Process Improvement For Process Improvement

Six Sigma teams seek to improve organizational processes. But, how can these teams improve their own process – the process they use to think together? One benefit of critical thinking training is that it provides a practical thinking framework to dramatically improve collaboration.

The BPI thinking tools are not limited to specific quality issues. Any issue that arises inside or outside the teams can be addressed using the BPI thinking framework for collaboration.

The standard quality tools emphasize data collection, data organization, and creativity. They are weak in the area of critical thinking. The BPI thinking framework incorporates critical thinking thereby filling this gap.

In addition to the standard quality tools, Six Sigma adds other tools that are highly specialized and require significant time and effort to use (e.g. DOE). BPI tools will help assure that these special tools are used to best advantage.

Using the BPI thinking framework allows teams to define the need and match the best tool to that need. This assures each tool is used within its area of strength and applicability.

6 Sigma Steps and BPI’s Critical Thinking Tools

Here is how the BPI critical thinking tools can be used to help teams execute the Six Sigma steps (DMAIC).

DEFINE: Each Six Sigma project is a project and therefore teams will benefit from having a common thinking process to plan the project. Especially useful is the BPI Agree step for defining and clarifying the project scope (purpose, deliverables, resources, customers, stakeholders, constraints & criteria for success).

MEASURE: Once measures are in place, problems are revealed. The BPI Problem Inventory process (a part of the Problem Solving process) can be used by teams to list problems; edit the list so each item is significant and requires independent action; set priority; and then determine what type of analysis is needed for each problem.

ANALYZE: Problem Solving, the BPI cause analysis process, allows teams to logically test potential causes before (and often instead of) using more complex methods (e.g. correlation – regression, hypothesis testing, multivariate studies). This enables a dramatic improvement in the use of the team’s time and efforts. The more complex tools are used only if needed and on very well defined issues and variables.

IMPROVE: This Six Sigma step provides the team with more information from design of experiments, simulation, optimization analyses and so forth. Using the Decision Making process, the team can take this new information, develop solutions and make the best balanced choice based on costs, benefits and risks. Implementing the best solution requires Planning.

CONTROL: Two critical thinking tools apply here: Decision Making to determine the best process controls to use and to decide on the best translation opportunities; and Planning to develop a master plan for overall implementation.

Six Sigma experts attest to the value of Critical Thinking:

Lean-Sigma Expert, Motorola Business Partner

“Critical Thinking will provide … a quicker return on investment.”

Master Black Belt, Chrysler Black Belt Core Group

“Most issues go through the path of not needing (statistical) tools now. We like to think we are reserving our (statistical) tools (to when needed and) preventing a waste of our time.”

Master Black Belt, Chrysler Black Belt Core Group

“This tool helps with the group dynamics part of the team equation (by structuring participation).”

Black Belt / Training & Development Manager, Merck, Sharp & Dohme – Australia

“Six Sigma tends not to be useful in one off cases, or for special cause variation … Some of the heavy duty tools can also be over-sophisticated for some routine problems. … Within (the Six Sigma) process (the BPI root cause analysis) could be used to … eliminate … causes of variation that are leading to either off centre, or variable process output.”

Black Belt / Solar Turbines – San Diego

“As a Six Sigma Black Belt, I saw how the techniques taught in your class could be used to enhance 6 sigma projects. I handle transactional type projects being in Information Technology (as opposed to manufacturing type projects) and I saw how the concern analysis and problem solving sections could complement and speed up the Define phase and root cause analysis.”


Thinking Skills Determine Success!

Any process improvement tool or strategy is only as effective as the thinking that’s driving it! Training people in critical thinking has been BPI’s exclusive area of expertise for more than 30 years. We have yet to discover a company that could NOT benefit from better thinking skills. Contact us today for information about how our fast-paced, highly interactive Critical Thinking and Project Management workshops can improve your organization’s processes.