Reader Question: Project Handoffs

A reader of the blog recently sent me the following question.

Ron,

I have a question. Here at my “office” we’ve been doing LSS for about two years now. After a successful Green/Black belt project completion we “hand it over” to the Process Owner, usually. In some cases, we “hand it over” to a Focus Group (a group of people who determine how to immediately replicate to new process to several locations simultaneously). This has proven to have less than desirable outcomes.

The Process Owners receive instructions from the Focus Group on how to implement the new process, and later are “assessed” on how well they have “stuck to the plan”. If further process improvement (formal or informal) changes the process after it’s been passed to the Process Owner that becomes a “bad thing”. It’s no longer about “Is your process under control” it’s about compliance to the Focus Group’s instructions.

A process needs to stay under control, not necessarily under compliance. This is a subtle difference, but an important one to CPI. Continuous process improvement should allow for process change after the validation tollgate, as long as the new process remains under control. The control limits may change, the metrics plan may change, and even if the process doesn’t look the same, as long as it’s still under control it’s a lean/six sigma success for the Process Owner.

I’m sure others have had some experiences with this, and I’m looking for stories to help guide us in replicating successful projects better.

If there is a knock on the traditional DMAIC (Six Sigma) philosophy (which I love for the record) it is the fallacy that the control phase is the end of improvement. It’s not.

What is being described above (the whole “compliance” thing) is not continuous improvement and should stop – in my opinion.

You see continuous improvement is just that – continuous. It doesn’t stop – ever – and any “process owner” or “focus group” that feels they hold the keys to success should realize how much they are limiting their organizations.

With this said, there is something to ensuring standard work and/or control plans are being followed and if that is what the focus group is promoting I am OK with this. But even if this is the case standard work is meant to be improved. That’s why Taiichi Ohno used to say, “Without standards there can be no kaizen.”

I have actually blogged about this very topic before when another individual asked me if I thought the control phase was dictatorial. Part of my reply to that particular question was:

Finally, after some thought and reading Jon’s comments I also learned that I must personally work to promote more of a continuous – kaizen like – mindset when teaching six sigma.

You see, we must NEVER stop improving a process after implementing the control phase. Why? Well it’s quite simple. I firmly believe it is easier to keep making things a little better than it is to hold gains in place. Let’s all be honest – plotting control charts can be a little boring while working on improving the process is quite fun!

To read the whole post please check out Six Sigma Control Phase is Not Anti-Lean.

Thanks for the great question and if anyone ever has a question or wants my opinion on something please be sure to email me.

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3 Comments

  1. Matt Meyers

    December 13, 2007 - 11:26 am

    Two things

    1) I think that the term “hand it over” implies that the process owner was not intimately involved with the improvement. Transitioning through the control phase should be seamless. The process owner still owns the process during the improvement phase, and so is involved with the improvements. I hope that I’m picking on semantics, and that this is not really a distinct “hand-off”. That could be part of the problem.

    2) The Focus Group also sounds like it is not involved with the project from day 1. It is was, the transition would again be seamless, and there then might be no misunderstanding between compliance and control. It also sounds like the Focus Group is not connected to the process that was improved, because if it was, the Group would be aware of any additional improvements and take that into consideration during the assessment.

    Basically, I think that the Focus Group is to disconnected from all of the processes and from the improvement process itself to be effective. Sounds like “Seagull Management”.

  2. Ted Simonson

    December 13, 2007 - 5:35 pm

    Excellent post and I second your thoughts Ron. I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the great work.

  3. Ron Pereira

    December 14, 2007 - 8:28 am

    Thanks for the comments guys.