Control Plans are not very sexy, but are necessary!

It’s human nature to feel good about effecting positive change.  Perhaps you have removed some unnecessary steps from a process and now it is easier to perform a task.  Or you have modified the way that work was being done and now there is less rework.  Maybe your team has agreed on a more effective way to communicate and share information among various working groups.  It could be that you identified some “critical X’s” to control and now there is less variation in the process.  In any case, making small improvements that have a large effect can produce a great deal of satisfaction.  After all, this is why we invested time and effort – to become better at whatever we do.  It’s time to celebrate!

Unfortunately, improvements can be temporary.  After the team disbands, the process can revert back to the previous condition or people drift back to the old way of doing things.  Without something to prevent this regression, it is only a matter of time before any improvements (and the associated benefits) are in the rear view mirror. In the Lean Six Sigma world, the tool that is most often used to maintain the gains is a Control Plan.  It is the centerpiece of the “C” step in the DMAIC methodology.  A control plan should be used whenever you want to keep hard-won improvements in place.

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Fail often! Encourage continuous improvement with trial and error

 “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”  – Winston Churchill

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Greg was always naturally curious.

As a boy, he would tinker in his father’s workshop, often taking things apart just to see how they worked (much to the annoyance of Dad).  He would take various things from the shop and piece them together, hoping to make something new – something that was his.  In science class, students were paired up to make model rockets.  failEveryone was given the same materials and a solid rocket engine.  On “launch” day, the model rockets were ignited on the football field.  All the rockets hurtled skyward for several hundred feet before the fuel was exhausted and they floated back to earth.  Except for one.  Greg and his lab partner’s rocket whistled out of sight – never to be seen again.  When quizzed about what he did, Greg just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I just changed a few things that I thought could make it go higher.  I guess it worked.”

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When identifying continuous improvement opportunities, small defects can be a big deal to your customers

Anyone who travels often has a story to tell about an unpleasant experience with air travel.  Many of these stories revolve around weather, cancelled flights, rude passengers, sitting on a runway, etc.  I want to share a set of personal observations that prompted me to think about the perception of quality.

Actually, this particular day started out as quite routine.  The check-in, security, and boarding processes were uneventful – just the way you would like them to be!  I took my seat and soon the flight attendant was giving the usual announcements.  You know the drill…

“place your smaller items under your seats…you must be willing and able to aid the flight attendants in case of an emergency if you are in the exit row…laptops cannot be placed in your seatback pocket…”

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