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Lean Six Sigma, people and politicians

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If there’s one thing that people and politicians alike can agree on it’s that tax dollars are constantly being wasted. Not only that but even when investigations are performed there’s hardly ever any means to hold one agency accountable. So much for Weber’s ideal bureaucratic model, how effective has that been? It’s time to try implementing something new, something fresh. Like lean six sigma! What is Six sigma you ask? Why it’s all the rage! I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it by now. Its helped businesses like GE and motorola save billions of dollars in the last few decades but the federal government has yet to give it a try.

Six sigma is a systematic approach to improve the process. It starts by observation finding what it is that the system is trying to accomplish as well as how it is received by consumers. The consumers in this case would be the citizens. Then it assesses the objective alongside the consumers feedback in order to determine the quality. Putting this to use in government for example might allow us to tackle the problem of over regulation. This occurs when many different agencies are given jurisdiction over the same areas, items or events. Like toilet seats. Thanks to Senator Ted Cruz’s speaking out against the government’s violation of the 10th amendment we now know just how invasive Uncle Sam can be when it comes to our most private habits. When it comes to toilet seats at least three different agencies have authority to tell anyone who owns a building what constitutes proper facilities.

This over regulation mandates that the building owners must be in compliance with not just OSHA standards but be in accordance with the  Americans with disabilities act, the International association of plumbing and mechanical officials and the Mine Safety and Health administration for some reason just to name a few. Yet there’s another problem in complying with all of their standards, not only does this prove troublesome for some building owners but these regulations make the experience uncomfortable for many public restroom users. While it may not sound like a big deal the thought of paying several different agencies millions of dollars a year to inspect and enforce these regulations only to wind up with something that you are discouraged from using gets many people a little triggered.

If that doesn’t make for a convincing argument there’s also the matter of school lunches where the FDA and the USDA fight over defining what constitutes a vegetable. Meanwhile most school lunch programs are contracted out to private companies and then a change takes place that costs the company, it winds up costing the taxpayers instead.

Embracing lean six sigma would help us understand what it is that people want and give us the most cost effective way to give it to them. Seeing how feedback lies at the core of the concept it can only grow to strengthen our democracy.

Why Career Development And Training Is Imperative In Your Organization

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Employees are the backbone of every organization, and it is therefore in every company’s interest to invest in the career development and training needs of their employees.  The development of employees is often used as a strategic tool towards the continued growth of an organization. When employees are developed, a company will realize higher productivity and high retention.

The key to successful employee development is aligning the employees’ career goals with those of the organization so that it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.

Why Career Development & Training Is Necessary

There are several reasons why organizations must take part in their employees’ career development and training, and they include social and demographic trends. As times change so do trends the industry. These changes have forced organizations to ensure that their employees are equipped to carry out their functions in our changing world so as to ensure the organization stay relevant and competitive.

The other reason companies implement career development and training in the workplace is when they realize that there are limited opportunities for advancement of their employees. It is easier and in many cases cheaper to train existing employees than it is to bring in new ones and induct them into the organization’s culture.  A high employee turnover destabilizes the company ultimately affecting the bottom line.

How To Successfully Implement Career Development & Training

The first step in implement a career development and training strategy for your employees involves communicating with them so as to identify what their individual career aspirations are. You also need to reintroduce them to the organization’s goals so that they can see how their individual career goals align with that of the organization and how they can develop their career given the various platforms available in the organization.

You’ll also need to analyse the needs of the organization against the skill set of your employees. By doing this, you identify any gaps and the best way to fill them. Will you outsource some of the work? Can you train your current employees so that they handle new or multiple tasks to meet organizational objectives? What specialized training is needed? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, you can move on to the next step.

The next step involves creating a training plan and budget. The training plan and budget are based on both the constraints and needs of the organization. Ideally, you should use the departmental objectives and goals to develop your employees. This is because employees need to be equipped to combat the challenges that come with the organizational goals.

Sigma Strategic Business Consult Ltd

Career development and training of employees is imperative in every organization. You need a trusted and qualified firm to help you make this possible and Sigma Strategic Business Consultant Ltd is your best option. SigmaStrat, a wholly Ghanaian owned multinational company which serves clients internationally through its offices in Ghana and Kenya and with strategic partnerships in Europe, Asia and America, is accredited by the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), Montreal, Canada. Sigma Strategic Business Consult Ltd is recognized by the World Bank and the Government of Ghana and has won international awards including Training Service Provider of the Year in 2014 and Business Strategy Firm of the Year in 2013 by a UK based business publication, at the M&A Awards. When you choose SigmaStrat you choose our international reputation for being THE team Development and Performance Improvement People. With over a hundred years combined experience in business growth, we will give you the best career development and training solutions in the market.

SigmaStrat is your solution to guaranteed success.

Put your money where your mouth is

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If you walked into a banking hall or mobile telecom service center today you would find exciting posters and purported valuable doohickeys which seek to depict excellence as their schtick. It’s not uncommon to find many businesses gussied up for the stage while they struggle behind the scenes to make a headway. I wrote about People, Technology and Processes in my previous article. This is my little attempt to waft the aroma of business excellence. I’d like to zoom in on processes today. You manage your suppliers, revenue, cash flows, inventory, distribution and personnel. Why would you not manage the processes that make sure all these things work together effectively? My compatriot Steve Ball puts it this way that Business Process Mapping is a satellite navigation system for your business. “Without it you probably will reach your destination,” he says. “But the journey will take you longer, you’ll find out there are a lot of dead ends out there, you will feel lost sometimes or worst of all (for the men) we might have to stop and ask someone for directions.” I am E Kweku Haizel. I bet you would rather go dear hunting looking at your target through the crosshairs of a Kalashnikov. Get in touch and let’s work this out together. At SigmaStrat we will be able to walk you and your organization through a CI journey that would propel you and your organization higher.

Stop throwing money at business problems

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Business leaders place resources into operations and do expect optimal returns. Many times, CEOs and managers resort to throwing money at problems in a bid to obtain the required results. Sometimes, the idea that money answers all organizational problems is “seductive.” But the seduction is about as real as the beautiful/handsome person across the room winking at us, only to discover it was a stray eyelash causing the winking. I’ll tell you what is NOT a secret and not intended to be foisted on your good selves as anything ‘ex cathedra’. It is that to adequately rake in returns you would need to improve your People, optimize the use of Technology, and streamline your Processes. At SigmaStrat we will be able to walk you and your organization through a CI journey that would propel you and your organization higher.

The Lean Church

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The Lean Church

Gods work is business. Luke 2:49 says ‘And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’.  In Matthew 25:14-31 and Luke 19:12-28, we understand that people who make use of the resources God avails to his people are considered ‘good and faithful servants’. Can we say this of today’s ‘everyday’ Christian? Let’s think about how church itself is run. A local church starts in a classroom. Members get preached to. They engage in prayer, fasting and evangelism and get more members. The church expands and they start making contributions toward getting into a bigger auditorium. Members contribute until there is donor fatigue. Some even leave the church because their perception changes. As to whether those remaining are just growing in terms of numbers or in depth of knowledge, ‘by their fruits…you shall know them.’ A few more ‘new believers’ join and some of the old members leave or become less and less committed because someone has offended them or nobody visited them when they were sick. The story continues on and on and one without anybody realising that there is a problem to be solved. What would you do if this was your business? What do you do if your customers leave you? How does it affect your profitability? Remember that the owner of the ‘business’ is God. God expects us to run His business in a way that glorifies Him. Remember what made the wicked servant wicked? 1 Peter 5:2 says ‘Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;’

Prayer is key to doing God’s work. We need to take territories by prayer. We also need to evangelise and feed the flock with green grass. But what do we do after that? What other effort can we put in place to ensure we are continually building on what God has placed under our care.

One of the techniques that businesses are using to drive down waste, improve customer satisfaction and improve bottom line performance is Lean Six Sigma. I never imagined that lean principles could be combined with religious principles. But two men in Wisconsin are doing exactly that, creating the concept of what they call Lean Ministry.

Their goal is to achieve spiritual transformation and continuous spiritual improvement.  And yes, they really are applying lean principles to achieve that goal.

One of the two is Charles Duffert, a retired Naval officer and business executive who currently teaches lean and six sigma methodologies at a junior college. The other is Dr. Tom Nebel, Director of Church Multiplication and Leadership Teams for Converge Worldwide – the new mission name of the Baptist General Conference.

If the goal of a lean manufacturer is to focus on creating value for customers, Duffert and Nebel suggest that the goal of a lean church is to focus its resources on the transformation of its people.

Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. Indeed many aspects of life in general are prone to waste. In Lean Six Sigma, types of waste have been categorised by the acronym DOWNTIME: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilised talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Extra-processing.

Examples of these in the church setting include:

Overproduction: Teaching or preaching to large batches of disciples at the same time under the assumption that they are all in need of the same message and are all at the same place on the timeline of the transformation process.

Extra-processing: Separating the congregation into batches by age or gender and placing them in classes with the assumption that God transforms people by age and gender. Also, music, instruments, worship teams, choirs and other productions having more entertainment value than impact on the transformation process.

According to Pande et. al., the “Ideal Six Sigma Roadmap” consists of five steps:

1. Identify core processes and key customers;
2. Define customer requirements;
3. Measure current performance;
4. Prioritize, analyze, and implement improvements; and
5. Expand and integrate the Six Sigma system.

This sounds basic. Right? It becomes even more outstanding when you think about what you are trying to achieve here.

How good is 99.9%?

Approximately 4 million babies are born in the U.S. annually. If the probability of taking home the correct baby was only 99.9%, then 4,000 families would leave with the wrong baby each year…Yes 4000. So we need to take a second look at what we consider ‘OK’ when it comes to God’s business.

“Six Sigma” describes any process which successfully meets all customer requirements 999,997 times out of 1,000,000. In other words, by attaining 6 sigma, you would have taken the time to ensure that given 1,000,000 opportunities, there can only be 3.4 defects. Your efficiency is 99.9999966%.

Lean Six Sigma uses a model in the acronym DMAIC in its problem solving approach.

DEFINE: To bring about any improvement, you need to know what the problem really is. Is it attendance, spirituality, contributions, loyalty, engagement with scriptures, etc.). Is it a real problem? Determine what excellent would look like and what is ‘critical to the customer’ about what you’re trying to improve?

MEASURE: You would then need to put this into actionable terms and determine a goal that is attainable but challenging. The goal should be measureable. In fact ‘SMART’ as we know it. This could be for example: number of new memory verses learned by members per month, new members per month, donations per member per month, tithe payment per month etc.

ANALYZE: This phase deals with understanding why the problem occurring. Use “5 why’s” to get to the real root of the problem. Again, what’s critical to the customer? If it’s attendance, why are people staying home? Because they have better things to do on a Sunday? Why? Because watching football is more exciting than sitting in a sermon? Why? Because football provides social stimulation? It’s exciting? Folks don’t have to dress up? Etc.. Get to the root of the customer expectations.

IMPROVE: Once you’ve really found the problem, then you can tackle this step. Map out the process to find out every relevant step taken in the existing process. What one thing could you do to solve the underlying problem?

CONTROL: Continue to measure, to see if the steps you’ve taken are working. Stay in tune with the customer to see if they perceive the problem improving. Control the improvements, and continue tweaking. Now, move on to the next problem.

I would end with explanations of a few of the jargons and acronyms used in Lean Six Sigma with the hope of driving the point home.

CPI or CI is Continuous Performance Improvement, which begins with Continuous Personal Improvement. Continuous Personal Improvement is the process of sanctification.
Sigma = standard deviation = missing the mark = sin. The closer we can get to the designer’s intent, the more consistently we can deliver the “ideal” to those around us. Missing the mark may not mean falling outside of the specification limits, but always has a cost to society.
Spec limits = the law. Think 10 Commandments. Thou shalt not…. doesn’t tell us what we should be doing — only what we shouldn’t. Focus on the law begs us to challenge every little activity as acceptable or not acceptable (“don’t commit adultery” is the law, but does that mean I can still flirt? Can I read baudy magazines?). Focus on the law will always lead our eyes away from the true goal, and will always have a cost to society. But, focusing on the ideal state — on the designer’s intent or the “middle” of the specification will always drive down variation, because our focus is continuous improvement rather than “good enough”.

The correlation between CPI / Lean / Six Sigma and the Christian walk is truly one-to-one. As you grow in performance improvement training and thinking, you will increasingly find that your job becomes a mission and a calling rather than just work. You become His hands and feet, transforming the world to a better place for everyone around you, for God’s glory.

Credits: This write up includes views and notes from thought leaders, writers and bloggers such as John Porcaro Bruce Hoppe; Scott Bonney, E.Kweku Haizel, and many others.


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Customer service is the practice of providing customers with a positive and helpful experience, like a brand, it’s what the customer perceives and remembers of the product they used or the service they received.

So voice of a customer is crucial, it’s the driving factor of any organization to deliver quality products/services, conformance to customer’s needs, and developed products/services demanded in the market.

The “voice of the customer” is a process used to capture the requirements/feedback from the customer (internal or external) to provide the customers with the best in class service/product quality. This process is all about being proactive and constantly innovative to capture the changing requirements of the customers with time.

In customer service provision, the voice of the customer represents the aspects which the customers expect or demand from a product and how this can be translated to more specific relevant aspects of the process, this helps firms prioritize goals consistent to the specific customer requirements.

The customer either internal or external, is always the most important focal point for a Lean Six Sigma project.

Lean Six Sigma’s main goal is organizational survival and/or growth through superior and improving customer satisfaction.

Lean incorporates customers in the supply chain and allows them to pull the product through the supply chain which increases process speed whilst Six Sigma focuses on the customer as a source to define what aspects of a certain process are critical to quality.

The Lean speed and Six Sigma quality are brought together in Lean Six Sigma to be able to fulfill the delivery and process control requirements according to the Voice of the Customer.

Many companies tend to focus much on their revenues and forget to manage the expenses. Many realize the need for being lean just because of the realization of emerging competition and technology capability from rivals or other countries who can produce the same quality product at an extremely lower rate by being more efficient and managing their expenses better.

Most people would agree that customers are the most important part of a business – no customers, no business. In order to be successful, a business must know who its customers are and what the expectations of those customers are for the product or service the business sells. In Six Sigma, that process is known as identifying the voice of the customer (VOC). The key to having success in that process is gathering customer data and converting it into measurable critical-to-satisfaction elements.

 Tony Watima – SigmaStrat

Organisational Culture lies in the Vision

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Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo, ranked the eighth on the list of most powerful businesswoman in America of 2013, believes that strong companies have strong cultures, each has unique and individual flavor.

So what are Corporate cultures?

It understood as a shared common resource, a pattern of assumptions, beliefs and behaviors while coping with problems of external adaptation and internal integration.

Dave Dufield co-founder of People Soft described corporate culture saying “our true competence is our culture, that’s what attracts people and keep them here. It also helps sell to customers. Customers want to work with companies that are competent, trustworthy and fun”

Organizational cultures are created, maintained, or transformed by people. An organization’s culture is, in part, also created and maintained by the organization’s leadership. Leaders at the executive level are the principle source for the generation and re-infusion of an organization’s ideology, articulation of core values and specification of norms.

It believed that companies with strong cultures generally perform better than those with weak cultures, but only when the cultural content is appropriate for the organization’s environment.

But rapid growth enterprises are facing many unique management challenges. One of the challenges is that the management environment is constantly changing and leadership roles rapidly evolving.

So there is need to maintain a strong innovative culture despite a constant influx of new employees and ever-expanding product line that must be developed in the face of limited resources.

Business expansion presents myriad issues that have to be addressed. Growth causes a variety of changes all of which present different managerial, legal and financial challenges.

Growth means that new employees will be hired who will be looking to the top management of the company for leadership.

Growth means that the company’s management will become less and less centralized and this may raise the levels of internal politics, protectionism and dissension over what goals and projects the company should pursue.

Growth means that market share will expand calling for new strategies for dealing with larger competitors.

Growth means that additional capital will be required creating new responsibilities to shareholders, investors and institutional leaders.

Thus growth brings with it a variety of changes in the company’s structure, needs and objectives.

When Marissa Mayer was appointed the CEO of Yahoo in 2012, the company was suffering from team work and diminishing quality of work as the primary motives to the company’s struggling performance thus gradually losing its market share.

She decided to take an inventory of Yahoo’s culture and work practices, assessed workforce interaction as a principal productivity driver and then realized that a cultural shift was necessary.

She says that it’s around strong Corporate cultures that you find the energy and then enhance that energy into innovation. She is quoted saying “You can take that energy around culture and find fun ways to apply it to engage users”

First change Mayer made was that employees were no longer provided the option of work from home but must be physically present in an office space. It didn’t end there, she also reformed Yahoo’s hiring policy in which she now personally reviews every new hire after they’ve been assessed by a team of colleagues.

Mayer then set her eyes focused on the mobile platform as Yahoo’s new frontier market Yahoo.

Second strategy for Mayer was to turn around Yahoo by enticing the current users; she re-launched Yahoo mobile apps, redesigned the Flickr photo service and released a cleaner search results page.

Inspired by her former employer Google often buying small companies in order to gain talented staffers, Mayer’s spin on that strategy is now a key part of her plan to turn around the struggling Yahoo and also a glimpse at how she views the company’s future.

Almost all startups Yahoo has bought were centered on mobile content, apps and services. From all the acquisitions Mayer has made, most have been shut down and talent brought on Yahoo mobile team.

She is pulling in people who are excited about mobile, people who want to build a winning culture. Her strategy is to use these companies these companies’ technology to enhance and improve what Yahoo already has.

The few companies that have survived are Tumblr, gaming infrastructure creator Playerscale and Video app Qwiki which have been integrated into Yahoo’s core businesses which are in four areas; core business (content, apps and search), Social, Gaming, Video (Chat and Conferencing).

Mayers main strategy has been to make Yahoo a company that builds products’ people are excited to use every day.

A culture change in Yahoo has now been defined that the smart, innovative workers can get some attention while others will either unlock new potential or move on to some where similar to the old yahoo.

And with her strategy, Marissa Mayer has got the markets’ attention.

Yahoo’s advertising market share may look gloomy but its focus now is on adding content and updating advert formats to their site which promises to turn the outlook around.

Recently Yahoo has announced their recent first quarter results and had surpassed market expectations, first quarter revenues grew 1% over the year to $1.09 Billion when the market was looking for revenue of $ 1.08 Billion. Yahoo has also reported a 30% growth in mobile user base to 430 Million.

A company’s culture reflects what its leaders believe will make the company sustainably successful.

For many companies, Yahoo’s “aqui-hire” strategy is capital intensive to afford, because if Mayer wasn’t able to selling part of the company shares to Ali Baba, Yahoo wouldn’t have the financial muscle to acqui-hire the promising start up.

A good contrary example to Yahoo’s strategy in expansion and still maintains their culture is Bank of America’s, which moved away from Acquisition strategy to organic growth.

In 2001 Bank of America was positioned well, its strategy of mergers and acquisitions had made the company a coast-to-coast powerhouse with significant competitive advantages, including a national customer base of 27 million households; small, middle market and corporate customers in the nation’s hottest growth markets; a diverse and stable mix of blue chip businesses; world-class executive management and a strong focus on the bottom line.

Unfortunately, the company was not so well-positioned when it came to providing its customers with the kind of world-class performance that would lead to customer acquisition, retention, loyalty and revenue growth. Account growth was always stagnant.

The then-new Bank of America chairman and CEO Kenneth D. Lewis announced a major strategic shift for the company, from growth through acquisition and merger to organic growth—acquiring, retaining and deepening profitable customer relationships.

Lewis and other top executives determined Bank of America needed a more rigorous, disciplined and comprehensive approach to process improvement and decided to adopt a quality program based on Six Sigma.

Goslee moved to change the culture by changing expectations, an enterprise-wide metric was established for customer delight, replacing product and channel centric customer satisfaction research.

Its goal was to contribute about $1 billion per year toward the company’s revenue growth and expense-reduction efforts, which was achieved, the bank reaped about $2 billion in revenue gains and cost saving.

By October 2003, Six Sigma had penetrated Bank of America’s culture; the Bank was now handling almost 200 customer transactions per second, faster and more accurately than ever, same day payments had improved by more than 36% and deposit processing had improved by 47%.

In 2004, the Bank of America reaped a record $14.1 in profits.

By 2005, online banking had became a big success for Bank of America, the bank’s 19.8 million online customers typically applied for more loans, made more deposits and were 30% more profitable to the bank than its other customers.

In 2005 when the Bank of America merged with FleetBoston Financial, creating the first banking institution with a truly national scope that served approximately 33 million consumers in the United States, with leading or strong market shares throughout the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest and West Coast.

The success of merger between Bank of America and FleetBoston Financial was attributed to the six sigma linkage, both companies were using Six Sigma successfully in recent years to streamline processes, improve quality, efficiency and accuracy, and to free up capital for strategic investment, creating one corporate culture.

On many occasions, it been argued that internationalization (process of increasing involvement in international operations) can cause culture change.

Internationalization constitutes a phenomenon which affects the entire organization, a process affecting the entire organization, rendering the relevant organizational environment more international and calling for organizational adaptations.

But the intrinsic definition and perspective of internationalization should be viewed as an inward process whereby, it is bringing the new foreign operations within the boundaries of a firm.

The key objective for commercially oriented firms is to continuously put large efforts in give high quality products and services in the market. This leverage is not found in the targeted market during the expansion process but within the organization environment.

Firms only have to increase flexibility since customer requirements are increasingly becoming demanding, unique and volatile in order to maximize profits which require little strategy adjustments but still be able to maintain your core corporate cultures.