Author Archives: Henny

War On Paper with Lean Six Sigma

My Declaration of War On Paper

Yes, I have declared the War on Paper! I’m serious.

This is what happened the other day: I started a project with one of my private clients to improve information exchange for new customers between Sales and Production departments. To make it flow easier. They need to have it standardized because of the different facilities and locations of the company. They each have their own way of working that differs from one another.

When I asked them what information exchange they were talking about, they told me about the different reports they both use when a new customer is being entered in their systems.

Then they showed me the reports they use. And that shocked me!

Unbelievable. I just could not believe my eyes!

75 pages of reports these 2 departments have to fill in just because they got a new customer!

75 pages just to start! I would rather have no customers 😉

But there was another BIG thing that stroke me even more.

1. Was it that they make so many reports?

That was certainly a big issue. Of course there is essential information about the customer and their requirements in the reports. You do not want to make a mistake during production, so you want to capture all the important parameters.

2. Was it that they have multiple reports with similar info?

When the Sales department was entering some of the data, Production was entering similar data in another report. What a waste!

That is one of the 8 wastes of Lean Methodology. Entering the same information more than once is a waste of time and a waste of your intellect. In my opinion, it should be avoided at all times! But even that was not the main reason that stoke me and made me worry.

3. Was it that they had been working like this for years?

75 pages of reporting every time you get a new customer costs you a lot of money. Year in year out. You are very busy with meaningless paperwork and you have no time left for other more important tasks. No wonder you feel like that.

The real thing that hit me like a hammer was…

What do you think it was?

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Warm regards,


How to Apply Lean Six Sigma at Schools?

“David, you have a very busy week ahead. Have you studied for those tests and exams?”

I was a bit worried. He had so much on his plate.

But even to come to this realization, was a journey on itself. As the week passed by and the situation changed, I found enough reason to write about how a school could benefit when applying the principles of Lean Six Sigma.

Principle #1: Customer Focus

First, asking David this last Saturday was easy. Getting the correct overview of his schedule for this week was not easy, because his school diary is not complete.

My son, David is a different student than I was back then. He is dyslectic. Focusing on what the teacher tells about what to do and when, is not easy for him to make good notes on.

When a school wants to improve their service (education) for their customers (girls and boys and their worried parents), they should understand that children like David may need some additional attention to make sure they have the correct notes in their school diaries about exam dates and times.

Teaching him to be self-supportive is good, but the teachers know their pupils and can decide when special support is needed.

Principle #2: Reduce Mistakes

After checking David’s diary we also logged in at the school website to check the test and exams of that week. The layout was not simple. Therefore we spent some time to figure out how it worked. There were many mistakes at the website when compared to David’s diary. Yes, I am objective here, because we checked the past exams against what was at this website.

Like every company, institute or organization, the school should be able to identify mistakes, faulty data, and defects in the output they deliver to their customers.

By applying Lean Six Sigma, the school could be aware of the accuracy of data: exams, content of the tests, times and classes.

Using the Six Sigma part of the methodology, you master how to identify and reduce mistakes in your own work and in others’:

Going even further: the layout of such websites should be easy to read – even for a dyslectic. ☺

Principle #3: Improve Delivery Performance

After some searching and hard work, finally we got the complete schedule for the week. David could start his preparation. And he had to do it fast. There were lots to do: English grammar, German words, Economy, Mathematics, Physics, a Dutch book presentation and History. As he was preparing day-by-day, the tests were cancelled one after the other. The teachers had no time for the tests they scheduled? What else were they doing?

The worst was the presentation on a book for David’s Dutch class. He prepared himself on King Arthur months and months ago but each time the presentation was postponed. So he had to prepare again, worry about it, get the book again from the library – and pay the late-return penalty.

You get the point: Schools – just like any other company – should work on reliability. Using the LEAN methodology of Lean Six Sigma, you learn how to make the operation go smoother, to not take unnecessary steps, no wastes, no unfulfilled promises. Schools should monitor the cancellations of test, exams and classes. They should identify the main causes and carry out improvements to see the decrease of those issues over time.

One of my private clients – a small machine refurbishing company – increased their on-time-deliver performance from 44% to above 90%.

How about yours?

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Warm regards,


What 4 Garbage Trucks Say About Lean Six Sigma?

It is a bit of a hurry each time. I’m not nearly as good as my wife at preparing the kids in the morning. Finally, we make it and get in the car on time.

But there is something else happening every Friday morning: garbage collection.

While many of the fathers (and mothers) rush through the small streets to get their kids to school, the garbage truck blocks the way. Exactly during RUSH HOUR!! Sometimes I take another route the school to avoid the traffic jam caused by the garbage truck, but even then I hit another one. On one Friday I met the truck 4 times between my home, the school and back to my home. Yes, 4 times in one morning! Very annoying.

This made me think about the frequently asked question: “How To Apply Lean Six Sigma?” Obviously, the local authorities do not know Lean Six Sigma because they would ask themselves the question: “How can we serve our customers, the citizens better?” They would realize – during the Define Phase of their Lean Six Sigma project – what the most critical factors are to satisfy their citizens in terms of Quality, Time and Costs. I developed an effective tool for this called Customer Requirement Matrix.

Concerning the Time aspect of the satisfaction, this matrix would show them that although regular collection of garbage is important, the time of the day is less important as long as it does not cause traffic problems. Measuring satisfaction of citizens with respect to garbage collection as the primary metric of the project would show an increase when delaying the time of collection even by 1 hour.

If you want to apply Lean Six Sigma in your work, ask yourself the same question: “How can I serve my customer/client/patient/college better?”

Just think about every aspect of your interaction with your customers.

This is where you start applying Lean Six Sigma.

This is how we do it in our Yellow BeltGreen Belt and Black Belt programs.

Join our programs and you will only spend time on the 20% of the tools that solves 80% of your problems. Forget the rest!

Make greater work.

Warm regards,


A Semi-scientific Way To Set Your Priorities

Are You very busy and overloaded with lots of tasks, activities or projects?

You just don’t know how to set the right priorities?

In this article you’ll get some easy steps that I recently used in Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program when selecting the right projects for a multimillion company.

You can follow the same steps in your situation.

Step #1: Make a list

If you don’t have one yet start using a list. Put all the things, tasks, projects and activities you need/want to do on that list.

One of my project team wanted to reduce the workload at a Customer Service department. We started putting down on a piece of paper all the tasks they were carrying out every day. The length of the list surprised both them and their manager.

Getting clarity about the situation in this way enabled the team to set right priorities and increase efficiency even during peak-times. By the end of the Lean Six Sigma project the team has reduced the workload between 44% and 52%!

Step #2: Identify your customer

Sounds simple but you’ll realize there are many recipients of your work. Who are they? Make a list of them. Think about your end customer, your colleague from next door, your manager or supervisor…just to name a few.

They’ll judge your work. Whether you ask them or not.They decide whether you satisfy their needs or not. You better be clear on them because your work is to serve them the best you can.

One of my Black Beltstudents said that my Customer Requirement Matrix is the most effective tool he has ever seen.

Because in the matrix we record all the customers and stakeholders impacted and also their requirements concerning Quality, Time and Costs. Such overview helps to identify not only all the most important customers but also if there is a contradiction between the different requirements.

This Black Belt has just finished his first project removing 100% of inkt contamination from their production process of electrical parts.

Step #3: Identify 3 – 5 selection criteria (based on customer requirements)

Get the top 3 – 5 customers and identify their requirements. No more than 5. These are the requirements your customers find important. Think about their requirements concerning quality, delivery (time-related) or costs.

Some examples for such requirements:

– improves quality

– reduces wastes

– reduces lead times

– reduces complexity

– reduces costs

– increases sales

– easy to execute

– high potential / high demand

– supports strategy

– gives you high exposure

Just pick 3 to 5 and modify it to your own situation. These are the selection criteria to prioritize your tasks against.

In steps #4 though #8 you learn how to weight these criteria and correlate them to your tasks or projects to finally arrive to your laser-sharp priority list.

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Warm regards,


How Problem Owner Can Sabotage Your Lean Six Sigma Project


Some Lean Six Sigma practitioners sabotage their own project on day one.

They don’t define who the Problem Owner is and what his/her role is in the project.


Who is the Problem Owner?

The Problem Owner – also called the Process Owner – is the person who is functionally responsible for the process you and your team want to improve using Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Since every project is defined terms of “a problem that needs to be solved” that is why we talk about the owner of the problem.

This is important to tell – and I tell it often during my coaching: the Green- or Black Belt or their project team is NOT the Problem Owner. They are only responsible to apply the methodology in order to find solution to the problem.

After the solution is proved to be good – which is the main part of the Improve Phase of the DMAIC roadmap – the team has to hand it over to the Problem Owner.

I remember a project with a Healthcare company. Their goal was to improve communication with clients.

We had a good team but we spent lots of time defining the real, measurable problem. It took me over 24 wasted hours before I realized: all these discussions are caused by the fact that everybody sees the problem from its own perspective.

If we had one Problem Owner, he/she could tell clearly why is communication with the clients a problem that needs to be solved. Everybody is communicating one way or another with the clients so it is very difficult to point out a person to be the Problem Owner.

That brings us to the next question:


What is the role of the Problem Owner in a Lean Six Sigma Project?

During the project execution the Problem Owner should make resources – time, people, facility, machines, etc. – available so that the team can work on finding and testing the solution.

At the end of the project – the Control Phase – the Problem Owner needs to formally take over the findings of the project team and make it sure the new process is being followed.

Once I coached a Green Belt who had a project in a Swedish manufacturing company. Because of some language difficulties the Problem Owner was not part of the project team.

Everything went fine until we arrived at the Control Phase where I asked the Green Belt to get the approval of the Problem Owner for the new procedure.

The Green Belt was a bit stressed because he did not keep the Problem Owner up to date, therefore he had some hard thoughts about getting the approval.

This mistake can costs time delays and to be avoided by inviting the Problem Owner to join the project team or updating him at least once a month.



Make sure when you start a Lean Six Sigma project that the Problem Owner is well defined.

Invite him/her to join the project team.

Otherwise keep him/her up to date on a regular basis.

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Warm regards,



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