th June 2019. Now it starts to check its flow from where it has to correct itself. It reviews the AS-IS process. It finds (after doing Value Add activity process) that it needs to improve upon Design Patterns(for Coding), Code Review, Automatate Unit and Functional Testing. These are processes which have their own steps which need to be done so that quality of the deliverable meets the defined SLA as per the goal statement. Now without the processes, the project goal cannot be achieved. At the same time, the processes can be independently achieved but if not tagged to a project, the chance of systematically finding the deficiencies in a process or a need for a new process(if old process is too bad to be modified) would be missed out. Conclusion: From the differences that we saw now, it is clear that process and project in a business improvement/six sigma world or different entities. Having said that there is always a bit of these two words conveniently interchanged especially in Business Process Outsourcing(BPO) industries. Many teams use process to represent what could be possibly called as a project. For instance, those teams might call HR Payroll system as a process, whereas an IT team might call that as a project. One reason it could be because of the fact that BPO bretherens could construe each of the steps in the system happening in a sequential flow. But in general, by and large as the definition says and based on the differences that i articulated above, my conclusion is process and project are two different entities.
  6. Imagine you are going in a cab. One of the back wheel trye gets punctured. It is already getting late for you as you are having a business appointment with some one, shortly. The cab driver understands the situation. Rather than taking up the jockey and changing the wheel which may take some time (every minute is precious for you to be time-bound) , the driver goes to the nearby fuel station and fills air , which is good enough to travel to the destination, thereby taking you to the destination on time. Now what he has done is provide a temporary relief to his problem. This is what Stop gap is . Stop Gap provides a temporary measures/relief to handle a situation which is providing a concern to someone or something. It will act as an interim solution to a problem, when we are trying to find a permanent solution. Why/When we need Stop Gap ? Sometimes we may not know/get the apt solution for a problem. But we may have a temporary solution to it , the solution being applicable to certain conditions or upto certain period. Or there could be cases where solution to a problem might be known but it could be costly at a given time, for which the cost approval would not have been given by the mgmt (or by Key stakeholders).So, a temporary measure/solution could be used for some time till mgmt agrees to the original solution. Quick Win: A quick win helps in having a short term gain. It helps in motivating the team when the team is pursuing for a much bigger and a longer goal/objective. Quick wins also provide confidence to the relevant stakeholders. Eg: Imagine you have a six sigma project in one portfolio. Assume that the problem is fixed during analyse phase but your senior mgmt does not want to wait to see how this is behaving for atleast few months. So it decides to make use of the outcome found in this project, in a project of another portfolio (which has a similar issue), just to get the confidence from the customer and say that this issue has been resolved. Conclusion: Stop Gap provides an interim relief to a problem. But there has to be a permanent solution. Quick Win is about having a short term gain which can motivate the team which does the work and can provide the confidence to relevant stakeholders. A quick win can be an intermittent step to the ultimate objective needed. It can act as a pointer to what is going to be achieved in the longer run.
  7. Creativity is a key aspect for any project(be a service/product) development . Often creativity is comprised due to - lack of time , lack of mgmt support (in some companies this do happen), citing that as stalling progress/productivity , lack of transparency to the customer. Having said this, how important creativity is, in a corporate world.I feel, the answer is an absolute must. Often because of the changing requirements in an Agile world and an increasing demand , an Organisation management expects the productivity of its individual to go up a notch. If we were to talk about creativity, we need to justify what that creativity would bring the customer/critical stakeholder(s) . If ROI is not good enough to impress the customer/orgn mgmt(primary stakeholders), then that creativity aspect would be stalled/prevented from being taken up further. If ROI is good enough to impress the key stakeholders, then no one might question about your productivity. Therefore your Business justification on the creativity could often hold the key in getting across your creativity. Let us see some examples across industries. Eg:1 In an IT organisation, a project team develops an insurance web application for an insurance client. Per current design,in the 'Insurance Quote' web page of the application, when all fields are filled, then the user needs to submit a button which will take the control to the next page, along with the data stored in that page. Also all the fields in the page had to be moved by use of Mouse-Cursor. Now the tech lead of the project comes up with a creative solution. All the fields in the page could be used using key board and also as soon as relevant text field was entered with the respective no.of characters/digits, the cursor automatically entered into the next field. The last field in the page is a drop-down box field. Upon changing that and ensuring all other existing mandatory fields are filled as per the needs, the control gets redirected to the next page. By this way, the user of the system need not click on the 'Submit' button and therefore the system is easy to use. Here in this case, the productivity did not suffer that much and the ROI was more as the customer did not need to manually take the mouse anywhere and the ease of use was very high which produced customer satisfaction. Eg:2 A reputed Mechanic dealer had lot of cars having issues and lot of them were in his garage and the dealer's mechanics were looking into them.Some cars were supposed to be delivered on a given day and those cars had their danger lights,to be set right. Now while doing that, the dealer had a creative idea. He ensured that his team had put reflector stickers(stickers that you can get in many good shops) in all of these vehicles. By doing this, there was not a big productivity loss but certainly a creative solution which helped identification of those vehicles at night times, just in case whenever the danger lights went off for whatever reasons. Adding the reflector stickers on the back of the vehicles did not take much time for the mechanics and it also saved the vehicles from getting hit by other vehicles in National Highways,whenever their danger lights went off. Conclusion Creativity is essential. It can be to enhance your existing product/process . Or It can lead to a new way of doing things. Many big organisations encourage its employees to provide creative ideas and solutions and provide rewards and recognitions for best ideas/solutions. If creativity is not there, then at one point of time, an organisation may stop to grow and may struggle to survive. EVery Organisation who want to be a pioneer in its chosen sector would definitely have Creativity as a critical aspect of its visionary objective.
  8. Bells and Whistles are non value adding activites. In PMP parlour, it may be probably akin to Gold Plating - Just a rough analogy though, i would say . W.r.t whether this to be as part of solution of a Lean Six Sigma project, i feel it could be a key topic. For instance, in an IT six sigma project, a team is working on improved responsiveness of its web based system(it has been a problem for customer for quite some time - IT team initiated a Six Sigma project). While doing that, the team did few things which are non-value added ones but they are desirable in the given context. 1. The Main search page has to respond <= 3 seconds on an average. Depending on some search criteria , however it can take a max of 10-15 seconds, though this is a rare scenario. The team introduced a "Please wait" message circling on that page whenever it was beyond 5 seconds[Note:Before Improvement, the original timing was 10-15 seconds for normal condition and 30-45 secs for special conditions]. The team also sent an alert mail whenever a search had exceeded beyond 5 seconds and once that search was completed. This was a non-value added activity as the customer knows the improvement target and also he/she would see the browser after the stipulated time(in sec). So this was actually not adding value to the problem on hand. But what it made was providing information on how much instances(occasions) this delay happened in a given month. This gave a trend of on which kind of criteria search, this delay happened. The team had this info and addressed 80% of the issues and minimised the delay period in subsequent months. This non-value added activity thus helped the team indirectly in addressing the shortfall of the current system , to an extent. 2. Because this project was all about system improvement, style of coding was thoroughly looked and while coding pitfalls(memory leaks, unreachable codes) were shortlisted and attacked, the team also revisited its coding standards and worked on that(beautifying that) which were not a value add for its current problem. Nevertheless the team and its management took that as a launch pad and ensured that standards were set as benchmark for other teams. Conclusion: The idiom of 'Bells and Whistles' might mean additional features which may not add value to , but can be attractive. But as we seen above with examples, there are quite a few such 'Bells and Whistles' category activities, which can give us the desirable and favourable outcome , if we use those activities at the right context.
  9. Let us see what is BHAG first. Per wikipedia definition, BHAG pronounced as Bee-HAG , is a strategic business statement, which portrays an organisation wide goal which is audacious and is likely to be questionable externally but within the organisation would be regarded as impossible. The term, was first coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras in the book titled " Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies". What BHAG does ? BHAG provides - Visionary goals which are strategic and Emotionally/mentally demanding - Goals to be achieved in the Long term (period of 10-30 years) - the platform by which an organisation can transcend itself to a new level - a platform by which you can be an Industry Leader, because your organisation planning is long term and you are miles-ahead of the rest of the industry players There can be multiple BHAGs in an Organisation. Because we speak about a range of years say 10-30 , we can even have short term BHAGs and long term BHAGs. Examples of BHAG: 1. Microsoft changing the digital world by introducing Personal Computers. Every house has a PC and even offices which used to have only mainframe systems , moved to PC. EVery place is with a computer. 2. NASA's mision on Mars Exploration since 1960 3. Google organising the information all over world and make it accessible to all (eg: Courtesy wikipedia) . More often than not, we say "Google" it to find something, rather than saying, search it in Google. Thats the influence, Google has achieved , because of its audacious goal. Having talked about BHAG, let me discuss on how BHAG can be used in driving Black Belt projects. Here is my take on this. Strongly believe that in a company where Six Sigma culture is not there and if the top brass are Process-Oriented, then BHAG is a great choice. I will correlate here SMART can be applied to BHAG. Imagine now you define that you plan to have a short term BHAG(Say 10 years) for your IT company. In this 10 years, you want 300 Black Belt projects to be done (just for sake of discussion.. Anyways - does it sound Questionable for you? If yes, then that is BHAG- as you are external :-) ). Will expand SMART in BHAG's context 1. Specific: Just for instance - You can suggest how many BB projects to be completed in a year, how many to be started in a quarter, how much minimal value savings you should showcase....such quantifiable needs can be put. This is just only a sample. 2. Measurable: This talks about the measuring techniques. In this context, if we are saying 30 projects / year and across multiple verticals(read sectors) such as Health, Insurance, Banking, Retail, Manufacturing, Automobile, then say we need to take data for 5 projects to be measured across 6 verticals 3. Achievable/Attainable: The goal of 5BBs/vertical per year, should be realistic. If we look at the definition of BHAG, it is likely to be questioned by external parties and not within the organisation which implies the fact this can be achievable. May be a bit of stretching might be required due to nature of the activity, in my opinion. 4. Relevant: This will say about alignment with other business goals (Say another short term BHAG which talks about creating 100 MBBs in 10 years- just an example) 5. Time-bound: All BB projects to complete between 6-10 years and the whole goal to be completed on say, May 29th 2028. As we had seen here, even though BHAG seems to be unachievable, it could be only an external perception. A company would know the strength and weakness of its workforce and would be the best judge to decide what can be a good BHAG for itself. I portrayed two short term BHAGs that could have been a subset of one long term BHAG as well. Conclusion: Every company may not have a BHAG. But companies that successfully implement BHAG can or probably will become pioneers in their industries, though it would be emotionally demanding for the employees of those companies. For Companies, which do not have an inherent quality or Six Sigma culture and if that company is a big-sized one, then probably i feel BHAG has the potential to turn the company from a rookie to an expert process-oriented organisation and storm through the ladder and go up, in its industry. For companies which are having some BB projects, here and there , but require more BBs and MBBs, then having a short team BHAG related to Six Sigma can be driven , but the short term BHAG can be linked to a long term BHAG related to something like Business Process Modernisation.
  10. Hi. Interested in providing my response for this. As you know the adage, Nothing is permanent, so change will be there always and everywhere. Having said this, let me tell what change would cause. There will be always stakeholders who would be benefitted and who get adversely affected by the change. Grudge would be more if the affected parties are more and if the benefitted stakeholders are influential then thats where the issue starts. How often do we see an organisation (read mgmt) changes it's policies which do not go well with it's staffs. This is where it begins. There are other scenarios. Imagine you/your team want(s) to implement changes in your project and there are multiple stakeholders who need to approve this (through Change Approval Board) . You face strong resistance in getting the approval. Why ? It could be because some of the stakeholders afresh affected adversely by your changes either directly or indirectly. Or You did not seek their suggestion(Influential or key stakeholder (s)) prior to implementing the changes or did not provide prior intimation about the changes to them, or the other stakeholders have some ego problems with the stakeholder(s) to whom you are directly reporting(I have seen this happening as well). All these things should be properly addressed. Right business case (for justifying the changes) and stakeholder mgmt are the key for a successful change management. Then Acceptance would happen.
  11. From what i have seen or observed , general human tendency is to do Correlation and Comparison of things. People correlate one thing to another thing and compare things(objects, persons (read attributes/characteristics)...). Why they do this ? Because the human beings are trained and taught to do so since time immemorial. Man is a social animal with plenty of knowledge!! Human tendency is to go from a 'known' entity to an 'unknown' entity, in many cases. So the comparison starts from there. What are we trying to say by "Apple to Orange" comparison. It does mean that we are trying to compare two different things(in reality it could be about some objects or about some human beings). In the case of human beings, the comparison could be about their characteristics , in a personal context; skill set, experience-level, soft- skills, etc... in a professional context. So why is this important ? Because as a human brain is naturally aligned to compare people , it does not see what/whom needs to be compared with what/whom. This is the generic behaviour which needs to be consciously be changed by every individual to stay balanced. Apple to Orange comparisons , therefore would happen in reality in several cases, though the comparison often would be unfair. Let us see some examples where 'Apple to Orange' Comparison becomes necessary 1. In an IT organisation, an experienced employee(10+ year exp.), resigned from his job. As his job was a billable position, the service providing company found a lesser experienced(1 year) professional to replace the experienced professional. The customer knew the experience of the replaced staff. But a week later, the customer is not happy with the performance of the new staff stating the team that new staff needs to be upto speed and expects the quality as he got from the experienced person. Here clear 'Apple to Orange' Comparison has happened. Both the experienced employee(resigned) and the new employee have knowledge in that technology(Advanced Java) but the knowledge gap is wide. But for the customer, this is immaterial. He needed the same quality as it was earlier. The onus will be on the service provide to bridge the gap but the point is this comparison is made because the customer is expecting the same quality. 2.In an appraisal process in an IT company, all the team members(TM) were appraised. TM1, TM2, TM3 were all experienced in that order - with 10,7,5 years of experience respectively. TM4,TM5,TM6,TM7- were experienced with 4,2,1,1 years respectively. TM5,TM6, TM7 felt that it was unfair to compare them with senior TMs (TM1, TM2). They felt that they were feeling the pressure. Even though the project mgmt team had done some criteria for each experience, still the lesser experienced TMs felt that appraising them with the seniors would not help their appraisal. This is often the case we would come across many teams in many industries. 3. While doing software estimation: a). Say you have a start up company and you have got few development projects. Suddenly you get an enhancement cum maintenance project. Since you do not have an estimation template for an Enhancement , you rely on your estimation template for Development . You compare that (only to see if you get any initial idea) and try to tailor to suit your enhancement project requirements. In reality this could be a failure. b). Say you have an estimation model for Java/J2EE technology . Now you are getting a mainframe project and you do not have an estimation model for it. Now you decide to take a leaf out of your Java/j2EE estimation model and take that as basis for your mainframe estimation. In both the cases, we are making an Apple to Orange comparison ,as we are left with no choice but go from 'known to unknown' entity (to begin with). 4. How many times we would have seen the fact that to find the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in a sport, we compare people who played the sport in different eras? Imagine how that sport would have been played in each era. Then how will you find GOAT ? Of course. various factors might be considered by the agencies (companies/relevant parties) which decide on the GOAT. Sometimes multiple Agencies who pronounce the result on GOAT, choose different players as the GOAT (they do not concur), because they may choose different factors. So to find the GOAT , we are making an Apple to Orange comparison and we try to minimise this indifferent comparison by bringing in various factors. Otherwise how can you say , who is the greatest cricketing batsman of all time, greatest tennis player of all time, greatest golfer of all time ? How difficult or easy to compare a tennis player who played lawn tennis in a wooden racquet, with a tennis player who played his tennis in synthetic hard court with a graphite racquet? Is there any technique to carry out such a comparison? Honestly am not sure if there is any technique. I could think of few things however which can give some quick guidance , in my opinion. 1. Organisational Process Assets (OPA) - Previous projects could have done like this and could have updated the organisation's repository - Documents could be like logs, Excel sheets, Lessons Learnt etc.,. Those artifacts can have data on the comparable entities and the associated data that was required for each of the comparable entity and the decisions made on the comparison. 2. SharePoint, Online database - Where Information or factors deciding the comparison can be captured; data about comparable entities Conclusion: Comparing things is a human mindset and has become a prerogative. Nothing can stop a person from comparing things . In a business context, this comparison takes importance because of cut-throat competition across the globe in every industry.Therefore , Apple-to-Orange Comparison , even though it may seem not correct, it is becoming increasing essential part of our day-to-day life.
  12. Nothing in this world can be perfect or 100% correct. However and whatever we do, there may be always a chance of improvement.The moment, a person feels that he/she has done enough, he/she stops to grow especially, in his/her professional career/ work. Every person has to do a self-reflection on how he/she did his/her current work. This self-reflection is what Hansei is all about. Why it is a central idea in Japanese Mgmt: By doing a self-reflection, a person is aware of his/her strengths and weakness (area of improvement). He/she can polish that missing attributes from his/her reportoire. If that person's work quality or results or work ethic is falling short of expectation, then the person ensures he does an apology to the rest of his/her colleagues/management. This is a prevailing cultural behaviour of the Japanese.This is essentially captured by Hansei. Hence this self-reflection mechanism plays a critical role. How does Hansei relate with Kaizen: As i stated earlier in my first paragraph, if nothing can be 100% perfect, then there is still scope for Improvement. Did not we hear this regularly, that a particular company operates at 'X' Sigma, another company operates at 'y' sigma. Why ? because every company wants to push itself to get the maximum results. Ideally they would want the individuals as well as team to do continuous improvements, which is what Kaizen will do. Once a kaizen is done, the team (which did the kaizen) would reflect upon what went well and what can be improved. The team will make a honest assesment of what it did and how it could have been done better - with an individual and team assessment. This is where Hansei comes into picture. Let me give an example how Kaizen and Hansei can be correlated and why Hansei is essential: In an IT organisation, one portfolio for a customer relationship(engagement with a specific customer organisation), was operating under a Managed Service model in an Agile environment, and one of the project teams improved itself from doing manual testing (unit and functional) to automated unit testing using JUnit(Unit Testing) and Selenium as a Kaizen initiative. The team was happy on the achievement, but when it did a retrospection at the end of one Sprint later than when it was implemented, to see how the automation works , it felt the test cases covered were not effectively implented. The focus on 100% test coverage and the requisite quality was missing. This made the team to again working on improving the process - in this case about writing quality test cases - . So the team decided to moved to Behaviour Driven Development approach. So after doing the self-relfection, the team decided to do an improvement activity(Kaizen). Conclusion: Self-awareness is a must for any person to grow, personally and professionally. Here we are focussing on the professional front. No one (for that matter any team) can be 100% right. Telling in lighter terms to portray this aspect alone, if you are an avid fan of the game of Cricket, you can notice the fact that the legendary Sir Donald Bradman had an average of 99.96% (he could not score 4 runs in his final innings to get the coveted 100%). Whatever you are going to do as an individual/as a team, there is always going to be scope for improvement. Improvement cannot occur unless you realize what you did, how you did and what could be done better. This self reflection with a degree of humbleness, and eagerness to improve things, will make an indvidual grow as a human being in his/her professional career and a trust-worthy leader.
  13. In Japanese, it is called "Across Every where". What does it mean in this context ? Sharing best practices horizontally across an organisation. It also talks about the learning of failures across organisation. The objective is to share the learnings/continuous improvement ideas. For instance, staffs in one department might be asked to see and observe the improvements made in another department. Let us see some examples from various sectors: IT Sector: In an IT organisation, one project team used a Continuous Integration server and displayed reports on Code Coverage and Coding Standards compliance, on a giant monitor. It was transparent for the entire team and management. Developers were quick to spot their mistakes and made corrections. This improved the quality of the system with minimal defects resulting in a satisfied customer. This was highlighted as a major success in that project's portfolio and the Group Leader of the particular customer unit/relationship (where the project belongs to) , requested other teams to see and observe the changes made so that it could be replicated across the rest of the customer unit/relationship. The Other teams observed the changes and replicated this successfully. Manufacturing Sector: In a manufacturing company, a team(let us call it T1) did a Six Sigma DMAIC project to reduce cycle time for the processing of its product. Another team from different department saw the success stories of T1 through a circulated success story presentation and met T1 manager and SMEs, in person, to understand more about the improvements made in T1's processes. Retail Sector: A major Retailer had three outlets in a big city. Outlet in one location (Location A) was having its products sold routinely and growing in size everyday and the other two outlets (in different locations) were not doing business that well. Managers of Location A decided to share the knowhow about improving the business with the managers of the other 2 outlets.The managers in these 2 outlets were also keen to know how location A outlet is doing well. With Effective feedback and suggestions (as a survey), obtained from social media, mobile phones, customers's interests/tastes were captured by the outlet (in location A). What damage can be done due to lack of yokoten in an Organisation? In my opinion, following could be some of the key points: 1. Innovative Ideas/improvements will cease to flow through the organisation. 2. Lessons learnt from failures will not be passed across the organisation. 3. Process cycle time reduction, Productivity Efficiency, Quality Efficiency may not be achieved across the organisation as per its expected standards, thereby resulting in either not meeting customer standards or not able to achieve the benchmark standards(if the organisation is especially a leader in a given sector). 4. Potential loss of business due to unsatisfied customers, in some cases. Let us see how lack of Yokoten is restricting Continuous Improvement in many companies: 1. A retailer had few outlets in a city. One outlet had always so much crowd and it had all kinds of products. But still waiting time for paying the products was quick. The queuing system to Point of Sale(POS) was quick with multiple layers and classified/ categorised in terms of senior citizens/ Rest.Parents with Toddlers were given preferential treatment. These kind of queuing did wonders to the delivery speed in that outlet. But unfortunately the other outlets did not follow suit of this as mgmt failed to stress this importance to the other outlets as they could not bring the shift in cultural mindset among the staffs of the outlets as they had been operating in a different way. 2. In an IT company, an Agile Scrum team had developed a software product using Test Driven Development (TDD) (In TDD, Test cases are written first, before code is developed. This ensures every unit of functionality is addressed. Normal approach is to code first and then test.There is a chance that we may miss some functionalities to be unit tested in this approach. So TDD is better than this approach, in this aspect.). The team also did Unit Testing automation. The team was able to successfully deliver a quality product, of incremental value[every agile sprint , you are bound to deliver some stories(requirements) - which keeps updating your product features/functionalities]. But this team was working on a Non-disclosure agreement based project. So the team had its own reservations in sharing the know-how on the processes done. The team should have been worried about the data and not on the processes which are industry standards. But that was not the case. The team members themselves had done this for the first time. Therefore, they could not share how they did the processes without the actual data. The portfolio leads were skeptic about the sharing of processes (inspite of having people who can showcase to the other teams). This deprived some teams who projects got transformed to Agile, as their customers were moving towards Agile. Those teams wanted badly to see how TDD and Automation (Unit Testing) were done. But the opportunity did not happen. Conclusion: Bringing positive change is a cultural mindset. Effectiveness of solution is product(read combination) of Quality of the solution and Acceptance of the solution. Its the acceptance factor that decides the fate of the solution(in this context innovations/improvement ideas/learning the lessons as what not to be done). Whichever companies(employees in those companies) refute to get changed/adhere to the solution provided/suggested (within their companies) fail to grow as an organisation. This will be the case for any industry. As i stated above in one of the earlier paragraphs, you can see what effect(damage), lack of yokoten can bring to Organisation. Therefore, i feel, that yokoten should be part and parcel of an organisation's culture.
  14. Let us see the two approaches of Floor walking by management teams. Gemba : It is a Japanese word meaning "Real Place". Gemba Walk: Imagine, everyday you do our job routinely and life goes on. One day , you are doing your work and to your surprise, you find your project manager, portfolio manager or department head, SMEs come to your place and understand more about the work from you as how you go about doing it. This is what Gemba walk is all about. Here a focused effort is made on the part of the management team to understand how work is actually happening, from the operators/team members's perspective. What are the challenges that are there and what are the opportunities for improvement. MBWA: This is another approach of floor walking by management team. Here the focus is not specific to a particular activity or process or type of work, unlike Gemba walk. But it focuses on managers checking with employees on the fly, about the work they do and provide more often than not , some suggestions and do not indulge much in probing questions/queries. This often may not produce the necessary result. There are some differences between these 2 approaches. Examples of Gemba Walk: Imagine in an IT company, you are working in your desk. Your Technical architect, Solution Architect, Portfolio Manager, GL walks through the floor and have a discussion with you. You are explaining your application and convey the fact that multiple vendors are working on that project and you dont have control over the performance of the application as that part is not owned by your organisation. You say that Performance of few features is time consuming (and you are consuming those features for proceeding with your work). This is hampering your functionalities or work. Now you have given your observation, the management team(and other stakeholders) will take cognisance of this and will come up with some action plan. Examples of MBWA: Imagine you are in an IT company. The mgmt team along with other relevant stakeholders does a walk of the floor. They come to your place (hop over to your desk) and ask about how things are moving. You tell shift constraint (afternoon shift) as an issue due to lack of machine in the team. They suggest your lead to change your shift to day time (suggestions are made rather than with probing questions that can go address the root cause). The caravan goes and the next person is being asked for issues . Conclusion: Looking at both the approaches and their benefits , one can conveniently say that Gemba Walk is superior. There is something called Gemba Kaizen , which does help in continuous improvement as well.
  15. Let us see key roles involved in a typical Six sigma project . - Team Member(s) (who belongs to the Six Sigma Project) - Six Sigma Green Belt(GB) - Six Sigma Black Belt(BB) - Champion (Some companies might not have this may be- this person will be involved in Tollgate reviews(along with Black belt), removes barriers for the team . Some organisations have champions as sponsors) - Six Sigma Project Sponsor I have arranged the roles purposefully from a bottom up approach. Note : There is another role - Six Sigma Master Black Belt (MBB). However it is not relevant to any specific project, but all six sigma projects will come under this umbrella. Let us dissect for which of those aforementioned roles, a person can ask the WIFM question and why . 1. Champions/Sponsors: Six Sigma costs energy, time and effort. People playing these roles would expect either a tangible benefit such as ROI outweighing this cost or an intangible benefit of customer satisfaction doing a six sigma project, which potentially results in getting a new business opportunity, in the nearby future. 2. Black Belt(BB): BB are defined roles in that, persons playing this role are expected to do certain activities and they are bound to abide by that. Unless they feel that there is a strong reason for not executing a six sigma project which they can justify, they are supposed to execute. Therefore, in my opinion, BB shall not indulge in asking WIFM 3. Green Belt: In my opinion, a Green Belt certified person should not ask WIFM. Because he is already aware (or supposed to be) of the impact Six Sigma can make when pursued in the right way as it should be. He/she may not be fully aware of the tools/techniques in Six Sigma much like the BB. That can be his/her only shortcomings. The GB has to understand the fact, that this role may not be 100% of his/her work. Six Sigma activity will be an additional work , apart from his/her regular project work. This extra effort spent in six sigma is compensated by the fact that the GB learns additional tools/techniques with constant interaction with the BB , which can be used in some of his/her day-to-day project activities. 4. Team Member: I feel a person playing this role, has the absolute legitimate right to ask the WIFM question. Because he/she will need to know the factors which can motivate him/her to work and put that extra effort. Without knowing about something, who would be interested to touch anything ? The team member is the one who will gather the data for measurement and he/she will do have to some other basic activities. Gathering data is a cumbersome and tedious activity in general. It can be boring at times. There has to be quite a few awareness sessions to the team members which talks about the importance of Six Sigma and what benefits it can give to the team and organisation and crucially to the customer(internal or external). It is the benefit to the team , that team members would be interested in. Not everyone be interested to go with a career ambition towards Six Sigma. How will we motivate those team members? If we are able to do that, then you get succeed in your objective, with respect to the work assigned to the team members. Remember the fact this is primarily a volunteer role , unlike say a BB role (which is a designated role). Conclusion: My take is that Persons playing either one of the two roles - Sponsor, Team member have the legitimate need or requipment to ask WIFM question though the need or reasonfor them to ask that question may differ. Person playing the sponsor role will ask because of what benefits the six sigma project can bring to the organisation. Person playing the team member can ask that question to know what kind of growth it can bring to him- whether career growth, promotional benefits, monetary reward, visibility etc.,.
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