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  1. SMART stands for Specific,Measurable,achievable,relevant and timebound. Ideally for any Six sigma projects we just start the project with a problem statement without much information about the root causes and solutions. When we set a project goal this would be based on historical data and we can use statistical ways of arriving at the goal or understand what the customer is looking for in terms of the goal and then evaluate the possibility of meeting the same, we can do this by looking at the process capability, has the team been able to deliver the goal at least once historically then it is definitely an achievable target. Process Entitlement would then help us set up an achievable goal. We can look through different ways to baseline target based on the type of data.. Identify data type if it is discrete or continuous Identify the metric requirement (Larger the better or smaller the better) Check stability and normality for continuous data and for discrete check the stability Set up goal with defined confidence level based on the different tests that would be using which is determined based on step 3 outcome We can also leverage Bench marking data available – Based on the metric and type of industry what is the median or best in class performance for competitors. If the performance is too low we should aim at incremental improvement to median competitor performance and then improve to best in class performance. Now based on where we would want to reach we should look at either process improvement or process redesign
  2. Minimum viable product is is a technique when a product is launched in a market with the basic features , instead of building a complete finished product , test pieces of the product are launched and checked incrementally and in an iterative manner.The thought behind this is on the concept of two facts that needs to be evaluated , 1. Is the feature that we think is required really the one that the customer is asking for or is it an assumption that we make on behalf of the customer that probably they are looking for it and not opined by any other members. 2.Does the new feature address the bigger issues of the overall product . We use the MVPs for running experiments There would be a series of hypothesis that we would be testing , this would save a lot of development time since we know what exactly are the requirements and some of them that we assume to be are important are apparently not really important.This helps us make the final product better. The advantages of MVP are 1.Three will not be a challenge in terms of selling since the product will have minimum features that the customer is willing to pay for 2.There is a regular and constant feedback mechanism from the user perspective and based on quantum of benefit we can incorporate the same 3.Benefits could be futuristic for customers who are used to the product Purpose of MVP is to launch a product quickly at a relatively lower budget.This implies and establishes the balance between what the product can offer vs what the customers actually need Examples of some popular products that were launched using MVP and were enhanced later are 1.Facebook – Initially this was used to connect friends /students of a class and helped them post messages to the board. The one key benefit compared to the other social platforms was the ease of use and simplicity due to which it gained its visibility. Post that the different enhancements that were done on bringing people is very substantial 2. I phone – When Apple launched the first version of iphone it was lacking even the basic functionalities like copy paste and search option , MMS option not available etc however instead of building a single feature in the product, this was done incrementally and in an iterative manner by using features that the customer was interested. 3.Uber – Earlier version of Uber was referred to as Uber cab started as a very simple mobile interface however if we look at the features it currently has that includes more features based on the increase in users and as the company grew like Auto credit card payments,Fare estimates, live tracking of the drivers etc which improves the customer experience 4.Airbnb – For travelers who looked for accomodations that were cheap and met their objectives when this was initially launched , the website was not very user friendly however later they added very clear information about Area, price, map of the location etc.
  3. Muda refers to the non-value added activities or processes, these are not helpful and often result in rework in turn resulting in huge cost and delays the entire value chain . There are basically 8 different types of wastes (TIMWOOD) Transportation – Movement of products from one place to the other Inventory – Appropriate inventory is important but storing few of them causes an issue, excess inventory results in additional cost and storage space increase considerably Motion – Physical movement of machinery or person to complete a task Waiting – Process is stopped or slowed down due to a bottleneck Over production – Manufacture is done before the requirement Over processing – Additional or duplication of effort in completing a product Defects – Occurs due to rework and errors that occur in the process Non utilization of skillset – The skillset of the resource is not used properly, expertise in some other domain is leveraged for a different role which is not probably the strength. Mura(inconsistency) refers to the waste caused due to uneven production and services. There are no set standards that are followed, Mura results in muri (making the tasks very tough) which will eventually result in undermining the complexity in elimination of wastes. Muri (Overburden) refers to the type of waste that is caused due to improper training, no policies in place and lack of adequate tools required to complete the task.this would inturn result in huge rework and longer time to complete the task. Healthcare sector can look through the different types of wastes and proceed with lean implementation using different lean tools First type of waste is inconsistency or the unpredictable workload that we see, especially during the pandemic where we have patients who are impacted vs patients who are not impacted by COVID, so getting timely support on treatment for the patients would be a great challenge. We could relate this to waiting as well..Having the right resources and preparedness for additional patients and attend them on time. Also prework around patient preparedness will help reduce time and separate sections for different checks to have different rooms would help Lack of equipment – with increasing cases, the number of equipment required to treat will be impacted as well..Proper planning and proactive approach in utilizing the available equipment. Inventory – surplus supplies, medicines all increase the risk of increase in waste, the employees should be trained on optimal utilization of inventory and think of innovative ways of reducing it Reduce or remove defects to improve quality of treatment – Surgical issues or any misrepresentation of facts could result in dissatisfied patients and huge impact on the way patient is treated, Payers would be outcome based hence lean principles can be leveraged to improve quality and make them understand the impact on bottomline would help … Reduce the overprocessing , the end to end process of treatment is very cumbersome right from filling the application till the time patient gets treated is very elaborate. Structure online procedures to ensure we save time and the patient experience is good as well..
  4. Residual is a measure of error and tells us the variance or how far is the predicted value from the actual value. If our predicted value is greater than the actual value the residual is negative. If predicted value is smaller than the actual value the residual is positive. The size of the residual would explain how fa we are from the actual value. Basically we create a scatter plot based on the sample data and draw the line of best fit that would approximate the trend and be the line that would be closest to all the points, that would be the regression line which can be represented as y=mx+b residual is good for saying how good the line is , does the regression and the model fit a given data point. When we look at the combination of all the residuals and try to minimize it, adding all of them would not be the ideal approach since we could have both positives and negatives netting off and in turn showing the value either as zero or minimal which does not reflect the right picture instead we could add the sum of all the residuals as absolute number. Residuals are also called errors since it is the error that is not explained by the regression line. It is important to analyze the residuals before assessing the goodness of a regression model since it would tell us how accurate the model is that we are building.Also Linear regression is not always appropriate for the data, hence we need to assess the appropriateness of the model by evaluating the residual plots. Non Normal residuals means variance or inconsistency across the variables and observations and we calculate prediction intervals in a model assuming that the residuals or normal,however if the data is non normal the predictions might not be accurate in such cases we need to look at data and check the distribution and understand if there are any special causes contributing for the same.
  5. Theory of Constraint - This is a methodology to identify the bottleneck/constraints that prevents us from achieving the goal and improving the same till the time the impact of the bottleneck is minimized. The concept of TOC was initiated by Eliyahu Goldratt. This includes a five step process 1. Identify the constraint 2.Exploit the constraint 3.Subordinate all other decisions 4.Elevate performance of the constraint 5.Avoid inertia In each of these steps we can use different lean tools... Constraints : Anything that prevents the progress towards the goal which is called the bottleneck.these could be on account of policies,physical constraints (shortage of people,inventory,machinery etc)..Real constraints would have inventory piled up. Critical path - identifying a task in the end to end process and pick up the one that has the longest duration. It focuses on early start and early finish dates based on which the longest path will be determined Critical chain is based on the tasks. it is completed after determining the critical path by entering resource availability and the outcome or plan produces a resource constrained critical path. This focusses on utilizing the buffer resources and have focussed tasks completed on time so that the time saved through early completion of projects is utililized in enhancements Few aspects that distinguish critical path from critical chain are 1. Multitasking is done in critical path method since they are duration based and in order to meet set timelines there is a need to multitask however in critical chain there are focussed tasks and there is no multitasking instead we add resources to ensure the workload is focussed and manageable 2.Critical path would factor in buffer for individual activities where as critical chain would factor buffers for the whole project to ensure we have right resources to complete each task 3.Activities are often completed ahead of time in Critical chain however projects are often delayed or on time with lot of stress and rush in critical path method 4.Estimated durations in the plan for critical chain would not include the buffer where as buffer would be included as part of the project plan Critical Chain method relate with Theory of Constraints or with Lean Management practices Critical Chain method focuses on removing the bottlenecks in the process similar to TOC and elimination of waste which is the basic objective of Lean. Both Lean and Critical chain method control carefully the addition of new work based on the ability for each of the resource to take it up.
  6. Brook's law was coined by Fred Books. It is a claim about the software project management that adding more manpower/resources to a software project makes it even more delayed.This can be applied for Six Sigma projects as well. Ideally when ever we have an additional resource added at the later stage there is a ramp up time where the resource takes time to onboard and understand the sequence of activities that has been carried out for long period and ideally six sigma projects are for a longer duration, there would also be a struggle if there is no domain knowledge because there is a struggle in understanding the progress and also understanding the business nuances. The new added team members also would need to integrate to multiple people who were involved in the project to understand the same end to end. It is also very important that the tasks are divided appropriately, if the same task is done by different people, substantial time and effort is spent on understanding what the other team members are working There is also lot ambiguity since there is an increase in number of communications There would be tasks that cannot be divided and would need longer duration in which case adding additional people would not help In case the project is complex and involves synergies between cross functional teams then it could get tough to manage the timelines There is often a variance in the plan vs what we execute since some of the projects might have more outliers or would need additional analysis or deepdive which we don't foresee when we begin the project Brooks law ideally applies to adding people late in the project however if we have people on- boarded in the beginning of the project with the right skillset to understand from domain perspective that would be helpful. Project plan also should be relooked in case of delays if it is due to an incorrect estimate of the task, in that case correction of the plan is the best way
  7. Planning poker is an Agile Estimating technique.Estimate is the evaluation of the effort that is required to complete the development of any task or project, this is mostly measured in terms of time take and the objective of breaking up into smaller timelines is to aggregate many individual estimates to arrive at the overall timelines or duration for the project and also the effort required and the estimated cost that would be required to carry out the project. Planning Poker - This is a technique which is based on the consensus of entire team who are part of the project. This is used to estimate the project backlog in agile estimation and planning. How is planning poker used ? Before starting the project each person who are part of the project team will be hold a deck of planning poker cards, each card would be assigned with a number (0,1,2,3,5,8,13,20,40 and 100), the user or customer would then describes the feature or agile story on requirements to the project team/estimators The team would brainstorm and understand the requirements clearly and understand all the aspects of requirement and its complexity .Once they have an understanding ,each member of the team selects a card to provide the individual estimates.Once the whole team picks up the card all values that the team members selected are collectively displayed and that becomes the estimate from each of the team members.If the estimates provided by all the team members are the same, that is finalized as the final estimate however in case there is a variance in the estimates that are provided by the different team members there is another round of discussion to explain the rationale behind choosing the same differently. Mostly in case we have people who have selected the extreme values the highest and least estimator will have to provide the reasons for the same and once this is done the cards are re selected and revealed at the same time. The process is repeated until all of them are calibrated and reach consensus around the same estimate and that is when the process is completed.In case the numbers are consecutive the larger one is picked up as estimate, this would avoid underestimating the effort and struggle to meet timelines. in case we have only one project team member showing extreme value, we need to understand the root cause if it is on account of technical issue or understanding of product feature.In this case through research should be done in understanding the same...this is more a collaborative approach where the entire team reaches consensus on delivering any project. Other techniques for estimation are Story points , ideal dates etc.
  8. Altshuller defined the concept of contradictions and inventive problem solving.TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving ) is basically a problem solving tool that uses contradictions which is primarily the root cause and Inventive problems (are basically the new problems that creep up when a solution is implemented )as the concepts to solve for any issues. The problems that we often see are mostly repetitive in nature and we can show represent a problem as a contradiction and we can accordingly create solutions to that problem, most of the solutions can be derived from the existing knowledge and any of the problems can fit into one of the 39 standard engineering parameters and derive solution from 40 inventive principles Contradictions are of 2 types 1.Physical contradiction - situations when we desire to see different properties of a same parameter 2.Technical contradiction – This should be in the form of if-then-but statements basically “if we do something then there is something good but there is also a bad consequence”. Contradiction can be resolved by clearly defining the 1.Problem Statement 2.Define the ideality statement 3.Define the contradictions (Physical and Technical) 4.Evaluate the contradictions in the 39 standard Engineering parameters 5.Based on the combinations of the scores from standard principles evaluate the solution based on 40 inventive principles Example : Accuracy in processing transactions with available time Ideality Statement : Maximum productivity with zero defects in processing – one of the key issues in service industry Contradiction : If we increase the number of transactions per associate , then the productivity / throughput will go up, but the chances of error will also increase High productivity - More chances of Defect Low productivity - Less chances of defect When we try to identify the parameters the below can be arrived based on TRIZ parameters For increase in productivity 9 . Speed 39.Productivity Less chances of defects can be as per TRIZ parameters below 22.Waste of Energy and 25.Waste of time When we try to combine all of the above principles we can use the inventive principles Which in this case is “All “ so we can leverage any of the 40 inventive principles Some of the key solutions that we can look at to improve productivity and reduce errors is 1.Segmentation (1) - Divide activities into Simple vs complex and accordingly arrive at a plan for standardization and automation 2.Preliminary action(10) – Look at the activity calendar end to end and see if some of the activities or preparations can be done ahead of time 3.Universality (6) – Standard tools, repository of improvements to leverage as best practice in improving the process 4.Dynamics (15) – Look at redesign of process through automation opportunities or better ways of working 5. Parameter change ((35) – Right skillset based on complexity of job and replace individual based on skillset 6.Feedback(23) – continuous feedback mechanism from associates and stakeholders on the new process 7.Local Quality (3) – QC mechanism in place to ensure individual and collective process are maintaining right standards We can use this is both manufacturing (improving machine speed, efficiency,reduce break down etc) and service industries (transaction processing, banking services)
  9. Instruction creep usually is the result of exhaustive documentation and very lengthy documentation which becomes very tough to manage over a period of time.Often the issue while creating SOP's is having the documentation done in a very complex manner which has multiple handoffs, with different groups of people updating the same at different times on account of which understanding the message.Also, when it is too lengthy it is very difficult for the people to pay attention to the document. Also when there is a new learning or a process exception that the teams encounter they fail to update the same or they update the SOP and miss sharing the new learning with the larger team, this would either result in repeat errors since the other team members are still using the older versions or increase number of touch points where the associate is constantly asking questions and the customer/stakeholders feels it is repetitive and they have already covered with the other team member Process owners can avoid instruction creep while creating the SOP's by following few simple steps : 1.Keep the SOP very simple so it is easy for the users to intrepret and use 2.Keep the exception log as a separate section in the SOP since that would need more attention as they are all new learnings that the team might have to revisit more often, this has to be discussed with the team as part of their meetings to emphasis the importance 3.Add clear topics and hyperlinks so that the team visits only the relevant sections 4.Adding process maps as part of the SOP would be impactful since it is very easy for the doer to visually connect vs going through a detailed document 5. Proper version control and change log of documents need to be maintained with storage of the same in a centralized repository, this way the latest updates do not get missed 6.Follow the steps in the SOP to complete a task to check if it actually works 7.Add the key risks related to the process and accordingly create a checklist as part of the SOP so the team can use it as a quick summary to check the quality of output 8.Always get the SOP sign off from the stakeholders to ensure the scope is right and the issue resolution is accurately captured
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