Monthly Archives

March 2017

Do you even use minitab

Do you even use Minitab..?

By Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma, Minitab, Tools

We recently redesigned our Black Belt course and we’re pretty pleased with the results and are getting some great feedback from delegates.

One of the major drivers for this work though was to weave MS Excel throughout the course.

If you’ve ever completed a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course then you were probably taught some statistical analysis using a software system called Minitab.

And chances are – especially if you work in service industries – that you’ve never ever used Minitab ever again.

Every time I ask a Black Belt if they use Minitab – the answer is always no. I think there are 2 main reasons for this:

  1. It’s expensive. It currently costs £1,030 for a license.
  2. It’s technically excessive for what you need.

I have run 100’s of improvement projects, most with some sort of statistical analysis involved. All of which was more than easily handled by MS Excel. Control charts, paretos, histograms, normal distributions, Design of Experiments – all handled perfectly well by MS Excel.

Granted, Minitab is a superior product. But superior isn’t always better. Kinda like how an articulated lorry is a better transport system than a van, but completely excessive if all you need to transport is a dozen bricks, right?

So what’s the point of learning about a good software package that you’ll never really need and never get the opportunity to use again?

I can’t think of a good answer to that.

Especially since MS Excel has made giant strides in terms of its capability. (Did you know in the 2016 version you can quickly and easily do histograms & box plots?)

So we took the decision to teach all the statistical elements of great Lean Six Sigma Black Belts and illustrated them with MS Excel. Better still, we’ve built templates for everything. You should see our Hypothesis Tester that Jason built – it’s pretty amazing.

What do you think? Are you a devotee of Minitab or do you use MS excel for all your analytical needs?

Service The right tools for the job

Service: The right tools for the job!

By Black Belt, Lean for Service, Lean Training

In recent times, I’ve found myself spending increased time training service sector individuals in Lean Six Sigma methods as opposed to on the job coaching. This presents a great opportunity to really underpin some of the methods and tools with knowledge and understanding but it did start me thinking….

Are we teaching them the right tools for the problems they will encounter?

To try and answer this question I found myself thinking back to my Yellow, Green and Black belt training and the tools and methods I had being shown. I decided it would be a good idea to re-acquaint myself with all the material, if only to validate the knowledge was still there lodged in my brain awaiting recall (It’s worth noting that for large parts of this I had a very large folder with lots of notes in front of me).

I failed miserably! I was able to recall around 70% of the knowledge but the other 30% was gone. How could I have forgotten that section about DoE response surface designs or that Box-Cox method for transforming data to a normal distribution…?!

The conclusion I reached was interesting….

The reason the 30% isn’t in there is because I’m not using it!

Wow. Could it be possible that nearly a third of what I have learned has been of so little use to me that I erased it from memory? Or should I be applying more of this in the work I do?

Reflecting on my improvement performance, I can honestly say that much of my training was of little use to me.

So why am I not using this 30%?

Simple. I’ve been working in service all this time but the training I’ve undertaken has been Lean Six Sigma training. Let me elaborate.

Lean and Six Sigma both have their roots in manufacturing. Over the years these methods have been brought into service and along with it the training of these methods. However, the training has struggled to evolve away from its roots to the extent that around a third of what I was shown is simply not required in Service-based improvements.

And so, what does this mean….back to our original question

Are we teaching them the right tools for the problems they will encounter?

Answer: No, not in a service context

The great thing about arriving at this space is that I’m not on my own. At Lean Consulting, we’ve recognised this and looked to do something about it, to the extent that we have designed what we believe to be the first real Lean Six Sigma Black Belt that focuses exclusively on Service.

Hopefully we can start to better equip individuals with the right tools for the job when solving problems in services.

Email is not the problem

Email is not the problem

By 5 Whys, Communication, Email, Lean Thinking, Productivity

Look at how many products are out there now all claiming to kill the horrible, nasty, useless, time-consuming, email.

Slack, Chatter, Yammer, Hipchat – and dozens more. All claiming to ‘solve’ the problem of email.

There is even a product called Shortmail which limits all email users to 500 characters (because apparently, the issue with emails is they are too long).

But all these systems miss the point and are trying to solve the symptom not the cause. The root cause of issues with email is poor communication skills not email itself.

You don’t solve the problem of poor communication skills by giving people a different platform to communicate on – you just transfer the problem to the new system

Email is awesome if you think about it. I can write a message and send that to anyone around the world in seconds. And it’s platform agnostic. You could be on Lotus Notes, Outlook or any number of web-based services and they all work with each other! Wonderful. In an age increasingly dominated by eco-system exclusivity, what a breath of fresh air.

But we’re all drowning in it. I get people want a way of ‘reclaiming’ their work day and getting out from underneath email.

So let’s practice some Lean skills and think about WHY we’re drowning in emails.

  • We receive too many emails. Why?
  • We include people on a message who don’t need to read it. Why?
  • We are including them just in case it becomes important later on. Why?
  • We are worried about doing the wrong thing. Why?
  • We lack the appropriate delegated authority or have micro-managers.

We could run this exercise over a few times and find different root causes of course – there isn’t just one.

There are all sorts of ideas and tricks on the web about how to better manager you email, but it seems to me that the real issue why you’re getting so much in the first place.

It takes seconds for someone to add your email to the address bar but in doing that – they’ve guaranteed to take up 5 minutes or more of your time in reading, filing and maybe replying to that email.

So that’s the behaviour that needs to change. And that’s why these alternatives to email become appealing – not because they offer any real solution to the problem, but because they represent change. It’s far simpler to change a system than it is to change people behaviour. Especially in larger organisations.

But that’s what really needs to happen. We need people’s behaviour to change. And it starts with thinking differently:

  • Does the person I’m including on this email need to read the content?
  • Would I physically write this email out 10 times to mail it to all these people?
  • Why am I copying in these people?
  • Would a catch up on the phone, face to face or even a quick meeting be a better use of everyone’s time?

I know one executive who’s trying to do this. They rarely respond to emails anymore, making it an unreliable medium for contacting them. The upshot of this? If it’s not important, people don’t bother emailing them (as they know they won’t read it). If it is important? They call, text or pop round to see him in person.

This works because adding someone to the CC field of an email is something we don’t even really think twice about. It’s so easy. But if you had to call that person – you wouldn’t bother them unless they really needed to know something.

Perhaps that should be the litmus test of whether someone is included on an email. Would I pick up the phone and speak to this person about this discussion? No – then don’t cc them.

It’s time we all took a little ownership about how to improve our communication skills – especially email.

Customer Journeys can be tricky buggers

Customer Journeys can be tricky buggers…

By Customer experience, Fintech, Lean Thinking, Management

Recently, we moved our business bank accounts from one of the major banks to another. We’d had repeatedly bad service to the point where going through the hassle of changing banks was better than stay where we were.

By and large, it’s been ok. Not great, but OK. Would I recommend our new bank? Probably not. Would I warn people not to use them? Probably not either.

I’m completely ‘meh’ about them. Here’s why.

Today, I received an email from them (a real email!) saying I had IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS added to my library. IF that wasn’t enough it went on to say “Please take some time to read it as soon as possible, as it may need a response.”

So I duly logged into my online banking to read this incredibly important message. You see, a few weeks ago I opened a second bank account with this bank.

I open my messages to find… a letter advising me that they have set up online banking for me.

They literally just told me to log into my online banking so I could read a letter confirming I have online banking! Obviously completely unnecessary.

It likely stems from moving all the old world paper-based comms into the digital world, without really taking the time to understand how the message changes or is impacted by the digital world. We see this all the time. A kind of ‘lift and shift’ from paper to digital. It creates a poor and clunky customer journey.

The problem with this is that they took up my time reading the email they sent me. More time logging into online banking with its 2 stage verification. Then downloading the letter itself and reading it. 10 minutes of my time wasted.

Things like this are important – not because it will make a customer leave, but because it’s death by 1000 cuts. It adds to my overall sense of being underwhelmed with the bank.

And there have been other examples of this. Like the time I first used their online banking. I went to pay all my staff and they flagged all the payments as potential fraud. I had to call them to verify the payments. Extra layers of security including explaining what each payment was for (why would they need to know that!?). When I asked why these had been flagged, the response?

“Well sir, you have to admit it’s highly suspicious when you’ve only had your account open for a few weeks and you start making large payments. Of course it’s going to trigger an alert with us”.

It’s a business bank account! Of course there are going to be large transactions moving through it.

I can’t be the only employer out there who pay’s their staff, right? Or have I got this whole running a business thing mixed up?

I have more little examples of time wasting but I’ve taken up enough of yours. I won’t be leaving the bank unless (until?) things start to go really bad, but I won’t be advocating them to anyone. No referral business will be generated from me.

And that’s a missed opportunity if I ever saw one.