Process Tool Notes

This section does not aspire to be a comprehensive reference or even list of process improvement tools (although we will expand, develop and improve it over time).

What it does set out to do is to illuminate some aspects of important process improvement tools that are not always apparent from tool resources in books and on the web, and to provide some perspectives that may help in the effective use of the respective tools.

The purpose of tools in process improvement, as in any endeavour, is to help us do a better job by providing leverage and strength beyond that of regular common sense. Specifically, process improvement tools should help us to develop shared knowledge amongst multiple disparate stakeholders, and to make decisions that can be supported by evidence.

Please refer to the Roadmaps section for suggestions as to when and where each tool may usefully be employed.

Process with variation, lean and six sigmaLean and / or Six Sigma?

The basic objectives of all process improvement is to:

  1. reduce the amount of variability in the process outputs and/or
  2. reduce the resources required to operate the process.

The first objective is commonly known as six sigma and the second objective as lean. However, as noted above, many waste resources are the direct result of variability in the process, so effective lean implies and requires tackling variation.

Or Neither?

For processes that have a high stuctural level of variability - for example prototypes and one-off projects - lean and six sigma methods may be overly presecriptive and incur overheads that are not offset by tangible benefits. For these, some flavour of agile (itself informed by lean) may be more appropriat to manage workflows and ensure that the project tracks and adapts to its environment as it evolves.