Lean Six-Sigma is for me, not only my processes

//Lean Six-Sigma is for me, not only my processes

Lean Six-Sigma is for me, not only my processes

How often do you finish a days work disappointed at how few important to-do tasks or business objectives you have started as intended? Of course this will always happen to an extent, but the frequency with which it happens determines if it needs attention. Using the clifirefighter_hose_spray_clip_1600_clr_6380ché, working on the urgent rather than the important stuff often allures us to the exciting, adrenalin fuelled, fire-fighting for the instant gratification and praise that often comes with fixing the issue.

However, living in this exciting reactive world doesn’t do much for the competitiveness and long-term sustainability of the organisation. So if we know that we need to break these habits how do we do it?

Applying improvement thinking to ourselves, as we do to our processes, is a start. There are many directions you could take in improving this situation. Better delegation, effective coaching so you don’t end up take issues from people, even adding resources to help with the workload. But the first way any Lean Six-Sigma improvement leader would suggest is to understand the problem landscape. Without knowing what are the detailed things that get in the way of you working on the important stuff, how will you know what to change?

Data collection is part of defining the problem. Especially as the number and type of distractions may depend on the day of the week, week of the month, or period of the year if the business is seasonal. Collecting representative data prevents you reacting to false leads that are not the biggest contributing factors.

The first step is to tally chart what tasks you do each day. Categorise them as you want and define the unit levels, although half hour chunks usually provide enough resolution. Make it visible on a flipchart sheet on the wall so you don’t forget to record it.

By the end of a week, month, or quarter a profile develops showing which tasks occupy your time and to what extent. Linkage between activities will become apparent along with the combined impact on your time. Capture immediate actions against the biggest time drains.

If your categories seem too general, break them down further into more detailed classifications.

As time progresses you will have enough quality, representative data to begin to see patterns, then it’s onto the analysis stage. Big chunks of time usage flag-up the need to challenge why you are doing the urgent tasks, at all or in their current form, as there may be a better way.

Reducing those ‘urgent’ tasks:

  • ROOT CAUSE of URGENT TASKS – find the systemic cause of the urgent task to remove the upstream task.
  • ELIMINATE – tasks that are no longer relevant, e.g. unnecessary system or process requirements that have become part of what you do.
  • COMBINE – similar tasks that can be run together, e. meetings which require the same people, meetings with similar agendas
  • REARRANGE tasks – reorder tasks to prevent delays
  • SIMPLIFY tasks – take out excess actions that do not add value, e.g. extra data fields, unnecessary authorisations, staff feeling they need to seek permission
  • OWNERSHIP – does the task sit with the right person or are you adding a ‘middle man’ task.

Examples of typical redundant ‘urgent’ tasks:

  • Sending information to customers without asking if it adds value.
  • Completing system information/reports out of habit that no one reads or uses.
  • Holding unnecessary meetings as the original purpose is redundant.
  • Micro-managing tasks without developing the right people skills to take ownership.
  • Responding to every email without querying if it adds value to the audience

So many of our time consuming tasks, both routine and reactive, exist because we don’t challenge their relevance and if they add value.

It’s time for you to make a change and gain time back for important tasks! You will be surprised at the valuable picture formed over time and the opportunities it presents for the small amount of effort in tallying hours. This is one of the simpler ways you can create time for the important things and one you can start tomorrow. Don’t wait!

By | 2015-07-27T16:07:57+01:00 July 27th, 2015|Categories: New Potential News|Comments Off on Lean Six-Sigma is for me, not only my processes