I write a great deal about the difference between Lean and Six Sigma and Kaizen on the production floor and in the office. As much as many of us are figuring out that the same tools can be used in those very different environments with some translation for context, the training in the tools and methods hasn’t caught up.
I still see that the common norm is for everyone in an organization to be taught the same methodology and tools in the context of production process improvement. Absolutely, it is good, in my opinion, for everyone to be shown and educated in the improvement methodology of the organization. Continuous improvement must be a cultural endeavor, and a culture cannot be established among just a few of the group.
Unfortunately, because the context of the training is that of the production floor, a great many of those being educated do not perceive how the methods or tools are meaningful to them. In fact, they get frustrated that they must sit through several days worth of training that they know they will never apply. I could go on, again, about how we need to adjust our training to suit our personnel’s actual work, but instead I’d like to show each of us how we can try and do our own translation.
This message is for everyone, including the Continuous Improvement (CI) experts. The tools and methods taught for the purposes of production process improvement are not exclusive tools. They are merely tools to help organize and communicate information and ideas. Given that, we can use them in any, yes any, context where we need to organize information and communicate ideas.
For example, one of my favorite development tools is the Function Analysis System Technique (FAST) diagram. It is a tool developed for the design of products and I learned it as part of the Value Management or Value Engineering methodology. Simply put, the FAST diagram begins with a list of key functions and outputs that a solution must accomplish, and then builds a tree of functions and features necessary to fulfill the objective.
The FAST diagram is constructed and can be read from two directions at once. Starting at the left, we have our desired outcome. As we move to the right of the diagram we are answering the question, “How?”