Lean Six Sigma for SMEs


    Just finished a phone call with someone who wanted to ask some incisive questions on how and why
    Lean Six Sigma could be used in Small and Medium sized enterprises.

    Even before that, a very good question – Six Sigma talks about defects and other stuff in Manufacturing.
    What are defects in Services? What’s the value of all that Six Sigma talk?

    All good questions!

    Sometimes you miss the forest for the trees. Other times you miss the forest for the twigs!
    Worrying about defects and Six Sigma standard deviation adjustments by 1 sigma is one of
    those "missing the forest for the twigs" kind of thing!

    No wonder companies go through fads of the year and decade – TQM, Zero Defects, Customer Is
    King, "There is no I in Team" kinds of sloganeering. Smirks and resigned shrugs of the
    shoulder is what people get when you don’t get the essence of something but catch the
    superficial stuff. And superficial stuff is easy to catch than understand the essence of something and adapt it for use in your particular case. Universal rules are rare!

    Lean Six Sigma is essentially getting things done faster, better and cheaper (Speed, Quality and
    Cost) than your competitors and yourself, some periods ago.

    Now can a Small or Medium sized enterprise afford NOT to be faster, better and cheaper
    than a larger competitor or a nimbler SME competitor if they have any hope of surviving?

    Not a chance!

    If anything, SMEs have the advantage of lesser levels of hierarchy, quicker decision making
    and the freedom to try things out, as is absolutely necessary for SMEs. That’s the way
    to get bigger and not be an SME anymore!

    Think back about the excellent service you got from a plumber or a roofer or
    someone who provided a service at your house recently:

    — They gave you a good estimate, in that the final price was closest to the estimate,
       they showed up on time, fixed the problem properly and cleaned up after themselves
       (many Quantitative parameters here).

    — They were very knowledgeable, clear in their communications with you and left
       you with some good tips on something. Something that may avoid this problem for you in the future.
       (All Qualitative parameters here).

    These are the reasons you will call this person again, next time you have a similar problem.

    Metrics, measurement are even more crucial for SMEs than they are for larger organizations.
    Is it all about measuring everything and calculating statistics till the cows come home?

    That will be missing the forest for the twigs! It’s all about being very clear about what
    the KEY purpose of any process is, and how would you know if you have done it well and consistently?
    The use of appropriate metrics, measurement and targets!

    Excellence is a process that should occupy all our days.
     - Ted W. Engstrom