How to Conduct Lean Six Sigma Tollgate Reviews
Informal reviews on the progress of your Lean Six Sigma , Six Sigma or Lean project on a weekly or even daily basis may be very sensible. These reviews involve the project team (generally consist of Lean Six Sigma Black Belt / Lean Six Sigma Green Belt/ Six Sigma Black Belt/ Six Sigma Green Belt/ Lean Master/ Lean Expert and the team members) and the champion or sponsor. But, as a minimum, you should conduct a formal tollgate review at the end of each DMAIC phase. A tollgate review checks that you have completed the current phase properly and reviews the team’s various outputs from it. The Lean Six Sigma project team leader and the management sponsor or Lean Six Sigma champion/ Six Sigma champion /Lean champion of the improvement activity should conduct this review. In effect, you are passing through a tollgate.
Before moving from one phase to another, stepping back, assessing progress and asking some key questions is crucial. For example:
✓ How are things going? For eg, is the team working well together?
✓ Are we on course?
✓ What have we discovered?
✓ What went well? Why?
✓ What conclusions can we draw?
The tollgates also provide an opportunity to update your improvement charter and storyboard. Doing so pulls together some of the key elements of your project; for example, a picture of the process and a control chart showing performance. The tollgate also enables you to take stock of the benefits accruing and the financial details; for example, reductions in errors, improvements in processing time and customer satisfaction. In determining the benefits and financial details, ensure you record the assumptions behind your estimates or calculations, as you may need to explain these to others in the organisation.
At the end of the Analyse phase of the DMAIC methodology, the review is of particular importance. It provides an opportunity to review the scope of your project, that is, how much improvement you are seeking to achieve from it. Before the project began, you may well have best-guessed a business case that justifies starting the work. By the end of this phase, you should be able to Quantify the Opportunity – to really understand the extent of non-value adding activities and waste, and the potential for improvement. On completion of the Measure phase, you’re able to understand the current situation and level of performance. Following the Analyse phase, your level of understanding will have increased significantly and you understand the root cause of the problem:
✓ You know why performance is at the level it is.
✓ You understand the costs involved in the process, both overall and at the individual step level.
✓ You have identified the waste and the non-value-adding steps, including the extent of rework, and understood their impact on your ability to meet the CTQs.
In Quantifying the Opportunity, you first need to calculate the saving if all this waste and non-value-added work were eliminated, making sure you document your assumptions. You may feel the opportunity is too small to bother about, or so large it justifies either widening the scope of the project or developing a phased approach, by breaking the task into several smaller projects, for example. Either way, review and agree your project goals now, sensibly estimating what is possible for your project.
The benefits are reviewed again closely following your completion of the Improve phase. You’re looking to confirm the deliverables from the project, and secure authority for the solution to be fully implemented. As with Quantify the Opportunity, the post-Improve review also provides an opportunity to look at the project more generally, and key questions include:
✓ Are we on course?
✓ What have we discovered? And forgotten?
✓ What went well? Why?
✓ Can we apply the solution elsewhere?
✓ What conclusions can we draw?
Confirming the benefits you expect to achieve is the main focus of this second benefits review; for example, in reduced rework or improved processing speeds. In completing the phase, you should feel confident that the chosen solution addresses the root cause of the identified problem, and ensures you meet the project goals. Management by fact is a key principle of Lean Six Sigma, so you should have appropriate measurement data and feel
confident that your solution will deliver.
Quite a range of differing benefits may occur, including:
✓ Reduced errors and waste
✓ Faster cycle time
✓ Improved customer satisfaction
✓ Reduced cost
In assessing how well these benefits match the project objectives, bear in mind that quantifying the softer benefits of enhanced customer satisfaction may be difficult. And in projecting when the benefits are likely to emerge, do not lose sight of the fact that a time gap will probably exist between the cause and effect, especially where customer satisfaction feedback and information is concerned.
As well as looking at the benefits, this review also confirms any costs associated with the solution and its implementation. The piloting or testing activity carried out in the Improve phase should have helped you pull this information together, provided you treated it as though it were a full-scale implementation. Internal guidelines will probably be available to help you assess and present the benefits and costs, but ensure you have documented the assumptions behind your benefits assessment.
A third and final benefit review follows the Control phase of the DMAIC methodology, enabling you to confirm the actual costs and benefits and whether any unexpected debits or credits have occurred. And you should know the answers to these questions:
✓ Do our customers feel there has been an improvement? How do we know?
✓ Can we take any of the ideas or ‘best practices’ and apply them elsewhere in the business?
This review is the formal post-implementation phase involving the project sponsor or Lean Six Sigma champion/ Six Sigma champion /Lean champion. In some organisations you may find a wider team of managers forming a ‘project board’ or ‘steering committee’, which provides overall guidance for improvement teams ( generally consist of Lean Six Sigma Black Belt / Lean Six Sigma Green Belt/ Six Sigma Black Belt/ Six Sigma Green Belt/ Lean Master/ Lean Expert and the team members) and helps prevent duplication of effort with different teams tackling the same or similar problems. This review is likely to involve your team presenting their storyboard.
Taking time for these reviews and tollgates is an important element in developing a culture that manages by fact. Maintaining an up-to-date storyboard as you work your way through the DMAIC phases helps you prepare for the reviews and share discoveries. The storyboard is created by the team and should present the important elements of its work – the key outputs from the DMAIC process.
(Reference : Lean Six Sigma For Dummies®, 2nd Edition by John Morgan and Martin Brenig-Jones, Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd)
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