Quality techniques and tools help lower the costs of people-intensive service processes and improve customer satisfaction. A process approach enables service organizations to standardize the ways they work, achieving improved consistency, faster cycle times and fewer errors. And employees are empowered to provide individualized customer service when it counts most.
Innovating Social Media Marketing Strategy via TRIZ
Using TRIZ, a marketing team created a social media marketing strategy for electric folding bicycles. Their goal was to generate 100,000 social media followers. After defining the target, the team analyzed their system through a combination of the nine windows tool and TRIZ’s basic principles. This provided the team a detailed picture of the project and thus, following different standardized steps, to come up with several different innovative ideas for the social media strategy. Download Innovating Social Media Marketing Strategy via TRIZ (PDF). November 2017
Ideality: The Pinnacle of Quality and Competition
For any given contradiction, TRIZ has a solution for improving the process by making changes to a process step. Within TRIZ lies a concept called ideality, or the ideal state of a system where all functions are achieved without problem. In this case study, the author explains how ideality can be achieved using real-life examples. Read the online case study presentation or download Ideality: The Pinnacle of Quality and Competition (PDF). July 2016
Faster Lean and Six Sigma Project Completion via TRIZ
Lean Six Sigma (LSS) problem solving consumes a lot of effort in identifying the root cause and involves a trial and error method for confirming significant factors. For any given contradiction, TRIZ has a solution for improving the process by making changes to a process step. Combining TRIZ and LSS through a structured approach can help reduce the effort and duration of LSS projects by nearly 10 times. Read the online case study presentation or download Faster Lean and Six Sigma Project Completion via TRIZ (PDF). March 2016
YMCA Upgrades Day Camps Using Six Sigma
When a senior leader at the YMCA of the USA introduced Six Sigma to the youth development department, a new method for managing and tracking projects was ushered into the organization. Upon completing a Green Belt-level training course, a YMCA project team used Six Sigma tools to improve the culture of the organization’s summer day camp. As staff became more comfortable using Six Sigma, project work became more organized and data-driven, and the project team exceeded its first-year goals. Read the online case study presentation or download YMCA Upgrades Day Campus Using Six Sigma (PDF). January 2016
Indian 5-Star Hotel Front-Line Staff Find Happiness, Empowerment in Solving Attrition Problem
Muri, a Japanese term that means stress, exists throughout organizations, and the elimination of it plays a crucial role in its growth and sustainability. While the hotel industry is growing at a very fast rate in India and other parts of the world, attrition has become a very big problem, one of the primary reasons being work stress. This article discusses the techniques that were used to understand the root causes of stress, to quantify it, and arrive at solutions for a popular Indian hotel chain that will remain anonymous. Read the online case study presentation or download Indian 5-Star Hotel Front-Line Staff Find Happiness, Empowerment in Solving Attrition Problem (PDF). August 2015
Forensic Techniques Reveal Conclusive Evidence in West African Pipeline Construction Dispute
Forensic intelligence and forensic interviews can be used to assess the level of compliance and effectiveness of a project’s quality management system (QMS). In this case study, the extent of a contractor’s implementation of the project’s QMS, created for the engineering, procurement, and construction of a pipeline in West Africa, was disputed between the contractor and the project owner/client. To assess the effectiveness of the project’s QMS, data collection through forensic intelligence and forensic interviews was conducted to assist in resolving the dispute. October 2014
Six Sigma Optimization of Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping (MS) can be a very valuable exercise for studying and evaluating service delivery performance within the banking industry. Using Six Sigma tools and hypothetical data, this case study tests the approach and results to gauge poor service from excellent service delivery. The MS approach is highly applicable as a balanced scorecard parameter to measure delivery within service centers. September 2014
Origami Lean Training Exercise
Providing hands-on experiences to students is essential for lean workshops. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, can be used to provide students with a hands-on experience for understanding process thinking and process steps. The activity can be effective at conveying quality tools and concepts for all age groups. August 2014
India-based Life Insurer Improves Customer Retention Through Six Sigma, Quality Tools
Recognizing the company’s customer retention rate dipped below acceptable levels, Max Life Insurance Company leaders initiated improvement project Unnati to reclaim deeply lapsed policyholders. Using Six Sigma and quality tools, team members identified more than one dozen possible opportunities for agents to improve customer relationships, tripling the retention rate and generating millions in revenue. May 2014
New Zealand Port Company Stems Tide of Overdue IT Tickets
The Ports of Auckland aimed to reduce the number of IT call tickets that are not completed within agreed-upon timeframes. The organization initiated a Six Sigma project using tools to improve customer service, communication, and prioritization. As a result, the project realized a 50 percent reduction in past-due IT tickets during a sustained period. See an executive summary of the case study, or download New Zealand Port Company Stems Tide of Overdue IT Tickets (PDF, 219 KB). January 2014
Lean Six Sigma Increases Efficiency for Financial Services Firm (PDF, 457 KB)
A fund services organization used a Lean Six Sigma approach that featured kaizen events to enhance process control and increase capacity. In just four months, nine quick-fix projects achieved savings of $220,000, paving the way for larger strategic improvements. April 2012
A Broader View of Quality Through Certification (PDF, 561 KB)
Nancy Garcia, a senior engineering support technician for InfinityQS, is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer and Certified Software Quality Engineer. Not only did Garcia gain confidence from ASQ Certification, she also developed deeper insight into the quality field. September 2011
Supporting Customers and Driving Excellence Through Quality (PDF, 703 KB)
A Firstsource Solutions team used Six Sigma to improve its processes for handling inbound customer service calls for a client’s new business, lowering the repeat call rate from 15 percent to 9.6 percent. May 2011
Reducing Check Returns With Six Sigma (PDF, 681 KB)
A Firstsource Advantage cross-functional team used Six Sigma to reduce the check return rate for a top client by more than 20 percent over a six-month period. April 2011
Service Provider Improves Client's Metrics With Six Sigma (PDF, 480 KB)
Firstsource Solutions used Six Sigma to reduce a retail mortgage client's turnaround time to approve applications, boosting the client's revenue by 6.9 million pounds. April 2011
Solid Commitment to People Is Main Ingredient for Texas Restaurant Excellence (PDF, 275 KB)
In 2010, K&N Management became the second food service recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the first restaurant group ever to receive the Texas Award for Performance Excellence. March 2011
No Evil Lasts More Than 96 Hours (PDF, 342 KB)
DMADV Case Study: Performance Management System Redesign
To facilitate the development of its employees and better respond to the changing business environment, one department of a large financial-services company decided to revamp its existing performance management system through a Six Sigma project. A pre-project analysis revealed that a complete redesign of the system was required. As incremental improvement in the existing system was not possible, the project team followed the Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) roadmap, incorporating best practices from Six Sigma, project management and information technology (IT) service management. This case study covers a few major aspects of the project, which could readily be applied in similar situations across various industries and business environments.
In the Define phase, the team created a goal statement: To implement a comprehensive, well-aligned and consistent performance management system for Department A.
The team looked at the existing performance management system. It had the following prominent attributes:
- The system supported all product lines of Department A, covering more than 200 employees.
- The implementation and usage of the system was limited to individual departments.
- The company had functional silos, and employee goals were determined within the department.
- Unit managers (there were multiple units within each line of business) were responsible for setting performance targets for their units.
- Individual performance was compared against the set target.
As part of the Measure phase of the project, the team analyzed the existing performance management system. Then by interviewing key stakeholders, team members identified what the company wanted from such a system.
In particular, the improvement team focused on the identification of:
- Most useful features of the current system
- Not-so-useful features
- Missing features (i.e., needed improvements)
When interviewing managers, team members asked the following questions:
- How can this system help you in coaching, performance appraisal and decision making?
- What information do you want to receive in order to develop and maintain employee and service performance?
The team further had to consider these factors for the performance management system:
- Frequency: How often should metrics be updated?
- Availability: At what time should the performance management system should be available?
- Security: Who should be able to see what information?
- Continuity: Is it a business-critical application? What needs to happen during/after a disaster?
- Capacity: How many users need to be supported? How much data needs to be stored?
Based on the information gathered during the Measure phase, the team identified the vital problems of the existing system and derived key requirements for the new system as an output of the Analyze phase (table below).
Deriving the Key Requirements of a New Performance Management System
|Problem with Existing System||Key Requirement for New System|
|Managers were able to influence the targets heavily and were setting up lenient targets. Thus, a lot of employees were rated high performers while the business was not benefitting equally.||• Head of department to set product-line targets. These targets should be used to compare roll-up level metric values to determine each unit’s performance.|
• Current achieved performance levels at unit and department level should be used to derive the future performance targets.
|Performance metrics and ratings across product lines were not standardized, thus making it very difficult to translate and roll up metrics from individual employee to department level.||Standardize performance management process, metrics and ratings to enable quick understanding of process, roll-up of metrics and comparison of employees across product lines.|
|Performance metrics were available only at the end of the month, making it difficult for managers and individual associates to take corrective action proactively.||System should be refreshed daily to provide up-to-date information.|
|Productivity was weighted much higher than quality. The focus on productivity came at the expense of quality.||Equal importance to be given to productivity and quality. Department head should also have a mechanism to change relative importance according to business need.|
|Individuals within each product line were compared against each other, even if performing different tasks. This comparison was not standardized, making entire system biased toward some types of tasks.||Set up peer groups to enable fair comparison. Together with standardized performance metrics and ratings, this should enable comparison across the board.|
|Individual employees did not have access to their own performance metrics, thus hindering self-directed performance improvements.||Each employee should have access to their own performance metrics and should have a way to compare it against the baseline and against the peer group.|
|Month-over-month metric trends were not available. Creating such a trend report required a lot of manual effort.||Month-over-month metrics values and trends should be automatically generated. Also, provide a facility to select the reporting period.|
With its functional silos, the business environment was not conducive to a solution that incorporated a balanced scorecard approach. The functional silos made it difficult to cascade organizational-level targets to departmental-level targets and further to individual-level targets. Due to these reasons, a balanced scorecard approach was eliminated from the scope of the project.
Because a key requirement of the new performance management system was to move from using a fixed-target system to a dynamic-target system, two alternatives for measuring baseline performance were thoroughly explored: 1) the best known performer, also referred to as k-performer, and 2) the average performer. Ultimately the department decided to go with average performance as the baseline.
Before the decision was made to move from a fixed-target-based system to one based on a dynamic target, there was much deliberation on that question. Some of the prominent points that came out of those discussions would be of interest to all practitioners:
- A fixed-target system provides visible targets to employees. Typically, it does not require complex calculations and makes it easy for individual employees to determine their own rating solely based on their own performance. On the other hand, the dynamic-target determination system (either best performer as baseline, or average performer as baseline) makes it difficult to determine the target and leaves employees with some guess work until the final performance targets are derived and announced.
- A fixed-target system is susceptible to violations. Targets could be set so that they are either too strict or too lenient. A dynamic-target determination system fills this gap. It is also self-corrective in nature, and adapts itself according to business and employee performance. For example, in a fixed-target system if there is not enough work to achieve productivity targets, employees would not have enough opportunity to meet the targets and would be rated “below target.” The dynamic target determination system would accommodate such fluctuations and is thus a more robust system.
- Setting the k-performer as a baseline would make the entire population’s performance ranking highly vulnerable to the performance of one individual. This is similar to the impact that an outlier can have on a set of data. Setting the average performance as a baseline reduces this vulnerability, making the system more robust.
Equipped with input from stakeholders and the derived requirements for a new performance management system, the team moved forward with a solution following these five steps:
- Identification of alternatives
- Comparison of alternatives
- Selection of the most feasible alternative
- Creation of an implementation plan
- Implementation of the solution
Those steps were considered from both a functional and an IT perspective.
As part of process control, a technique for automated data validation and verification was employed. This technique helps indicate any out-of-order data point to line managers and the department director. These out-of-order data points and any other significant events are recorded in an event log. An incident log has been established to capture various incidents that take place with respect to the performance management system. The event log and the incident log play a pivotal role in the identification of improvement opportunities.
About 12 months after implementation, the system has been performing to expectations. An evaluation to either maintain the status quo or to improve the system further would be made as part of the strategic planning session for the following year.