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Powerful Techniques for Identifying Process Issues (Part 1 of 3 )

Posted by kyle toppazzini on Tue, Jun 26, 2012

Lean Six Sigma, Sigma, lean, Process, VOC, AssessmentLong processing times, poor quality output, rising costs, low productivity and low rate of return on resource and capital investment may all be a result of process inefficiencies which can be corrected with Lean 6 Sigma (i,e. Lean Six Sigma). This blog discusses a few simple and effective Lean Six Sigma ways to identify the root causes of process constraints.

Before I discuss how to identify root causes of process constraints it is important to first understand what the customer expectations are from the services and goods you are selling/providing. An efficient process will not be effective if it doesn't meet the needs of the customer.


1-Examine the Customer's Expectation

To understand what the customer's needs are, start by examining how the customer perceives (known as the voice of the customer or VOC) the quality of goods and or services he/she is receiving from you and the processes you are using to deliver those goods and services. The customer can be a purchaser of your goods and services or it could be an internal customer who receives your services or products. To get feedback from the customer you can conduct a survey, you can look at complaints or suggestions received from your customers or you can simply ask you customer. All data sources are great sources of information. The point is to ensure that your process objectives are aligned with the customer's needs and to do that you must understand what the customer's expectations are with respect to the goods and services you are providing.


2-Examine the process from end to end

Now that you understand what the customer's expectations are you must understand how your processes are delivering those goods and services to your clients. Most business processes are likely to be part of a system of processes that have many interdependencies and these interdependencies could be impacting the performance of the whole process. This is an important concept because in order to effectively identify the parts of a process that are inhibiting your ability to meet your customer's needs one must consider the complete system and not just an isolated process.

Often I find many process issues occur at point of entry, i.e. where you take control of the process, and are often not detected until further into the process. For example, after conducting an assessment you may find that your employees spend more time more time throughout the process correcting your supplier's mistakes than processing your customer's orders. For this reason I would examine how many order defects you get from your supplier, examine how much time your employees spend with a supplier on the phone clarifying issues with an order and examine how many orders are received late. It does not matter if it's an order from a supplier or a good or service from an internal or external partner the issues are likely still to be the same and poor quality coming into your process will impact you ability to be efficient.


3-Understand the process

Once you have conducted an assessment of both ends of the process than you can look at what is happening within the process. I usually conduct a walk through of the process and follow the work from a to z so that I understand, how the process works, how activities are being conducted, how work is being performed, the resources and material being used in the process and what final goods or services are being produced as a result of the process . Therefore it is important to understand the process before you can identify the process issues.

Our next blog will discuss the remaining techniques.

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Valuable Resources

The following URLs provide great additional information on Lean 6 Sigma

Toppazzini and Lee Consulting Lean 6 Sigma Consulting  at -Lean Six Sigma Consulting

Linkedin Six Sigma Group at

ISixSigma web site at

ASQ web site at



Topics: VOC, sigma, lean, Lean Six Sigma, Assessment, process, Lean 6 Sigma