This past weekend while attending a Conference in Torrance, California I had the opportunity to network with many wonderful people. It seemed to be a common theme amongst attendants that they either had very little time to conduct Continuous Improvement events or they were focused on Quality. Quality truly is a make all or break all element of any Organization. Whether it is the quality of Information or the quality of a product or service that is produced there is no denying that quality is everyone's responsibility.
One of the Foundational concepts of Lean and or Six Sigma is that no Customer or Vendor (Internal/External Supply Chain) will ever knowingly pass on a defect to the next person in the Value Chain. That means specifically if I am making a part and I catch something that does not conform to the standard I should not move that part forward even if I am moving it forward to inspection to catch the mistake. At the very Core of Quality in Lean is our familiar Jidoka pillar. Jidoka means "autonomous" and refers to the responsibility of each employee to deliver quality to their customers; wherever they are in the Value Stream. So how do we begin to improve quality using Lean principles?
1. Don't Forget about Jidoka
One of the key Pillars of Lean is Jidoka. Sometimes in the Startup phase of our Lean journey we get so excited with cycle time reductions and savings that we forget about the quality pillar. In the Earliest days of Jidoka Sakichi Toyoda created a simple device that would stop his looms when the thread broke. Not only did it prevent the creation of more defects but it alerted workers when there was an abnormality which allowed workers to operate more than one machine and effectively work on a Management by Exception basis. Four key principles to keep in mind when focusing on the Jidoka principle are:
2. Use the Power of Six Sigma
Many times I have found people discredit six sigma in comparison to Lean; The focus of Six Sigma is to reduce variability and improve quality in an organization, often times in office and in manufacturing environments we get results that simply can not be repeated. This is very common in areas like sales, marketing, demand planning and anything that requires tacit knowledge and experience. Six Sigma can assist in identifying out of standard conditions which in turn creates opportunities to identify and correct abnormalities. By applying elements of Six Sigma you can create more consistent repeatable results in our processes.
3. Develop your people
We can not talk about it enough, developing and training an army of problem solvers is the most powerful thing any organization can do. Twice in the past week I have heard from close allies who have expressed they feel as though it all falls on management and leadership to solve problems that come up. Firefighting is not the way to go about it. Teach employees effective skills to discover and correct problems. Then harness that power by giving them written authority to do so if it's appropriate.
As with any other element of Change Management, we must address the need for positive behavior and cultural changes to happen. There are many ways to drive proper behaviors but no change will happened and stick without the integrity, support and buy in from an entire organization.