Annalisa Caponera – Business Analysis/Business Improvement
“Lean Six Sigma provides excellent guidelines to
close performance gaps, but, as every methodology, without the right ingredients it remains generic or just theory.”
Thank you for accepting our interview request Annalisa, tell us something more about your background and actual job
Thanks to you. I am involved in business analysis and business improvement since 2004, mostly in IT services and engineering. At the moment I am collaborating with a non-profit association which provides free entertainment for families.
How would you define quality?
Quality is not an absolute concept, but rather the result of a comparison. The ISO 9000:2005 standard define Quality as the “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirement”.
The three most important elements able to influence a product or service’s ability to satisfy customer needs are:
- Quality of Design (A product needs to be designed to satisfy customer needs);
- Quality of Conformance (Closeness with which the finished product or supplied service matches the specifications of the original design);
- Quality of Reliability (ability of the finished product to provide trouble free performance in the field, over an acceptable time).
Lean Six Sigma involves all these elements.
How would you define Lean Management and Six Sigma?
Lean Management and Six Sigma are two good friends:
- Lean reduces waste by improving process flow;
- Six Sigma provide a structured problem solving process (DMAIC) focused to Improve quality by reducing variation.
Using both you get a faster and more efficient Problem Solving and Process Improving.
What are the different kinds of variations used in Six Sigma?
There are two types of variation:
- the common cause variation;
- the special causes variation.
The main differences between them are:
Common Causes Variation
Special Causes Variation
|Random variation (usual)||Non-random variation (unusual)|
|No pattern||May exhibit a pattern|
|Inherent in process||Assignable, explainable, controllable|
|Adjusting the process increases its variation||Adjusting the process decreases its variation|
Can you explain the different methodology for execution and design process in Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six sigma is based on DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyse-Improve-Control) and involves the improvement of an existent process, the design for Six Sigma (DFSS) instead is focused on the process generation and it is a proper PROJECT built to implement a new product/solution based on the customer needs.
Some of the differences between LSS and DFSS are described in the table below:
Design for Six Sigma (Project)
Lean Six Sigma (Processes)
|Based on DMAIC (Define Measure
Analyse Improve Control)
|Based on DMADV
(Define Measure Analyse Design Verify)
|generate processes (never done before)||improve processes (done repeatedly)|
|Implement a change||Create value by repeatedly performing a task|
|Objectives and plans can be changed
when the work is in progress by the
|Processes can be successfully
changed only with significant planning
and investment (a project is required
to change a process)
There are lots of BEST PRACTICE where companies used Lean Six Sigma. Why most of the companies think Lean Six Sigma is only theory?
Lean Six Sigma provides excellent guidelines to close performance gaps, but, as every methodology, without the right ingredients it remains generic or just theory. Best practices are very helpful but not enough to succeed, they need to be adapted to every single process so to have good results other elements must be considered like for example:
- a business strategy;
- the support of a project management methodology;
- a very good leader;
- an effective communication;
- a bottom-up approach;
Why do you think European companies do not believe in this powerful Management tool a lot?
I think that it is more a size issue than a liking one.
Lean Six Sigma is widely implemented in large multinational companies because the ROI achieved justifies the effort and covers the risks of misappropriate or misdirect Six Sigma applications.
The size of European companies, in average, is small or medium (Eurostat reports:
In terms of investment, this results in a lower capability to get risks and although there is a great interest for LSS and for the results that can reach, there is a certain fear to start with it. Since the number of successful cases is growing every day, I am confident that in few years LSS will get a greater consent in all the Old Continent, too.
Can you explain in concrete (please use bullet points) a LEAN SIX SIGMA PROJECT you work on?
My Lean Six Sigma Implementations are focused mostly on services. The project that I am going to describe is about the improvement of a tender participation process.
For every potential supplier the tender starts when an appropriate Invitation to Tender (ITT) has been identified. The ITT is a formal document that is published by a purchasing company in order to notify other companies that bids for a piece of work, project or service is required.
There are always fixed deadlines and strict rules to respect so a little mistake can compromise the participation of every potential supplier.
The project was focused to define a standard process of editing with no formal defects (respect of all rules and deadlines) and high standard of quality for the contents (good score) and his main characteristic has been the integration of LSS with Agile (SCRUM).
I used the DMAIC with the following roadmap:
- Project Charter;
- Project Plan: Gantt;
- Define Project Objectives, Business Cases, VoC and CTQ;
- Smart goals;
- Stakeholders Map;
- High Level Process Map (SIPOC).
- Verify the current performance of the process;
- Identify problems’ potential causes;
- Problems from Brainstorming;
- Value Stream Map;
- Data Collection Plan.
- Identify the 8 type of waste;
- Edit affinity and Pareto diagrams;
- Delays: error proofing with fishbone diagram.
- Solutions identification (Brainstorm);
- Choice of practical solutions;
- Step one: Method;
- Step two: Infrastructure;
- Step three: People;
- Design the best solution;
- Edit the new VSM.
- Story Board & BURNDOWN Charts (SCRUM).
The picture below highlights shortly the input the output and the tools used during t he project
Which advice would you give to a person who wants to study or become a Lean Six Sigma professional?
I have 4 advices:
- Learn to live with failure, it will never work well at the first try;
- Details make all the difference;
- A LSS professional is a servant manager/leader, don’t forget it;
- To be successful you need also leading, problem solving and coaching skills.
What should he/she start with?
Make some research first, and start with something simple just to have a general idea about Lean Six Sigma like an introductive book and then improve slowly, keeping the focus on what is important for your business.