5 Tools

5 tools I never leave home without!

I see plenty of lists containing tools and techniques used in Lean Six Sigma projects.

I don’t always agree with every item on every list but that can often come down to a matter of opinion. The lists I see are general to the term Lean Six Sigma so I thought I’d offer up a quick list of the Lean Six Sigma tools I believe fit really well into Service improvement (not manufacturing).

  1. SIPOC – A high-level process map detailing associated inputs and outputs. I would do this at least for my own understanding of what I’m actually looking at in terms of process scope. This approach can also really help with stakeholders in getting them to understand the concept of end to end processes and who the Customer actually is. More often than not the conversation you can drive from using this is where the value is at.
  1. Box Plots – A graphical representation used where you want to compare more than one data set. When it comes to comparing data sets this is the tool I always go to first. Box plots allow you to quickly compare data sets around averages, spread and variation. These displays are generally seen as part of the dark arts in service however when understood they become a staple part of Leaders decision making.
  1. IX Control Chart – a graphical display that allows you to see changes over time and predict process performance based on historical data. If box plots tell us a bit about variation, control charts can help complete the picture. They allow us to see variation over time and also make a decision on what type of action we should take next. There are many different types of control chart but I’ve only picked this one. That’s because plotting individual values (which is what the individuals or IX chart do) maintains the original data. The richness of learning and understanding of process performance is far better hence why I try to stick to this chart as much as possible.
  1. Excel – you know what this is right? It would be easy to forget about excel as part of this list but in truth, it’s at the centre of so much that we do. I personally would struggle to operate as effectively without having this as part of my armoury. And so often I see people using excel at about 5% of its actual capability. The power of this tool to underpin improvement approaches and projects is 2nd to none. I hear statistical tools such as Minitab talked about a lot but Excel can do all of that and more. Can Minitab be used for your project plan, as a data collection aid for the team or to automate a process? That’s why Excel is on my list. I’d go as far as saying it’s critical
  1. A pen, some paper and your ears! All of the brown paper posts its, Lean tools and Microsoft excel wizardry won’t get you anywhere in Service if you can’t grasp what matters to the Service user. In order to do this, I’d be going to the point of transaction with the Customer, using my ears to listen, and my pen to write down everything. Once you’ve done this enough times you start to get a feel for what is happening within the service from a Customer viewpoint and that’s essential learning for any service improvement project.

So that’s my list – not a conventional list of Lean Six Sigma tools out of the manual on the bookshelf but then again it shouldn’t be.

We all have slightly different approaches and things that work and that’s fine, I’m sure this list will evolve over time and I may well be posting a different 5 at some point later down the line.

What are your thoughts? Are there other Lean Six Sigma tools or techniques you never leave home without?