The experts in delivering rapid business benefits using Six Sigma & Innovation
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Gaining value from consultants
comment by Stuart Smith, Senior Adviser to the Board of sister company, Bourton Group

When's a cut not a cut?
comment by Stuart Smith, Chairman of sister company, Bourton Group - Sunday Telegraph 

New Civil Engineer article
Round table: More for less

UK Manufacturing must thrive
Finally it appears that the manufacturing sector is a key priority for government.

The Economy offers opportunity and risk.
Comment by Keith Bissett, Chairman of sister company Bourton Group - The Telegraph supplement 

Can Lean and Six Sigma help revive Financial services? The Times Supplement 
Coverage of work our sister company Bourton Group did at NS&I

Overcoming resistance to change
Recent article by sister company Bourton Group - The Manufacturer

More value, less waste
Eliminating waste without impacting on performance is easier said than done.

Time to embrace Lean?
Cost control with a data driven approach

Seeing means eliminating - How to identify and eliminate waste
When we think about waste in environmental and industrial terms it is often something that is physical. Physical waste can exist in processes but this is only a very small part of it. The key to identifying wasteful activity it to look at it from a process customer perspective.

Too much process or too little?
At the root of the complaint "we are ruled by processes" is a lack of distinction between process, procedure and red tape.

CEO requirements for business performance improvement have remained unchanged for 40 years
Whilst the areas of focus, organisational structures, systems and processes have changed beyond recognition.

The Holy Grail of Performance Improvement
When CEOs talk to us about their objectives from improvement programmes we find that three over-riding themes always come up.  With over 40 years experience of helping businesses improve we have seen the trends come and go but these themes are now as high on the agenda as ever.

'Quick Wins' vs the 'Mile Deep Thinking' of Six Sigma
The very name of 'Quick Fix' or 'Quick Win' seems to be derogatory of impulsive action in a change project.  Senior management too, are always pressuring for results and yet the Black or Green Belt knows they have to conduct a thorough analysis, following an extensive measure phase.  After all, that is the strength of the Six Sigma DMAICT methodology.

So are 'Quick Wins' ever legitimate?  If so are there any guidelines for recognising when a solution fix might be implemented, even though the Six Sigma project is still in the measure or analyse phase?  In this article are just a few thoughts on the matter - by no means a definitive answer, but perhaps of help to the troubled Belt.

Assessing your organisation's culture . . . how well do you fare?
For many years people have wrestled with the concept of organisation culture - we know that what we have got is not what we want, but what do we want, and how do we know when we have got it?  Such issues become even more challenging when facing the fact that culture is one of the greatest influences on competitive edge, be it as a 'drag factor' or 'deliverer of competence'.The Organisation Culture Profile is a powerful tool that helps organisations from all walks of life to understand what it is that is stopping them from achieving their competitive potential, how they can get the best from their people, and engage everyone across their businesses in change.

Do you have a corporate JOHARI window?
The Johari Window is a model to help people to improve their self-insight and their relationships with other team members through personal disclosure and constructive feedback.  Named after Joe Luft and Harry Ingram, the model describes four types of information about people.

Six Sigma Process Improvement in a Nutshell
A brief excursion into the language and methodology of Six Sigma.  This article describes the key features of Six Sigma in a straightforward way and is suitable for distribution to those wanting to cut through the plethora of information and material on the subject.

To simplify or not to simplify?  That is the question . . .!
The article addresses the challenge of balancing the simplification of processes before implementing a new system against the time pressures involved in doing so.  An approach is outlined which leverages the knowledge in the organisation in a focused and effective way to drive actions which bring results.

Lean thinking in offices - does it really work?
Lean in the office environment - can it really work?  This article sets out to explain how Lean has matured and developed from the Toyota Production System to be applied in an office environment.  The latest work shows that Lean can be applied not just in traditional ‘paper factories’ where most of the work is of a transactional nature but also in a service environment where the processes are more discretionary or ‘considerative’.  The article also highlights the need to attack ‘Leadership Waste’ as well as the more obvious ‘Surface Wastes’ if you wish to create an environment of sustainable continuous improvement.

Quality Function Deployment: What's the problem?
Quality Function Deployment (QFD) has taken on a pivotal role in Design For Six Sigma – and indeed in New Product/Process Development frameworks in general.  Although QFD is conceptually simple and contains very little mathematical complexity, it has proven a difficult tool to use in practice.  This article attempts to explore the reasons behind this and thereby suggests how difficulties may be avoided.

More than a plaque on the wall
Six Sigma is about driving business performance and acknowledging the individual need for reward is more a means to an end, not the end in itself.  Learning the tools of Six Sigma requires huge individual commitment and many people seek some recognition for that.  A certificate recognising the competence of an individual as a Black or Green Belt is more than just a plaque on the wall.  The process of accreditation offers a number of benefits, not only for the project leader (the Belt), but for the business and for its Six Sigma deployment.

The Maturing Six Sigma Organisation : Train-the-Trainer
After around 18 months of Six Sigma deployment, typically after the second or third waves of projects, organisations come to appreciate the need to develop an independence from external consultancy support.  The Maturing Six Sigma Organisation : Train-the-Trainer describes a rigorous, phased approach to developing in-house expertise to further train Belts, launch more projects and win even more benefits from Six Sigma process improvement.

Mind your mindset
Mindsets are key to our being able to execute necessary, routine behaviour. The problem with mindsets is that once learned, they are difficult to unlearn. The changing business environment requires that we constantly question the 'learned behaviours' of the organisation. The inertial delay in changing a corporate mindset could lead to lost business opportunity, unprofitable product lines or even closure of the company. 

Do averages cause us to see mirages?
We, as managers, tend to make decisions based on averages but how risky are those decisions?  Considering the spread of the data as well as the average provides us with another dimension with which to help the decision-making process.  This article demonstrates how, using both measures, we can better quantify risks and make clearer decisions.

An introduction to Business Process Management
Business Process Management (BPM) is the conception, design, observation and continuous improvement of business processes.  Improved business performance is delivered by streamlining a process to remove causes of 'waste', and managing both its human and technological agents.  Often achieved with a degree of automation, BPM allows businesses to measure process performance with real-time statistics, and update their processes to optimise efficiency or respond to new ideas or external business events.

Contact Centre Case Study
An example Minitab Report examining call centre data.

Finding the positive in uncertainty
Being positive is a habit.  We can influence outcomes, the behaviours and responses of others by the way we are - make a difference by what we say and the way we say it.  Getting the right responses from people is critical in a change programme such as Six Sigma.

A few words about Z.shift=1.5
Discussion between a student and teacher about Z.shift and the approaches to its calculation.  The Six Sigma methodology states that when we don't have rational sub-grouping we can shift the Z value by 1.5.  As an alternative to the Z.shift=1.5, an inflation factor for the standard deviation is sometimes applied.  In particular: stdev LT=1.3*stdev ST.

Don't forget the softer side of Six Sigma!
People don't like doing things differently, they don't like change.  It turns out that in delivering a Six Sigma project that the soft stuff is the hard stuff!  Statistics alone will not create world class organisations.  Just as the DMAICT methodology provides a rigorous framework for conducting process and data analysis, the same rigour needs to be applied to the management of change.  Without appropriate consideration of the softer side of Six Sigma, many companies will achieve only short-lived benefits.

Can we trust the data?
As all organisations strive to improve their processes they will find the foundations of success are driven by the acquisition of good reliable data.  Measurement System Analysis (which includes Gauge Repeatability and Reproducibility) assesses the integrity of the data obtained from our measurement systems, allowing us to determine whether we can confidently use the data for the purposes of process control or improvement.

The gold at the end of the rainbow
"If I have seen further, it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants!" Sir Isaac Newton.  The body of knowledge builds upon that which was conceived before and is at the heart of 'learning'.  There is no end to the growth of human knowledge and inspiration; there is no limit to our ability to achieve; there are no boundaries to our creativity.

Six heads are better than one
Teams are being used to improve the competitive edge of the company and are at the heart of success of Six Sigma process improvement.  Four key areas are discussed: the make-up of the team, the project definition, the launch of the team and the ongoing support of the team.   

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The Six Sigma Group
5 Cottesbrooke Park,
Daventry, NN11 8YL
Telephone 01926 632888

SixSigma Group is part of Bourton Group LLP