The combining a lean principles and six sigma tools to identify variation in a process have revolutionized business process improvement all over the world. The combining of these two disciplines has created a means to improves process by observing the root causes of velocity and quality issues in any type of business.
Here is a video explaining Lean Six Sigma and Process Capability. Enjoy!
I am always being asked this key question “Can Lean Six Sigma deliver results?”
It is critically important to determine the real needs of any business before embarking on a particular path towards implementing any improvement program. Many companies are implementing and using Lean Six Sigma tools to drive their cost reduction program to improve productivity. However, they may be biting off more than they need to chew on to deliver fast and profitable results. Here is an interesting article by Chris Turner on Lean Certification Online.
Can Lean Six Sigma Deliver Results?
Over the years, I have seen many improvement systems come and go. Every week there seems to be a book introducing another buzzword and proposing a new method for improving your business processes. Amid all the hype, there is one key question for any business owner to ask; “Are any of these new systems effective?” Lean Six Sigma is one such process improvement system that has been getting lots of attention and is driving companies to jump onto the buzzword bandwagon.
Each week, I receive several calls from companies asking me about Lean Six Sigma and how they can implement a program to support their continuous process improvement. The conversation always starts with a clear statement from the person on the phone telling me that they want to implement a Lean Six Sigma program and asking if I can help them to achieve this goal? My response to their inquiry is; “What are you hoping to achieve by doing this?” Now, all I hear is silence!
After a few moments, I hear; “What do you mean, what are we hoping to achieve by implementing a Lean Six Sigma program? We want to improve our business processes and cut costs. Isn’t that what a Lean Six Sigma program is supposed to do? ” As you can see at this point the person is absolutely convinced that a Lean Six Sigma program is going to improve their processes and cut costs. The problem is that neither of these are guaranteed, that is, process improvement and/or cutting costs when implementing a Lean Six Sigma program. Wow, most people’s jaw start to drop at this point in the conversation. So let me explain!
When you start delving into the reasons why most companies want to implement a Lean Six Sigma program, it is usually because they have heard about other organizations that have used it, and they are convinced that they need it to stay competitive. However, after an in depth analysis of their current business operating system, you find that they do not need it after all. Why is this? Well, it’s because they do not have the internal capabilities to develop the infrastructure to support the implementation of a full blown Lean Six Sigma program. They do not have the internal discipline to drive the process.
What the analysis shows is that they need something that will give focused improvement, and deliver fast results. To achieve this they need to start introducing lean principles with some basic problem solving tools. To do anything else would be like trying to crack a walnut using a sledgehammer. It would be a clear case of overkill! I can tell you that 98% of the companies I work with do not need to implement a Six Sigma program. I know, at this point in the conversation most people are tuning out and have stopped listening to my heretic ramblings. How dare you say such things?
Here’s what Ishikawa, the father of quality circles had to say about it. “95% of all process problems can be solved using the seven basic quality tools.”These are simple to teach and easy to use problem solving tools.
Cause and Effect Diagram, also called the Ishikawa Diagram or Fishbone Chart.
Stratification, which is sometimes replaced with the Run Chart or Flow Chart.
So, you might want to go beyond the hype, and re-think your desire to implement Lean Six Sigma as your improvement program of choice. There are easier ways to get fast, and positive results. Put away the proverbial sledgehammer and focus on what you are trying to achieve, and the best way to get there.
I think this is an informative article that might get people to start thinking about the needs of their business rather than believing the hype about Lean Six Sigma. I know from experience that implementing Lean Six Sigma is not easy, and it can be frustrating too. I agree with the advice to really look at what your organization is capable of supporting. Hopefully, this will stop business owners and management teams from trying to fit their organizations into a round hole when they really need a square one. They need to start their process by asking the question “Can Lean Six Sigma deliver results?”
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We have been hearing a lot of talk lately about the state of healthcare. With an aging population, it is becoming a very expensive process to provide adequate healthcare to all who need it. Once you get past the political rhetoric, there are a few simple facts that are beyond dispute.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 12.8% of the U.S. population is 65 years and over. This number is expected to double in size over the next 25 years. By 2030 almost 1 out of 5 Americans, some 72 million people – will be 65 years or older. In fact, the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is the age group 85 and older.
This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it really is when you look at it from a supply and demand perspective. According to a survey conducted by Press Ganey Associates in 2007, U.S. emergency patients spent an average of 4 hours and 5 minutes in the emergency department. The question is: Are patients harmed by long wait times? In 2006, the Institute of Medicine released a report, which found there was “a growing concern” that a patient having to wait is affecting their level of care. It also stated that waiting could “result in a patient experiencing protracted pain and suffering and delays in diagnosis and treatment.” The aging population is and will continue to overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system and is creating a fragmented care process.
According to OECD data, American health care is a prime example of the consequences of fragmented care: high costs (40% higher than the next most expensive nation), injuries to patients (between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans dying in hospitals each year due to errors in their care), unscientific care (500 percent variation in rates of some surgical procedures from city to city), and poor service. Patients with chronic diseases — who account for 75 percent of all health care expenditures — are most vulnerable.
What is the answer to this growing problem? Is it a matter of throwing more money at the problem? How can we save the next patient from being harmed as a consequence of the next medical error? The answer will astonish many because we need to go to the automobile industry for the solution. In fact, the Toyota Production System (TPS) is where we find the methods to help improve the healthcare system. How do I know this? Well, there are many examples throughout the U.S. and the world where healthcare facilities have implemented programs using Lean principles from the Toyota Production System to help identify and eliminate waste.
What is demonstrated by using Lean principles is that most hospitals are not designed for sick people. The medical facilities are designed to fulfill functional requirements of the healthcare process and staff needs. The result of this type of hospital design is patients have to be moved or transported from one process to the next.
A typical process will start with a patient going to registration in one part of the building. Next, the patient will check-in with someone in another department to take their vital signs, and maybe they need to give specimens (urine, blood, etc.) in another department somewhere else. After several lengthy waiting periods, and visits to different floor levels and multiple elevator rides the patient will arrive at their main destination. This is the actual reason for them being at the hospital, which is to see a physician for a diagnosis and treatment. For a cancer patient, this is chemotherapy, for an emergency patient this is to have their condition examined and stabilized. After their treatment, they may be discharged to go home, or there could be more tests required, which means more travel time to other departments.
In a Lean Enterprise, the customer is the primary focus. Every improvement is the result of seeing the production and delivery process from the customer’s perspective. Hospitals are now starting to implement the same approach in the delivery of healthcare. I often work with the staff in hospitals, and I find them to be hard working and dedicated people. The problem is they are overworked and overwhelmed because of the bureaucracy and organizational structures they work with. However, working harder is not going to change the process, it will only exacerbate the problem. So, what is the solution?
We need to get everyone to work smarter, not harder! This means getting everyone involved in the healthcare process to become a problem solver. The people who live and breathe the daily challenges are the medical staff and patients. Training hospital staff to understand Lean principles and how to implement them to identify and eliminate waste is the first step. Organizing them into improvement (kaizen) teams to find solutions to improve their service to the patient is the second step. Implementing both steps will dramatically improve the patient’s experience.
If you are interested in learning about Lean Principles check out the Lean Healthcare Online website. All of their Lean training is online and available 24/7. To see more information about the Level 1 – Lean Awareness in Healthcare training…click here
Every business needs to know about Strategy Deployment!
So, why is strategy deployment so important?
It’s very important for any business to have a clear understanding of what is stopping it from achieving success. Without knowing this important piece of information they will continue to repeat the same mistakes. However, that everyone should know is there are no failures, only results. An organization just has to find the right result to match their needs!
Strategy Deployment helps any business to learn about themselves. It creates a common focus for everyone in the organization. This focus is called a “vision”. Often a vision is referred to as the companies “North Star.”
Strategy Deployment is like a compass, it helps a company to get its bearings and know its moving in the right direction!
The Japanese term for Strategy Deployment is “Hoshin Kanri.” The term for Strategy Deployment is aligned with the concept of a compass guiding a traveler to help them determine the direction of magnetic North or the North Star. Many companies have successfully implemented Strategy Deployment to guide their business process improvement projects to align with their own North Star or vision.
Many organizations struggle with the need to improve their business processes and maintain their revenue stream. Business Process Improvement requires time and money. It s therefore very important for a business to ensure they are putting their money into sound improvement projects.
Many companies lose their way and find it difficult to get back on track. A great tool for helping any business to do this is “Strategy Deployment.” It is an easy system to learn and implement throughout an organization. It does require a change in thinking and the discipline to follow through with the defined activities.
It’s very important for any business to have a clear understanding of what is stopping it from achieving success. Without knowing this important piece of information they will continue to repeat the same mistakes. There are no failures, only results.
It’s very important for any business to have a clear understanding of what is stopping it from achieving success. Without knowing this important piece of information they will continue to repeat the same mistakes. There are no failures, only results.
Many companies lose their way and find it difficult to get back on track. A great tool for helping any business to do this is “Strategy Deployment.” It is an easy system to learn and implement throughout an organization. It does require a change in thinking and the discipline to follow through with the defined activities. Click to check out one of our other websites for training about Strategy Deployment.
I received a call the other day from someone enquiring about Lean Certification. He told me that he wanted to sign up for my Lean Certification training course. I asked why he was doing this. What was his motivation for obtaining lean certification? He was surprised that I asked him this question. “Isn’t it obvious why I would want to do this”, he said! I was not really sure to be honest. I assumed he was trying to improve his knowledge of lean principles or something like this. I was dead wrong! He was doing it because his boss told him that it was the only way he was going to be accepted as a member on the company’s improvement team. Our conversation made me think about the misinformation that has been generated that has led to this perception. The consequence is that business owners think that lean knowledge is only acceptable when it comes in the form of lean certification. Here are three common myths about lean certification that I want to share to dispel this belief.
Myth #1: People who attain lean certification make better practitioners!
This is probably the worst myth of all. It is a statement that is perpetuated by people who follow an academic mindset toward increasing knowledge and learning. The problem is that it is incorrect. It is the same as saying that someone with a degree achieves a higher level of job performance than someone without one. Where is the evidence to prove it? It is a statement based on biased opinions and not supported by data. Over the years, I have seen people who did not have a high school diploma achieve amazing results using lean principles when they were given the right learning environment. No lean certification here!
Lean is a process of learning by doing. A more technical way of presenting this is to say that application of lean principles is a method of converting declarative knowledge (cognitive learning) from a book, video, workshop, etc., into procedural knowledge (tasks or activities) to improve the performance of the workplace. The time required for a person to become proficient at a specific task is known as their” learning curve.” In fact, it is the amount of time a person needs to convert the information in their head into the correct physical activities to create the best results. The learning curve applies to everyone whether they have obtained lean certification or not.
The only way to learn about lean principles is through practice, which is implementing them into the workplace. Practice makes perfect and delivers results. If this can be done with the assistance of a lean sensei or mentor this is a better proposition because the learning curve will be shorter. A person with a lean certification can prove one thing, and it is that they received standardized information about lean principles. It certainly does not prove that they are more capable of improving workplace performance. Lean application, experience and measurable results are the only ways to prove if anyone can truly call themselves a lean practitioner. A lean certification is an acknowledgement of formal training.
Myth #2: Lean Certification training from an accredited organization is better!
Find any company with an opening for a lean practitioner and then take a look at their job description. What you will probably find is that they require the person to have attained lean certification from an accredited college or university. What does this really mean? Why are they required to have attended an accredited establishment? What does accreditation really mean? Is this a valid requirement for this type of lean certification?
This is the definition of accreditation according to the folks at the business dictionary online: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accreditation.html
Certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity of an agency, firm, group, or person, awarded by a duly recognized and respected accrediting organization.
In other words, the accreditation process ensures that their lean certification practices are acceptable, typically meaning that they are competent to test and certify third parties, behave ethically and employ suitable quality assurance. Extract was quoted from http://www.answers.com/topic/accreditation.
So, what are the differences between accredited and non-accredited organizations? The accredited organization can issue Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) with their lean certification training. A non-accredited training organization cannot issue CEU’s. Does this mean that receiving lean certification training from a non-accredited organization is worse? Not at all, because most are professional training and consulting businesses that generate revenues from teaching their clients Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) practices such as Lean Principles and Six Sigma. They have clients that are in the Fortune 500 class. Do you think these companies would use any organization that does not have the capabilities for delivering the best lean certification training to their employees? Of course not! The only reason for attaining lean certification with an accredited institution is to receive CEU’s and have their prestigious logo on your certificate. However, you will pay much more for the privilege of having these.
Myth #3: Lean Certification will guarantee a successfully lean implementation, every time!
Here is a scenario. I am the CEO of a company, and I just paid for 20 people to attain lean certification with a known accredited institution. I have brought all twenty people into the training room. My purpose is to try to solve a problem that has plagued the company since its inception. As the CEO I am working on three core beliefs:
All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they are well trained and understand all they need to know about lean principles.
All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they can use lean principles to identify and eliminate the root cause of the problem.
All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they have the ability to work together as a team to solve the problem.
Are these three core beliefs correct? Is the CEO doing the right thing? What do you think?
These three assumptions are “Wrong, Wrong and Wrong again.” Why would I say this?
This level of thinking has led people to believe that education is the answer to everything. The problem is that education does what it states, it educates people and improves their level of knowledge to attain lean certification. It does not necessarily demonstrate how to apply this newly acquired knowledge into a practical real-time situation. Even if this does happen, it would probably be presented in a form of a case study from a fictitious company or something similar. At best, there are limited examples of the practical application of lean knowledge during lean certification training.
The twenty people in the room are at the beginning of their application learning curve. It is a new experience, and they have no mental model to help them to assimilate their classroom experience. They are probably feeling lost and have no idea what to do next. They are worried about getting it wrong and making a huge mistake. So, what is the best way to use the limited experience of these twenty team members to achieve the desired result?
Use the services of a lean sensei or mentor to take the team through a few events to help them find their feet. This will shorten their learning curve and reduce the possibility of them making any major mistakes. This will help build confidence and bolster their own abilities to apply lean principles in a working environment. Using a mentor will also help the team members to learn how to structure the improvement events. It will help them to gain a better understanding, about how they need to work together to achieve their goal.
I am not opposed to lean certification, in fact, I support it. I have been responsible for facilitating lean certification training in many businesses over the years. What I am opposed to is the belief that it is the only way to create lean thinking in an organization. In my view, this is so alien to the original concepts that were established by the pioneers of lean thinking such as Henry Ford, Sakichi Toyoda, and Taiichi Ohno. The concept of kaizen is small incremental changes over time. What is included in the kaizen process is the learning experience for every individual involved. Each small improvement builds on the previous one till it eventually creates a different type of culture. An ideal one is a learning culture that uses problem solving to reach the next level. The importance of learning is explained perfectly in this quote from the Chinese philosopher Confucius. “Without learning, the foolish become wise.” Therefore, choose your lean certification based on the quality of the program, not the name of the institution!
Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, where learners have 24/7 access to online lean training materials. To learn more about lean certification training click here
How Lean Management is using a new cost model to stay ahead of their competitors!
In this article, I want to take a look at the advantages of lean management and its effect on any business. There is a direct correlation between the style of management and the success of any business. Why is this? All business owners, no matter what type of field they are in are trying to make a profit. However, to understand an important business process we need to start by asking a simple question “what is profit?” A traditional business owner will say that profit is the difference between costs incurred to produce an item and the selling price to the customer. In a traditional company, the costs incurred are usually production costs, which include raw materials, labor and overhead. Profit is the amount of money added on top of the production costs to generate the selling price of a finished product. They used a traditional cost model or formula for calculating the selling price for a finished product.
Traditional Cost Model: Selling Price = Production Costs + Profit
In today’s global markets, there are very few companies that are driven by supply and demand in the traditional sense. Today, the world markets are consumer driven, which changes the dynamics of selling and setting the sales price for any item. What does this mean for the business owner? It means they must realize that, unless they are in a niche market, there are hundreds of companies competing for the same customers. Therefore, the traditional formula for calculating profit is not going to work in this business environment. Companies must use a different formula to ensure their selling prices are competitive in the global markets. However, if they set their prices too high the consumer will not purchase their products because they will be too expensive compared to other similar products. If they set their sales prices too low they will reduce their profit margins, and this will impact overall business growth. So, what does a company need to do to compete in global markets?
As we moved into the 21st century the old business cost model has changed dramatically, to one of collaboration between consumers and businesses. Product branding has become the buzz word for any items being sold in these new vibrant global markets. Countries like India and China are expanding economies that are generating huge numbers of new consumers. In the traditional cost model, higher prices were due to higher demand and a limited supply. However, today it is the opposite! The demand for products is still high but the selling prices of finished goods are determined by the consumer, not the business owner. If the consumer believes the selling price is too high they will go find another business selling the same item at a cheaper price. The internet has made the world a smaller place for the consumer in that they can purchase products from anywhere in the world. Modern companies are turning to lean management to change their way of thinking and developing a better understanding of what consumers want and how to meet their needs.
What is Lean Management?
Lean Management is using lean thinking to improve business practices by implementing lean principles to identify and eliminate waste. This has created a paradigm shift in business strategy and product development for the 21st century. The consumer driven markets also demand a new cost model for any business to stay competitive and thrive. A lean management team understands the needs of the global markets and how to establish a new level of thinking about setting the selling price of their products. There is a new lean cost model for defining the selling price of a product.
Lean Cost Model is: Profit = Selling Price – Production Costs
A lean cost model is forcing companies to review their current business practices to reduce costs and increase profits. The reason for this is because the selling price is determined by customer demand. Lean Management teams understand that they have no control over the selling price, this is determined by the consumer, and therefore, they must find ways to reduce costs. Forward thinking companies are developing lean management teams to use lean principles to improve the quality of their products, while at the same tie reducing costs. The consumer has many choices to take their business anywhere they want to. The business owner has one choice, and that is to find a way to reduce costs. Lean Management is helping them to do this more cost effecively, click hereto learn more…
Getting beyond the hype is improtant whe it comes to implementing Lean and/or Six Sigma?
Which one first, Lean or Six Sigma?
The Lean vs. Six Sigma discussion continues to roll on. Which is the best system for a business to adopt? Which one
will deliver the best results? Which one gives fast results? What are the implementation cost difference’s between a Lean and a Six Sigma program? These are typical questions that get asked in this long running comparison between Lean and Six Sigma.
There are three factors that will influence any management team to decide on Lean or Six Sigma:
Complexity of the business processes.
Dollar amount available in the training budget.
Discipline of management team to execute improvement initiatives.
1. Complexity of the business processes:
Any business with a high level of complexity in its processes will require an improvement program that can meet the demands of the customer by using a more analytical approach. These types of businesses will use Lean to stabilize their processes and Six Sigma to reduce variation and improve quality. These types of organizations operate in a more academic or scientific level of industry such as chip manufacturers, software developers, etc.
Any business with a lower level of complexity needs an improvement program that can meet the demands of its customers by identifying and eliminating waste using basic Lean principles and problem solving tools. Kaoru Ishikawa stated, ” that 95% of all problems could be solved using seven basic quality tools.” These seven tools are:
Flow Chart ( or Value Stream Map)
Cause & Effect Diagram
Organizations that have successfully implemented Lean Principles use most, if not all of these seven quality tools as part of their Problem Solving toolkit. In conjunction with the “5 Why’s”, the Lean toolkit can become a very effective set of tools to help identify and eliminate waste.
2. Dollar amount available in the training budget.
Traditionally, companies will spend less than 3% of their revenue on training. The Lean vs. Six Sigma discussion raises a legitimate question: “How much does it cost to implement each system?” Well one thing I know for sure is that Lean is a much cheaper system to implement than Six Sigma. Why is this? Six Sigma requires specialist training to develop a core group of green and black belts to run projects. This training is much more complex and expensive than teaching your employees to understand Lean principles and how to apply them. So, why do companies adopt Six Sigmas if it is more expensive to implement than Lean?
It is easy to answer this question by using the comparison I used earlier in this article. “If a business can improve its process using seven basic quality tools and lean principles, why would they want to implement a Six Sigma program?” I think the answer is obvious, they would only do this if they had complex processes or were influenced by the hype that Six Sigma is the ultimate silver bullet to solve all of their problems and improve performance. Lean is easy and relatively much more cost effective to implement compared to the overall cost of a Six Sigma program.
3. Discipline of management team to execute improvement initiatives.
In the end it really does not matter how much a business pays for any system if the management team lacks the discipline to implement any of their improvement initiatives. During the 27 years I have been working in the Continuous Process Improvement field, it is amazing how many companies do not execute their own strategic or tactical initiatives. The best plan in the world is useless unless it is converted into action. The cost of training employees to understand Lean or Six Sigma in one thing. However, the cost of taking several employees away from their daily productive work to participate in an improvement team and their ideas are not used is the worst kind of waste.
To summarize the article, I would recommend that any company start their Continuous Process Improvement journey by first implementing Lean principles and the seven problem solving tools. Employee training can be done on-site or online. If you’re interested in signing up for a free access to Lean training, click here. When business processes have been stabilized through the application of Standardized Work using Lean princples, then and only then would I personally consider implementing a six sigma or a lean six sigma program.
Answer these 3 critical questions before trying to implement lean principles into any type of business.
If a company can’t answer these three simple questions about how they plan to use lean principles they are doomed to failure!
The most common question I am asked is “What is the best way to implement lean principles into a business?” The answer will depend on how the business owners can define three critical factors about why they want to use lean principles :
Are you a willing to embrace a system of thinking that will challenge your current business model?
Are you willing to create a business environment that will support the implementation of lean principles?
Are you willing to start to see problems as opportunities for improvement rather than a necessary evil of doing business?
If you are thinking of implementing lean principles into your company and you answered “No” to any of the three questions above, stop reading this article because its not for you.
I know. You are probably surprised that I am ready to challenge you to go do something else, instead of asking you to continue to read more of this article. So, why would I be willing to do this, instead of just telling you more about lean principles?
If any business owner can’t answer “Yes” to these three key questions, their company is not ready to implement Lean Principles. The reason I am so sure that this is true is based on many years of experience working in the continuous process improvement field. To many business owners pay lip service to it, instead of doing it. Action always speaks louder than words!
Accepting change is the first step towards implementing lean principles into any business!
Change is a condition driven by a need, and it always starts as a thought process. The first part of the process is when someone starts thinking about change and how it will impact their environment. Next, the thinking moves into research, where the person starts to look for tools and techniques. They start to learn about the different applications and may decide to choose to understand more about lean methods. In other words, they become aware of lean principles and start to do deeper research into how they are used.
The call for change usually starts at the tactical or operational level of an organization such as on the shop floor or in an office. The person wanting to implement lean principles will often be a Team Lead, Supervisor or Line Manager, who read a book, went to a seminar or knows someone who works at a company that successfully implemented lean principles. They will start to implement their own changes to help them learn more about how lean techniques are capable of improving their workplace. Some will be successful. However, most will fail and give up. Why is this?
Adults are natural problem solvers. They desire to understand the reasons why and how things actually happen. If left to their own devices they will slowly learn and find ways to improve their environments. History demonstrates this process to be true. However, the one thing that stops this process dead in its tracks is when those in charge refuse to accept change. The same happens in a business.
Executives and managers are often focused on what they consider to be important issues involved in the day to day running of the business. However, the question here is: Are they focused on the “urgent” or the “important”? This is a very simple but significant distinction. Most are entrenched into the re-active cycle of focusing on the “urgent” issues. A few see the light and move towards the more pro-active cycle of looking at what’s “important”. Lean Manufacturing, Lean Healthcare and Lean Administration all focus employees on the lean process of identifying and eliminating waste or muda.
Bringing about change in any organization requires perseverance and discipline. Implementing lean principles needs these and more. If management does not embrace the need for change it will not happen because employees will feel disempowered by the lack of support.
About the Author:
Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, where learners have 24/7 access to online lean training materials. To learn more about lean principles click here
The purpose of this article is to get you to ask this question: “Are you satisfying your customer?” This seems like a pretty straightforward question. However, it is not always that easy to get a straight-forward answer. Most business owners will tell you that they are “definitely satisfying their customer needs.” How do they know for sure? Are they telling the truth? Or, are they in denial?
The follow-up question will always throw them if you dare to ask it: “Where’s your metrics to prove it.” BAM…WHAM…KAPOW! A this point in the conversation you’re either going to be shown the door, or experience an awkward silence followed by rapid change of subject. It seems perfectly normal to ask an executive management team to share their customer satisfaction feedback or their on-time delivery metrics to demonstrate their ability to fulfill their customer needs. In fact, you would think they would be extremely excited to let you see them! If they are truly satisfying their customer needs, they are consistently delivering their products or services to them on time, every time, right?
You see the problem with asking the question is that the answer you receive is not always grounded in reality; it’s often based on perception. So, does this means they are telling lies or being dishonest? No, of course not, they are simply seeing things from a different perspective, and that is all fine and dandy. What is based on reality? How do we get to see the real picture? Well, that would be simply a matter of listening to what your customers are saying about your products and services. A business owner or management team can fool themselves, and many do but they cannot fool their customers, well not for long anyway! You see, in the 21st century, a customer has many choices and they can and will change their supplier at any time if they are unhappy with them.
So, back to the original question: can your business satisfy customer needs, or not? I have created a simple flow chart that will guide you through an easy process to discover what and how you are dealing with the current situation in your company when it comes to customer needs. Take a look at the graphic to see the customer needs algorithm. Click here to see a larger size.
Answer the first question and then follow the path to see where it leads you. Now, you get the chance to become a character in your own version of Alice in Wonderland as you follow the white rabbit. However, try to keep a tight grip on reality as you enter and go deeper into the rabbit hole.
If you answer the first question honestly, it will clearly identify whether your company’s has the ability to satisfy customer needs or not, and it will tell you what action to take. On the other hand, if you’re in denial, or unaware of the reality of your current situation, it will lead you to where you believe your company is today, and it will tell you what action to take. Enjoy your journey down the rabbit hole!
Make sure you read my next post to get the next installment about the way companies deal with this issue and try to answer the questions: Are you satisfying your customers? If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends and colleagues by email, or the social media buttons below.
If you enjoyed reading this article: Are You Satisfying Your Customers?