In the story of my imaginary friend Ben and his pizza outlet, we started applying Six Sigma methodology aimed at solving his problem of dwindling customer base and eroding margins.
In our problem-solving journey, we understood little about making delicious pizzas but discussed the Define Phase, in depth. We covered the project selection – different routes of top line and bottom line problems, prioritising the customer requirements with affinity analysis and Kano model in case of top line problem. Then understood the use of the Pareto chart to prioritise bottom line problems.
We have also seen the application of project charter, how it helps as a single page document in anchoring an improvement project. We crossed the goal setting and goal statement in Define Phase.
It was a quite busy day for me in Mumbai. I was rambling in the veranda of my client’s office in Andheri and gazing through the window during the bio-break. People are walking as fast as the cars on the road; we can also say that cars are moving slow. It feels better just looking at people in Mumbai. You can see their determination, their dedication when they travel. Everyone is busy and engaged. Life here provides abundant opportunities for everyone to flourish.
I came back from my thoughts when I received a call from Ben.
“Hey, Kannan! How are doing? It feels a bit long since we met. We are ready to receive you tomorrow. We are all set.”
I thanked and told him that I would call that evening to discuss the meeting agenda and continued gazing through the window. I had given them an assignment of completing the project charter for their selected project ‘y’s. Earlier, Ben requested to plan the review after 3 weeks, as he was having some ‘bank’ work. I presumed he was arranging a loan.
Three weeks flew as if 3 hours for me. But he reminded me its a long gap. I recalled the telephonic discussions I had with some of the team members and prepared myself for the next step of action.
People Development – The early sign of success
The next day, Ben came to Chennai Airport to pick me up in the morning. He started talking about the improvements he observed. “You know? Nowadays my people talk a different language. They talk about customer requirement, customer preference, priority… Wow! It feels amazing when you see people in your team are growing and showing interest in the common goal. I never thought my people are capable of understanding my problems”.
“They talk about cost, they talk about rejections, they know data, they started collecting and analysing data. I feel we are on the right track now. Do you know Abhishek, that young chap? He spoke to me about how customers are getting irritated when they receive cold – pizzas, but I’d never seen him like this before!”
I nodded and smiled occasionally, but my mind started working on the project charters and Process Flow Diagrams. Since there was a gap, I spoke to the team leaders over the phone and shared the template of Project charter as a tool and how to construct one for their projects. The rest of the drive we discussed the business scenario.
Ben enquired as we reached Pondicherry, “Kannan, we will have breakfast in our office, specially prepared for you by my Mom. Then we will start the meeting at 10 am”.
I was eager to meet the team and to know their motivation level, but I did not resist his request.
We reached the conference room after breakfast. I requested Anand to display his project charter and he readily did so. I started looking at the project charter.
Project Charter – The First Draft
Anand explained their understanding of each component of the charter. After every sentence, he started looking at me for my acceptance. He also mentioned that he was not clear with the problem statement.
“Are we right? In case of the expected state, the customers want hot pizzas – that is pizzas at right temperature… and the actual state… no, we are not clear. Can you please explain again?” Anand requested.
I was waiting for such an entry. Because I could not resist my temptation to share my views on their charter. But I learnt in my early days of my career that as a good consultant, we have to listen to the client fully and should not pass on your comments unless they ask for.
As I get up from the chair and walk towards the board, Anand came with a marker pen and a duster and politely handed them over to me. His smile and gesture indicated that they were eager to get more clarity on this.
Voice of Design
I drew on the board
“What do we understand from this picture?”
I continued, “We get an idea of the problem. This tells us the problem and what to improve. But we can not understand the need for improvement – from where to where”.
“The purpose of the problem statement is to provide us with a precise answer for from where to where”.
“Now, we need to define customer expectations in terms of a measurable number. In our case, how would a chef respond if you ask him to prepare hot pizzas?”
Abhishek spontaneously interrupted with his answer, “Our chef will say, I am already preparing hot pizzas”. Most other participants were undistracted, but Abhishek did not notice that. I saw a sense of accomplishment in his face.
I continued, “Yes. So, we need to provide him with a number to target. In case of our temperature of pizza, what would be a target value?”
“around 60°”, “50 to 80° Celsius”, “close to 70 degrees”, “no no! it should be above 80°”… I waited until they pour all their opinions out.
“Yes, this is what will happen when we work with our opinions”, I said. “he will make the pizzas at 80° if he were in the kitchen”.
I pointed the person who said 50° and said: “50° pizzas will be delivered to customers when you are in the kitchen. Right?”
“So, what will be the next step logically?” I left the question open to the team. I looked at Ben expecting his answer.
He was seriously thinking of something out of the room. I wanted him to be fully involved in the brainstorming activity.
He was clever enough to realise my intention and jumped back to the session.
“Yes, I see there is a confusion. We need to arrive at the right number as a target. I see that will be the next step”.
I kept staring at him and pretended that I am not satisfied. He continued, “we need to discuss and fix the target temperature of pizzas when served. That is, we are fixing the expected state of our project y”.
“Spot on!” I continued. “Earlier we understood the customer requirements from Voice of Customer, VoC – as fresh pizzas, then we identified the properties of pizzas to be considered as fresh, that is Critical to Satisfaction, CtS. We arrived at process requirements to meet the CtS expectations, that is Critical to Quality Parameters, CtQs. Now, for each of CtQ, we will fix the target level”.
Ben quoted some food safety recommendations and research about food temperature and said “The pizza has to be delivered at a minimum of 63° Celsius. At the same time, it should not touch 70°C, because kids would like to have a bite as soon as it is served.
Shall we keep 63° C as our minimum temperature of pizza at the time of delivery at the table and 69° C as maximum?”
Anand and Head Chef Ravi seconded the proposal. Anand said, “Presently, we do not have any target values for this temperature. But, as Ben stated regarding food safety requirements, we measured the temperatures last year. We found that the acceptable pizzas were at around 65°C”.
“Is it making sense to consider 63 – 69°C as our targeted performance?” I asked everyone. With their agreement, I proceeded. But requested Ben and Anand to conduct similar experiments for acceptable temperature once again.
Now, we can define our target performance as 63 – 69°C or 66°+/-3°C. I drew on board.
I continued, “This is called Voice of Design or VoD”.
A resistant hand raised from the right. “Sir, I am Chef Balaji…”
“Oh, the 80° Balaji?!” I probed. That broke the silence of the audience with a burst of laughter and that made Balaji a bit more comfortable.
He continued, “I get your point of arriving at a target for CtQ. But, why it is called Voice of Design? What is the need for Design here?”
This is a very common question I encounter in non-engineering organisations.
“See, most of these tools and techniques are originated from either the automobile industry or electronic industry. In those companies, there will be a team of experts involved in designing the products based on customer requirements. They will design the product from concept including the process parameters and provide the target values for production”, I replied.
“Yes, that is the R&D Department”, Anand.
I nodded and continues, “That department is also called as Design and Development Department, Design Department or sometimes as Engineering Department. They do some research to arrive at the targets for product parameters as well as process parameters. They will also provide some allowance around the target, say +/- 3°C in our case. This allowance is called Engineering Tolerance or simply, tolerance. The set of target values along with the tolerance is called as Specification.”
“And the maximum limit, in our case 69°C is called Upper Specification Limit (USL) and the minimum value is called Lower Specification Limit (LSL)”. I drew on the board.
“And this is what is our expected state”, I concluded.
We discussed specification limits in some detail and how to interpret it in the project charter. But many of the team members started to have internal discussions and I allowed it to happen. Effective learning happens in internal discussions.
“Sir, with specification limits, I feel we reached our limits to hold back hunger. Shall we take a break?”, as usual, Abhishek. I nodded in silence and then realised that the time was 3 o’ clock.
In the coming chapters, we will discuss subsequent steps of the project charter and proceed to other key Define Phase tools like Process Flow Diagram, SIPOC, RACI Matrix, Communication Plan and Stakeholder Analysis.