Dr Shigeo Shingo’s observation that "Time is not the same as Timing" is some of the Truest and Practical advice about Process Improvement if you get the Zen of what he is saying!
He is saying that in many business processes, the actual time taken to do an operation is miniscule compared to the time taken to get around to doing it! This means that whether you are in the Doctor’s Office waiting for a doctor to spend 10 minutes with you or your car that was damaged in an auto accident is in the repair shop, the waste is really in waiting time rather than the actual time taken to do the repairs.
I want to digress for a moment and come back to this topic.
Many large corporations do not want to specifically mention Six Sigma or Lean Methodology or The Toyota Production System in particular for fear of setting overly optimistic expectations for the results that they may or may not produce!
Many corporations have been bitten badly before – Total Quality Management, Quality Circles, Zero Defects, Quality is King!, Process Reengineering!, you name it! They have become jokes within many companies. They are branded as "Quality Approach of the Month", people
pretend to care and they die a natural death.
I have started hearing about Six Sigma the same way. In our interactions with prospects for our company, I am hearing about how Six Sigma does not really address the question of Waste in business processes.
The odd thing is that the same companies are convinced that it is very useful but only when the timing for it is right. Many Six Sigma efforts are currently looking at small portions of larger end-to-end processes and improvements they make at the smaller levels are failing to impress people higher up that the entire business process has improved. On the contrary they may be creating additional problems. I can see why! If I have a Six Sigma effort that improves the Order Processing part of ane end to end process, how do we know that the orders can be fulfilled by manufacturing and shipping down the end to end process stream?
This brings us full circle to "Time is not the same as Timing".
Companies want to make sure that a business process is "Lean" first and then apply Six Sigma to it so that it is a stable process that performs as expected with measurements applied to everything that makes sense for that business process.
We have heard from banking companies that say, if my mortgage loan process takes 21 days and I am sure there is about 15 days of waste and waiting in there, the order of the day is to apply Lean techniques to shorten that cycle time first. Then we can worry about
applying Six Sigma techniques to make sure that the shortened process that is devoid of waste is stable and performing as expected!
Let’s hope Six Sigma is not thrown out as a fad of the day in large corporations since it could be very useful, but only if it is applied at the right time after making sure that the process is as lean as possible in the first place!
Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.
— Hesiod (Greek poets, "the father of Greek didactic poetry", 700bc)