Maria Fry, MoreSteam Client Services, recently approved her 900th project charter since she began conducting certification reviews for MoreSteam nine years ago. This trail of project charters has led to MoreSteam's certification of 140 Black Belts and nearly 194 Green Belts across nearly 500 certified projects.
As Fry's work moves closer to the 1,000-charter mark, she shared her observations and advice to process improvement practitioners.
As you look back at all the projects you've reviewed, what's the biggest trend you've seen shift over time?
I'm seeing a lot more projects in the transactional area. As a percent of total projects, there are a lot more organizations that don't do traditional manufacturing but are using LSS to look at their internal processes. For example, insurance companies realizing the path they take to offer products could be more efficient.
Within these projects themselves, how is the nature of problem solving changing?
The biggest difference is a greater awareness of the data to measure processes and the technology to do that effectively. Before, data collection was tougher and typically more manual; now, it's less manual and a lot easier to measure those processes.
Can this be somewhat of a mixed blessing?
Absolutely. This can lead to having so much data you don't know where to start. It can be paralyzing to narrow it down to something that is actionable in a project in a relatively short time frame.
What have you yourself learned along this journey?
I've learned that there are a million different ways to apply these tools and it takes creativity based on the situation you're in. The belts that bring projects for review and approval continually amaze me with the creative and effective ways they use these tools.
In that problem-solving toolset, what's one tool you feel doesn't get used to its full potential?
Measurement system analysis is probably one of the most underappreciated tools in the toolkit. Presented as something like Gage R&R, it can be fairly specific and necessary for physical tools. But it really can have broad application to test information flow and decisions in your process. Having a physical product isn't a must; if you think of the information that flows through transactional processes as your product, there are often multiple measurements and decision points- all susceptible to variation. I think people also don't realize that you may need to do more than one MSA in your project if you have multiple measurement points and multiple decision points.
What advice do you have for aspiring Black Belts and Green Belts based on your experience certifying these projects?
First, make sure you have good data and the ability to get more data by digging down into the process at a deeper level. Next, make sure you have the support of your sponsor and the resources to get started on your project. Those are the two biggest failure modes I see.
On a related note, I also recommend focusing on a project that you need to work on anyway, so it solves a strategic need for your business. That way it will have the resources and support to get it done and fix things that are important to the organization. But make sure the solution isn't known so you can use the full breadth of the tools that are available.
- Maria Fry, MoreSteam Client Services
In addition to conducting MoreSteam's certification reviews for the Black Belt and Green Belt programs, Maria Fry is a co-instructor for MoreSteam's Master Black Belt lean and statistics classes at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. She is principal and certified Master Black Belt at Strategic Quality Solutions LLC. Maria has accrued more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing, technology, and business processes serving a variety of industries.