The Big Lollapalooza: Exposed

Lollapalooza: an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or  event;
an exceptional example or instance.

When was the last time you experienced a lollapalooza? Well, these days it seems that Lean and Six Sigma are the big lollapaloozas, although Lean and Six Sigma are nothing more than common sense approaches for efficiency. And getting work done efficiently is never an exception to how organizations are (or should be) practicing. Along with effectiveness (doing the right job), efficiency is essential to ensuring productivity.

Efficiency has a long history, starting with scientific management in 1899 with Frederick Taylor’s industrial experiments to Edwards Deming’s Total Quality Movement (TQM) and influence on the Japanese following World War II, to Peter Drucker’s management philosophy in the 1980s and Concept of the Corporation, and, of course, many other influencers in between. Their goal was to enable individuals and organizations to do their best for the least possible cost and maximum gain. Efficiency can save you and your organization time and money, and sometimes in a big way. Let me give you an example.

Client X (not his real name) had a problem with the way his organization’s decentralized branches were managing and delivering services to their customer. Specifically, management felt that branches were duplicating work both within and between branches. One example I was given was that some branches were calling on each other to invite ‘guest staff’ from one branch to speak at another branch for the purpose of sharing vital information that the recipient branch could incorporate into their own processes. Client X clearly needed help.

The first step to solving Client X’s problem was to convene key staff in one room to create a value stream (flow) map of their processes. For this initial meeting, in person attendance was mandatory. Using sticky notes, staff wrote and illustrated each branch’s process(es). When all the sticky notes were posted on the wall, it was clear that branches were duplicating multiple steps that had no value to delivering customer service. In addition, for one process alone, there were six different methods for getting the job done. From here, staff wrote down the time required to perform each step. Then participants had an opportunity to pinpoint areas where delays and complexities were the greatest. With just a few simple improvements, they were able to eliminate 20 processes out of 40, streamline another 15, and reduce waiting time for their customers by 95%. Not bad for a couple of days’ work in the boardroom!

So did Client X and their staff have a “lollapalooza” moment? Sure, they probably did. My take on this, however, is that through Lean and Six Sigma concepts, efficiency and effectiveness have been re-invented in order to help a worldwide sagging economy. We needed something new, something trendy, so that people and organizations would stop throwing time and money away. If you haven’t jumped on the efficiency and effectiveness bandwagon, you must have money to burn.