Monday, February 7, 2011

Implementing Six Sigma and Lean - A Practical Guide to Tools and Techniques

Author:        Ron Basu
Published:    2009
Publisher:    Butterworth-Heinemann
Paperback: 376 pages
Readers in India

The author's objective is to provide a single source of reference tools and techniques commonly used in  any  quality initiatives especially - Six Sigma  and Lean -  in a comprehensive, user-friendly and hands-on book.
The book is divided in four parts:

  • Part 1: The Foundations of Quality . Deals with some of the fundamentals and the perception of quality which varies significantly depending on the type of industry, economy and culture. 
  • Part 2: Tools . Provides the definition, application, examples and training requirements of tools. It contains five chapters structured in the sequence of probable tools used in  Six Sigma methodology - DMAIC.
  • Part 3: Techniques . Gives complete coverage of advanced quantitative techniques and team based qualitative techniques supported by examples, training requirements, benefits and pitfalls.
  • Part 4: Implementation . This part provides a step-by-step approach of making it happen in all types of organization. Case studies are included to offer a practical insight of their applications. 14 Case studies are presented, however I wish at least one case study could have been from the software industry.
For more details on chapter wise coverage refer the preview of Table of Contents at 

The author makes a clear distinction between the terms "tools" and "techniques" which are interchangeably used in many books. 
He says "A single ‘ tool ’ may be described as a device which has a clear role and defined application. A ‘ technique ’ , on the other hand, may be viewed as a collection of tools".
The book describes:

  • 38 Tools (e.g. SIPOC Diagram, Control Charts, SWOT Analysis, Value Stream Mapping etc.)
  • 7 Quantitative Techniques - FMEA, SPC, QFD, DOE, DMAIC, DFSS and Monte Carlo Simulation
  • 8 Qualitative Techniques - Benchmarking, Balanced Scorecard, EFQM, Sales and Operations Planning, Kanban, Activity Based Costing, QMS and Lean Thinking
For every tool and technique:

  • Definition, application, basic steps and worked-out examples are provided.
  • Training requirements , prerequisites and suggested duration are specified
  • Both the benefits and pitfalls have been clearly stated so that a user can obtain a balanced view of the technique without being unduly influenced by its popularity, fashion or fad

This book also has an appendix describing in brief  14  popular Management Models, since they can help assess the 'big picture' of the business scenario and reduce the complexities involved in quality management.
The models described include - Ansoff's product/market matrix, BCG Matrix, McKinsey 7-S framework. 

The author also proposes his own methodology  FIT SIGMA which he claims will sustain Lean Six Sigma Implementation. It has  four additional features embedded in the Lean Six Sigma philosophy:

1. A formal Senior Management Review process at regular intervals, similar to the Sales and Operational planning process.
2. Periodic self-assessment with a structured checklist which is formalised by a certification or award, similar to EFQM award but with more emphasis on self-assessment.
3. A continuous learning and knowledge management programme.
4. The extension of the programme across the whole business with the shifting of the theme of variation control  of Six Sigma to the integration of a seamless organisation.

While I agree with the above points, I don't consider FIT SIGMA a very novel approach. It is just a branded common sense, found in several other quality programs too.

On the whole a very useful book for non-IT people ! Useful for IT professionals too, however since there are hardly any examples from IT industry, they need to put in some extra effort to see how they can map these tools and techniques to their day-to-day work.

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