It's always interesting to read about GE's shift from a Six Sigma company to a Lean Six Sigma company. Their CIO, Gary Reiner, is responsible for their Lean Six Sigma program, which is unique for a Chief Information Officer.
From the FORTUNE article:
You've been in charge of GE's Six Sigma initiative since it started, in 1996. Are you still getting value out of it?
We've been aggressively trying to migrate away from talking about tools and instead to talking about outcomes. Six Sigma is a tool. It is a wonderful tool, but it is a tool. What we're talking more about as a company is outcomes, and the two outcomes we really want are product reliability and customer responsiveness.
So we start with that and work our way back to what tools are needed to make that happen. For product reliability, the Six Sigma tools are sensational. On the responsiveness side, it's often less about using Six Sigma and more about getting the right people in the room to map out how long it takes for us to do something in front of customers and, using mostly common sense, take out those things that get in the way of meeting our customer needs responsibly.
That's great that they are focusing on outcomes, not just tools. He's right about Six Sigma, but it would also be true to say that you shouldn't just focus on tools with Lean either. Are you doing the right things for the customers and for the business? That's the real point of any of it. What Reiner describes above sounds very much like a Value Stream Mapping exercise to identify waste and waiting time through the whole process, not just any one area.
In our GE Money business we offer private-label finance to retailers. We are the financing behind jewelry stores and pharmacies and the like. Sad to say, it was taking 63 days from when a retailer contacted us saying it wanted to consider using us as a private-label financier until it could conduct the first transaction with our financing. No one had calculated this before we went on this journey.
We did a number of what we call lean workouts, where we get everybody in the room to map out the process, and they got it down from 63 days to one day. The leader of that business was able to go out and have as his marketing campaign, “Enroll today. Transact tomorrow.” When we did that, sales doubled. And there are 30 examples of that throughout the company.
That's a wonderful example of using the Lean approach to take non-value-added time out of a process. Look how they used Lean to drive sales and revenue, not just as a “cost cutting” exercise. Nice stuff.
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