Improve your process, improve your performance


No Data, No Problem (Lean Pt 2)

Posted by kyle toppazzini on Mon, Jul 23, 2012

Lean Six Sigma, Sigma, Benchmark, Change ManagementGiven the popularity of my blog “No Data, No Problem - My Lean Six Sigma Data Collection Secrets”, I decided to expand the use of this data collection method to settle the age-old argument about “My region/division/team is special and so we have to do things differently”. Often times, this argument leads to employees’ resistance from buying into a new (i.e. to-be) “standardized” process that can be applied across the organization, which happened to some of my clients where this type of arguments among employees/teams/division/regions ended up making little to no progress at all. But to me, the appropriate response to this argument should be “DON’T TELL ME, BUT SHOW ME WHERE’S THE DATA?”

In this blog, I will discuss my secret to obtain buy-in using the data that was created over a 30-day period based on my Lean Six Sigma Data Collection method when no data is available.

Here is how I do it:


1. Validate regional processes

Whenever I work on a project in which a region/division/unit claims to have a unique situation, it is the sign to map the process with representatives across the process and  all regions/units. During the mapping session, peers challenge each other and are able to sift out any fallacies about how tasks should be completed.

Process maps are developed at the task level so that we are able to collect data at the lowest level of input, output, and activities. Furthermore, I usually map out all exceptions process because employees often perceive the exceptions to be the norm.

Once everyone agrees on their respective processes for every region, I create a process model. The process model is created using a process-simulation software that can display visually how work flows through the process. When the processes are mapped out, I simulate the process, as a validation check, using dummy data so that employees can verify the process is captured properly.


2. Data collection

As mentioned in a previous post on this series,” No Data, No Problem - My Lean Six Sigma Data Collection Secrets”, employees are selected through a random stratified sample to collect data for 10 days over a 30-day period.

Prior to capturing the data, I develop data collection forms and procedures with employees. I ensure the data to be captured is normalized at the lowest possible level of activity across all employees, across the process, and across regions. This is important because I want to be able to measure performance across the process and regions that is comparable.


Furthermore, employees are made aware of the fact that outliers will be discarded, (e.g. the five percentile at the top and the bottom). In addition, during the data collection, I conduct an assessment of the distribution of data across time, employees, and regions for similar activities. If I notice an employee who has no variation in data for an activity they conduct during the first few days, I will question the accuracy of the data being captured and work with the employee to ensure the procedures are followed correctly.


3. Data Validation and Benchmarking

Once the previous steps are complete, the data will be entered into a simulation model, which will be compared to actual outputs. I will conduct an assessment of the results with employees who took part in the data collection and modify any data that seems incorrect. Note: this process was explained in detailed in the previous blog.

When the data assessment has been completed, I will create benchmarks across activities, regions and employee characteristics, e.g. new vs. experienced employees.  The “AH-HA” moment arises when employees see for the first-time benchmarks/performance across regions. In 99.9% of the cases, employees come to realize that their circumstances are not unique and performance plays more of a factor than environmental differences. At this point, employees are more focused on trying to learn from regions that have better performance contrary to explaining why their region is different.


4. Scenario Based Simulations

The last part of this exercise is to demonstrate the impact on all regions’ processes if they adopt the practices of their peers with superior performance. This is accomplished through the process simulation model. After this exercise, employees are eager and excited to adopt best practices in their regions.


Concluding Thoughts

In this blog, I have provided an approach, through data, to win the hearts and minds of employees. Although processes seem to be different across regions/divisions/units, people’s perceptions of their own “unique” process often magnify the differences. So next time when someone says, “We are special" Say, "Prove IT and Show Me the Data."


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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: Change Management, Benchmark, sigma, lean, Lean Six Sigma, Assessment, process