It is coming up on the holiday season and some of you will begin to bake cakes and pies for the celebrations which soon follow. Many of you will follow recipes that have been handed down over generations in your families. But what if someone came to you and said “This year why don’t you only make a third of a pie?” Sound ridiculous?

We in essence ask the same question when we make the statement we only do lean or we only do six sigma. This is like cooking a third of a pie.Let me explain the argument.

In our September article in QHSE Magazine we introduced the concept of the TLS Continuum. It is the continuum which comprises the three parts to the pie. The first third of the pie is the identification of the process obstacle. The Theory of Contraints tell us what needs to change, what to change it to and how to make the change happen. Basically the TOC side of the pie enables us to identify through strategic thinking tools what the problem is that we are experiencing. From there the critical thinking tools identify what the critical success factors are to reach the goal of removing the obstacle. We cannot just go out into the business world and say we have this goal to remove obstacle X without identifying what will tell us that we have reached the goal. However these two step are necessary but sufficient without a detailed look at the necessary conditions that must be present in order to create the critical success factors. The first part of the pie therefore lays the ground work forth remainder of the system of continuous improvement. We have essentially met the first part of the TLS goal of delivery of the product or service faster,better and cheaper. We have identified how to make the end result better with a higher level of quality.

The second part of the pie is Lean. Productivity Press’s Lean Speak defines lean as a system “that has relatively little non-value adding waste and maximum flow. It is the second part of the pie which delivers the end product or service faster. The primary function of lean is to remove the obstacle and the accompanying waste. The obstacle that we identified in the TOC stage is slowing down the system due to the inability of the system to deliver the voice of the customer when they need the service delivered. This can occur because the process has added steps which to someone made sense but does not to the customer. This can occur because we have introduced to the system demands that overtax the system causing longer delivery times.

The final third of the pie is that of Six Sigma. The intent of Six Sigma is ensure that our processes meet three criteria. First the problem solving method creates a standard of work. We do not remove the ability for an organization to innovate, as this is critical for organizational competitiveness in today’s marketplace. It does however puts in place system which is the same every time we begin to complete the process. If we are going to hire a new human capital asset for the organization the hiring process components are the same each and every time. One of the characteristics of a six sigma process is that it is repeatable. The second part of the process is that it is creditable. This means that the data we use to implement the change is based on verifiable data from the operation. One of the ways we achieve this is through removing the variations from the process. By following the steps outlined above we ensure that waste does not creep back into the process. This would meet the final part of the pie, that we reduce costs, not to produce the product or service but, by delivering it sooner to the end user.

The TLS continuum focuses on continuously improving the transactional process quality, getting the product or service to market faster, and reducing cost while improving the price to the customer. It is the total pie that delvers the promise of the Continuum to produce measurable Continuous Process Improvement.

There is an axiom in the scientific community which states that the sum of the parts is greater than each contribution of the parts. Thus when we make the observation that we only use TOC, or Lean or Six Sigma at the expense of the rest of the pie. We are not delivering the ultimate capability of the process. We are approaching the continuous process improvement arena as if we are baking only a third of a pie.Stop and think for a moment and consider whether you are serving your customer by meeting his or her demands with only a third of the stable of tools. You owe it to your customers and to your organization to deliver the total package.

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