In October we published the 25 Essential Tools for every Lean Six Sigma project, and we got a great response. You all wanted to know what we put in our top 25, but also had your opinions about what you’d leave out or add to the mix.
With this in mind, we asked the Master Black Belts at 100% Effective and some of our contacts which tools they use to tackle problems and projects.
“Black Belts need to learn to use the right tool at the right time. The more experienced you are as a Black Belt, the easier it is to know what tool to use. Typically every project will use the suite of define tools, Process Mapping of some kind, cause and effect diagrams, brainstorming and data collection planning,” said John Wellwood, Managing Director at 100% Effective.
His favourite tools are Swimlane Process Mapping, stakeholder analysis, decision matrixes and QFD. However, he says he rarely uses Visual Stream Mapping (VSM) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).
With experience across a broad range of companies, sectors and industries around the world, John explained that the way Lean Six Sigma helps you tackle a project is largely the same based, as it is, in the DMAIC structure, with alterations made to tailor the approach to the specific circumstances – something he says Black Belts learn with experience.
Our newest addition to the 100% Effective team, Jules Attard told us his favourite tools are SIPOC, Process Mapping and graphical analysis.
“Not only are they generally applicable to any problem, they can also be explained to others.”
Jules added that, with rare exceptions, senior stakeholders prefer information in visual form as they tend not to have the time or patience for long-winded explanations.
Nevertheless, there are one or two tools he’d love to use that never seem appropriate, particularly Design of Experiments.
“I have not used it for 10 years, despite wanting to. There are just so few opportunities to use it.”
Others we asked said it depended on what they were using the tools for. Daryl Smith, Director at DLAS Solutions, said that the tools he uses most are not always associated with “full blown projects”.
“Sometimes I use these to obtain a quick result, therefore for me it will be; Problem statements, Process Mapping, SIPOC, VSM, 5S, SOPs, 5 Whys and Fishbone.”
It seems the tools you fall back on again and again are those you are not only most comfortable with, but also give you the best return on your investment of time; tools that will deliver a lot of data for a relatively small input, and which can be used throughout the project.
However, while the day to day tools varied from person to person depending on their background and industry, everyone we spoke to stressed the importance of VOC and the soft skills relating to change management.
This is an important point to remember; your solution may the excellent but unless you get the buy-in from everyone in the organisation who will be using it, it will fail.
So, what are your favourite tools? Let us know in the comments box below.