Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Measuring Success

I recently attended the project presentations by my latest group of six sigma green belt candidates. Their reports were all well prepared and the improvement results for their company were very good. As their course instructor, I felt proud of their accomplishments as each candidate told their project story.

With a six sigma project, we typically focus our attention on the accomplishments in reductions in variation, reduced PPM rates, elimination of a cause for failure, or customer satisfaction improvements. Similarly, kaizen events focus on accomplishments in reductions in floor space, reductions in inventory, productivity gains, or improved throughput flow. Just read any article on a lean success story or the stories from companies as winners of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, Industry Weeks Top 10 Plants, or the Shingo Prize and all focus primarily on the same metrics of success. All of these accomplishments are great and I could go in great detail on what my students reported but I won’t.

When I say “proud of their accomplishments”, it is not these typical accomplishments that are my primary interest. All these accomplishments are secondary to what should be the primary measure of success. What I am talking about is the personal development of each student. How did each candidate develop and grow? How each student was challenged? In other words, it is the “Respect for People” pillar found in the Toyota Way.

To hear each candidate share how they thought through their approach, why they used certain improvement tools, and figured out how to overcome barriers was exciting. To see each candidate energized by their project, stronger in their self confidence and excited to use their new skills on future opportunities for improvement made me proud.

It is not about the one time results of a six sigma project or kaizen event that should get our attention. It is how people are better skilled and better motivated for the future that should get us excited. It should be all about the quality and development of our people that we measure our success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perfectly put Mike. Seeing a student transform into a critically thinking problem solver is so rewarding. I once spent an extra hour working with a lady who just couldn't understand standard deviation. I went through the examples in our training material several times and finally she got it. When she did finally get it she almost welled up with tears as she said no one had ever spent so much time trying to help her understand something she just couldn't get. This is why I love my job! Great blog!!