March 2015 review of February


Chris HOHMANN – Author

February is the shortest month of the year. It’s a poor excuse for my few February postings I know, but lack of time is nevertheless the primary cause of this historical low number of posts on my blog. Not that February wasn’t rich of experiences and inspiration, but turn ideas into written lines requires some time and the state of mind you may call inspiration.
Among things I heard or saw in this short month:

  • the fallacy of what they call Six Sigma
  • 3D printing, the unknown threat
  • a kick in the a*s as energizer (?)

The fallacy of what they call Six Sigma

How many organization pretend to go the Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma way and in reality are not?

I came across one more displaying explanatory posters and having Six Sigma terms in their jargon, yet the most buoyant promoter did not understand my question about standard deviation and was suddenly uneasy when I asked him about his mastery of basics of statistics.

In fact, as so many times, what is called Six Sigma is just about using DMAIC as a structuring framework. In this plant, local managers admitted that the Measurement phase, which could make good use of some true Six Sigma tools, is the least mastered.

Another company with a Lean-Sigma dedicated bureaucracy uses ‘IPO’ instead of SIPOC, obviously not feeling necessary to care about Suppliers nor Customers.

Indeed, this bureaucracy does not seem to care much about its internal customers and focuses mainly on its own occupation, consistently with its focus on ‘IPO’; Input, Process and Output.

I have seen numerous others using Six Sigma lingo but in reality going for lean tools, generally nothing more than some partial 5S to clean up the initial mess and a fashionable VSM as wall ornament.

3D printing, the unknown threat

Visiting an aerospace equipment maker, it was a real pleasure to see the manufacturing of high-tech art pieces. It takes a great deal of top-notch machinery and machining time to go from the raw chunks of metal to the finished parts. As usually in this industry I try to guess the weight of the parts knowing there is no correlation between their size and volume and keep being amazed by the geometric complexity of the designs.

I asked the proud line manager if additive manufacturing (‘3D printing’) was on its way into his workshops. He did not understand my question, obviously not knowing what I was talking about.

The new techniques threatening his beloved business of cutting away metal with costly machines are unknown to him. He worries about training a new generation of turners, unaware that he’d better look for young techs at ease with CAD-CAM and programming.

A kick in the a*s as energizer

I am no promoter of old fashioned “management” methods consisting of bullying or even physically abusing people, but from time to time a (virtual) kick in the a*s is indeed an energizer.

Alas, the energizing effect is not long lasting. One team member laughed about sore bottoms and all resumed as usual.

Considering the resilient properties of the human bottom regarding kicking (all this being figurative), I let top management keep kicking and chose to go for rational demonstration of the necessity to improve faster, selecting the proper metrics as KPIs, the first improvement step.


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One thought on “March 2015 review of February

  1. Dear Christian,

    So if I can summarize, whatever the nice tools (Lean, Six Sigma, and others …) you have, you use or believe to use, the most important still stays the human-being and more the management behaviors when facing situations. It’s not the first times I see that at the end we turn to Philosophy meaning that the grounded management can be more efficient than any nice method badly implemented. For sure this doesn’t also mean that once nicely implemented these methods cannot deliver better.

    Have a nice March start.

    Flying Regards



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