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Project Tools

Blog posts about statistical and practical tools used to manage quality improvement projects including Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.

Your Lean Six Sigma project resulted in tremendous process improvement. It's time to share the results. To help people understand your data quickly and clearly -- especially if they don’t know statistics -- you need graphs.Statistical software lets us use a wide array of graphs to display data, depending on what we want to convey. So why restrict yourself to pie or bar charts, when there are many... Continue Reading
Control charts are simple but very powerful tools that can help you determine whether a process is in control (meaning it has only random, normal variation) or out of control (meaning it shows unusual variation, probably due to a "special cause"). In an earlier post, I wrote about the common elements that all control charts share: upper and lower control limits, an expected variation region, and... Continue Reading
I’m relatively new to Lean Six Sigma terminologies and when I first heard someone refer to a “poka yoke,” I thought, “hmm… that must be a new dance move.” I quickly learned that a poka yoke is not a new way to get funky on the dance floor—but rather a term coined by Japanese industrial process engineer Shigeo Shingo to refer to methods that can be used to “mistake-proof” a process.Keeping your... Continue Reading
Gantt charts are helpful for quality improvement projects because they establish a graphical time line of various activities and their start and finish dates. They can keep your projects organized and completed on time.They’re especially helpful early on in the planning stages because they force you to identify the major steps of the project and estimate the time you and your team will need to... Continue Reading
There's a scene in the movie Apocalypse Now where Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is puzzling over what his commanders have asked him to do, and even why they're asking him to do it. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that his project really hasn't been very well thought out. If the commanders in the film had been Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, I wonder how the narrative would have changed. I... Continue Reading
NASA launched its final space shuttle mission last Friday morning with Atlantis’ last journey to the International Space Station. Do the fiery orange flames lifting the shuttle into the sky remind you of anything on a lean value stream map? I thought they looked strikingly similar to a kaizen burst! So in honor of NASA's last mission, I think the comparison makes for a good opportunity to... Continue Reading
I recently came across a good post about fishbone diagrams on Christian Paulsen's Lean Leadership blog.  Fishbones (also called cause-and-effect, C&E or Ishikawa diagrams) help you brainstorm potential causes of a problem--and see relationships among potential causes. Brainstorming frequently gets a bad rap.  Some people have had bad experiences with brainstorming sessions that were too loose, and... Continue Reading
Value stream mapping is a tremendously valuable tool for improving a process, but it requires patience and careful attention to details.  In an earlier post, I shared some value stream map guidelines to help ensure that the energy you invest pays off.  Here are some additional items to consider.  Identify critical paths and bottlenecks.Your map may reveal a number of potential areas... Continue Reading
Value stream mapping is a cornerstone of the Lean process improvement methodology, and also is a recognized tool used in Six Sigma. A value stream map illustrates the flow of materials and information as a product or service moves through a process. Creating a “current state” value stream map can help you identify waste and also makes it easier to envision an improved state for process in the... Continue Reading