Lean Six Sigma Examples

5 tips to make a better annual plan

game of chess

5 tips to make a better annual plan

When coming back from your summer vacation, the next big task that is often waiting for you is drafting up the annual plan for the coming year.

Drafting new plans already? The plans for this year haven’t even been executed yet and the expectation is that they won’t before the end of this year. So, even more plans and projects will be added then and the pile will just keep getting bigger.

How do you prevent your projects and plans to keep just piling up endlessly instead of being able to finish them timely?

In this blog I’ll explain in a few steps a planning process to you, that could provide focus and efficiency for the coming year.

Tip 1: Take a helicopter view – Long term goals

Begin high and descend afterwards. First, take the mission and vision from your organisation and ask yourself: what are the long term goals?

If you’re working in a health institution, then you might already have a strategic paper for the coming year wherein the most important directions are expounded by the management.

Afterwards, determine with this information what the long term goals are of your department. Where do you want to be in 4-5 years? Make it tangible and measurable.

Example: 10% higher client satisfaction compared to 2016

Is this formulated in a SMART way? Yes, because it’s specific, measurable, challenging but still achievable, it’s relevant as long as you have customers and it’s time-bound (before 2020).

Keep this list short. I advise a maximum of 6 goals – that’s 2 per theme: customers, employees, organisation/finances.

Tip 2: Take a baby step – Short term goals

What do you want to achieve in the coming year? You can approach it in several different ways and they’re all equally correct:

  • Linearly: divide 10% by 4 years, so 2,5% per year
  • Exponentially: increasing satisfaction will become easier
  • Logarithmically: decreasing growth -it will become more difficult to improve

whatever you choose, it will be your plan for the coming year.

Example: 2,5% higher client satisfaction in 2017 as compared to 2016

Tip 3: Be honest – your challenge

List all your obstacles, difficulties and challenges that are momentarily standing in your way to achieving 2,5% growth for the coming year.

Out of my experience I often hear challenges like:

“Our last measurement was in 2014. I don’t know where we’re standing at this moment”

“We lack a measurement tool of our own for continuous measurements.”

“Our measurements don’t show us clearly where we can improve ourselves”

Tip 4: Determine your SMART projects/actions

They are more likely to be projects than actions, as you  can’t usually settle matters on your own with simple actions.

So, make a list here with the strategically important projects to deal with the challenges mentioned earlier. Make them specific, with a measurable objective and a clear deadline.

Staying with our example to increase client satisfaction and considering the listed challenges at the previous point, you can imagine the following Lean Six Sigma projects:

  • Researching an available and/or setting up an own measuring instrument for client satisfaction before March 31st.
  • Measuring and improving client satisfaction on pilot location X before June 30th.
  • Introducing our own measuring instrument for client satisfaction, including working method, for all teams before December 31st.

Tip 5: Focus, focus, focus

You now know what your plans are for the coming year. Note the deadlines in your agenda in advance. In addition, plan the monthly evaluations as well: What’s the status of the project, who is doing what, is there extra support needed, are there urgent, but not important matters that are taking up time from these strategic (important but not urgent) projects?

When following these steps you will have the strategically important projects  in your annual plan. With these you take on the challenges so that you can meet the objectives for the next year, on the way to the long term breakthrough goals!

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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Make greater work.

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’: http://www.leansixsigmabelts.com/GreenBelt

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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Make greater work.

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,


Lean Six Sigma Gives You New Eyes

One of my online Green Belt students, Yasvet, wrote this to me:

“When I subscribed I wanted to learn  how to solve any problem through the methodology. Now that I am busy with the first project, I am definitely learning to use Lean Six Sigma methodology with the presentations and  following the different steps with Peter’s comments and recommendations.

Now I see the key issue is to get use to see and analyze things through another perspective.  Be very focused, specific and concrete during  the discussions with the team.”

But what does she mean by “see things through another perspective”?

Lean Six Sigma makes you look at your daily work differently.

Part of the methodology is that your colleagues are also your customers. Their satisfaction depends on the balance between:

  1. The quality you deliver to them (critical to quality = CTQ)
  2. The timeliness of your delivery, and (critical to delivery = CTD)
  3. The costs or efforts they have to “pay” for your delivery (critical to costs = CTC)

We call this a CTS Tree (critical to satisfaction). If one is missing, there is no satisfaction. Your Lean Six Sigma PROJECT can work on and improve the situation.

If you are struggling to find your first Lean Six Sigma project, just listen to your customers and find out where the imbalance is between quality, time and costs.

The “another perspective” is to look at yourself and your work through the eye of your customers. You are not inward looking but outward looking. It is not about you, you, and you.  It’s about constantly seeking the right balance for more customer satisfaction.

My wife sometimes gets crazy with me because I look at everyday situations from a Lean Six Sigma point of view.

When you start working with Lean Six Sigma you automatically look at situations differently.

–         In the restaurant when you wait longer (CTD) or the meal does not taste (CTQ)

–         In a shop if you pay too much (CTC)

–         At the dentist where you have to wait too long (CTD)

–         At your work where somebody gives you a report too late (CTD) and with mistakes (CTQ)

Do you see it? Can you identify similar issues in your work?

Leave a reply below of your experiences at work or in daily life that apply to these principles.  I’m looking forward to your comments.

Warm regards,

M.Sc. Peter Herku MBA, Lean Six Sigma Coach

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