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Lean & Six Sigma World Conference 2019

Gaining knowledge is the

first step to wisdom.

Sharing it is the first step

to humanity.

~Author Unknown

One of the highlights of the year for TMAC’s Lean Six Sigma team is the Lean & Six Sigma World Conference.  It is my pleasure to share my experiences and key learnings from this year’s conference which was held in San Antonio, TX on March 13th and 14th.

This year’s conference – the 18th since it started back in 2001 – included five keynote speakers, an executive panel with leaders sharing best practices in Lean Six Sigma deployment, and a total of 47 presentations from which to choose. The conference also offers an excellent opportunity for networking. We always enjoy seeing former TMAC students. And it is great to meet new LSS practitioners.

A partial list of this year’s topics included data analysis as a competitive weapon, the use of drones for continuous improvement, application of machine learning on big data projects, ways to engage and teach LSS to millennials, LSS and sustainability, transforming culture with client-focused teams, combining agile and LSS, a multi-kaizens approach, LSS performance metrics, effective customer surveys for driving continuous improvement, and many others. Speakers came from a range of industries including NASCAR, Accenture, Rolls-Royce, Keurig Dr Pepper, Harley-Davidson, Goldman Sachs, City of Dallas, IBM, JPS Health Network, Texas Department of Transportation, United States Postal Service, and Calgary Board of Education.

Over the course of the conference I heard many excellent talks. Here are lines from some of the presenters that resonated with me:

  • “Am I involved or am I committed?” – Mike Mooney [NASCAR]
  • “Ensure solution team mates are chosen by who has the most to gain from the solutions; use their favorite radio station: WII-FM… What’s In It – For Me” – Peter Gaa [Accenture]
  • “The heart of a Lean strategy is a Lean culture, an engaged, committed workforce that believes Lean is good for them as it is for the company” – Sean Nobari [Rolls-Royce]
  • “The ability to analyze, interpret and explain data is needed for continuous improvement” – Joel Smith [Keruig Dr Pepper] (computers only do the calculations, people do the rest!)
  • “We are not just making motorcycles, we are creating a culture!” – Clint Lancaster [Harley-Davidson]
  • “Instead of being dinosaurs, be chameleons – modernize, socialize and connect” – Amit Relia [Intuitive]
  • “Lean is 80% about people, 20% about tools” – Ming Tian [Calgary Board of Education]
  • “Show employees everyday if they are winning or losing!” – Bradley L. Golish [USPS]

And the list continues! People are the biggest asset in any organization and an essential element to any improvement initiative. While the DMAIC methodology provides a consistent, structured approach and various tools and methods are commonly applied, there are many possible approaches on how to engage people. A culture is basically the DNA of the organization and thus unique. It is our job as Lean Six Sigma practitioners to identify the best fit for our company, each project team, and to always practice what we preach so we lead by the example.

Another key learning from this year’s conference is the importance of data, good data! This is not news to any LSS practitioner. At TMAC we often use the quote “In God we trust, all others must bring data” which has been attributed to Dr. Edward Deming. If we think about the equation Y=f(X), in order to understand either the performance of the output (Y) or the inputs (X’s) we need data.

Conference Chair Joel Smith talked about this important fact during his presentation A Brief History of Beers, Bells, and Bytes” (which, by the way, was my favorite!). He explained how Guinness, AT&T, and Google, respectively, became the giants they are today. A key to success for each of these firms… the effective use of data!

We often see an incline towards Lean practices over Six Sigma. I am not quite convinced that this is because Lean provides the best way. Instead it might be because people do not feel confident with statistical tools. As Joel said “…excellence has always come from taking a road less traveled, and in process improvement that road has always been lined with data”. I encourage you to squeeze your data and get the most out of it. Perhaps your firm will become the next Google, AT&T or Guinness!

To conclude – the conference was a very pleasant experience, and I definitely learned a lot from the great balance of topics and the amazing and well-prepared speakers. A round of applause for everybody who made this conference possible. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.

And finally, I want to share with you a photo from the conference with my co-workers, from left to right Alberto Yanez, me, Satya Kudapa and Russ Aikman. Cheers!

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