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Lean Six Sigma Bursts

Lean Six Sigma Bursts

By Brion Hurley
Brion Hurley from Business Performance Improvement shares his takes and thoughts on a variety of topics related to process improvement (specifically Lean and Six Sigma methods), Bursts are rapid improvement activities, so this sounded like a good word to use for these short audio clips. We'll try to keep them under 5 minutes each. Have a question? Use the anchor app to leave us a voice message, and we might pick your question for our next episode!
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E44: The waste of physical books that go unread

Lean Six Sigma Bursts

E44: The waste of physical books that go unread

Lean Six Sigma Bursts

E45: The waste of not being proactive
In this episode, I talk about some other ways to identify waste and opportunity in your process and workday, specifically the tasks that you are not doing, but should be. This proactive work doesn't happen, so you often don't realize that you didn't get around to it. It later shows up as actual waste when something goes wrong or there are problems, but it's too late. Start to notice these proactive activities that you aren't doing as opportunities for improvement. Links Honda Statistical Process Control video Have a question? Submit a voice message at
November 15, 2021
E44: The waste of physical books that go unread
In this episode, I go on a little rant about books, and how I estimate there are a lot of unread books in people's homes and offices. I'm considering a challenge to get people to read some of their unread books, or get rid of them and free up space in your home. Would you be interested in this challenge? Links Book: Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein Article: 5S and the KonMari method Training: FREE "Lean at Home" course (Home Efficiency Using Japanese Lean Productivity Techniques) Have a question? Submit a voice message at
September 30, 2021
E43: 10 questions to find opportunities to apply Lean Six Sigma to your organization
I was asked a question about how to get started applying Lean and Six Sigma to a non-manufacturing business. I thought about some key questions I would want to ask, and sent them a response. I thought they were good questions, so I wanted to share them on the podcast.  Links Have a question? Submit a voice message at
August 7, 2021
E42: Quick Summary of SPC and Control Charts
During a recent coaching call with a client, we discussed applicability of statistical process control (SPC) and control charts (also called process behavior charts) in their operations. I sent them a link to the Honda SPC video (older but highly recommended) and I share the comments I made to elaborate on what they saw.  Links Honda Statistical Process Control video Have a question? Submit a voice message at
July 3, 2021
E41: Q&A to discuss management's role in leading and encouraging improvements
After conducting a Lean 101 webinar for Lean Portland, we had some excellent questions from the attendees, so I thought I share my answers. The first question was looking for advice on how management can support their employees instead of just giving them their idea on what the answers are. The second question asked about how to deal with managers who think that no complaints means no problems. You can watch the full Lean 101 webinar in the links below. Links Lean 101 Webinar Have a question? Submit a voice message at
June 25, 2021
E40: Q&A to discuss streamlining forms and psychological safety
After conducting a Lean 101 webinar for Lean Portland, we had some excellent questions from the attendees, so I thought I share my answers. The first question was looking for advice on how to make their forms easier and more streamlined for their customers. The second question asked about how to create psychological safety and build trust in their organization when top management doesn't seem to be driving it. You can watch the Lean 101 webinar in the links below. Links Lean 101 Webinar Have a question? Submit a voice message at
June 17, 2021
E39: Q&A to discuss batching and classical vs lean management
After conducting a Lean 101 webinar for Lean Portland, we had some excellent questions from the attendees, so I thought I share my answers. The first question was looking for more explanation about batching vs one piece flow. The second question asked about classical vs lean management methods. You can watch the Lean 101 webinar in the links below. Links Lean 101 Webinar Creative Safety Supply (enter code "BPI" to save 10%) Have a question? Submit a voice message at
June 14, 2021
E38: Confusion about Project Charters and Proposed Solutions
Project charters for improvement projects do not have solutions listed. Instead, they should explain the problem, the management support for this project, the key team members, the scope, the timeline and key metrics of success. They should not have the proposed solution, as we shouldn't have that figured out yet. We still need to follow the problem solving approach. I explain my thoughts on this in more depth. Links Have a question? Submit a voice message at
June 7, 2021
E37: What is the Taguchi Loss Function?
Developed by Genichi Taguchi, the Taguchi Loss Function is a graphical representation of how an increase in variation away from the target value (even within specification limits( leads to an exponential increase in customer dissatisfaction. This is different than the traditional approach of viewing results within the specification limits as good, and results outside of the specification limits as bad. Links Taguchi Loss Function Video of Ford Transmission Study: Have a question? Submit a voice message at
May 31, 2021
E36: Two main types of kaizen or kaikaku events
When describing the methodology of a kaizen or kaikaku event, I often break it up into two main types: Working session - traditional approach where 80% of the work is implemented during the 2-5 day event Planning session - process mapping approach where the team generates a 90-day action plan during the 2-5 day event I explain the differences and when to use each type, along with describing how projects and point kaizen (or kaizen blitz/burst activities) fit within these activities. Links What is Kaikaku? Video of Kaizen Planning Event: Video of Kaizen Working Event (within a larger 8-week project): Video of Kaizen Blitz or Point Kaizen: Creative Safety Supply Have a question? Submit a voice message at
May 19, 2021
E35: What to do if management doesn't support Lean or Six Sigma?
A common question I hear is "what if my company doesn't support process improvement?" I share 4 main approaches you can take to deal with this situation, instead of feeling frustrated by it. Links Creative Safety Supply Have a question? Submit a voice message at
May 15, 2021
E34: Analyzing my COVID-19 vaccine experience
I share my experience getting my first COVID-19 vaccine shot, and how I analyzed that process from a lean perspective. I found that there was only one second of value, compared to a process that took me over an hour to complete. On a related note, I also have some links to lean applied during the pandemic on my website (see links below). Links Applying Lean Methods to Mitigate COVID-19 at Work Have a question? Submit a voice message at
April 26, 2021
E33: What is the history of PDCA vs PDSA?
I was recently asked about the difference between PDCA and PDSA. I had heard some new information from another podcast, and dug into one of the references to learn more about it. In this episode, I read through a paper from Ronald Moen that provides a good historical perspective. Note: I mispronounced Charlie Protzman's name in the audio. Apologies! Links Foundation and History of the PDSA Cycle - Ronald Moen  Podcast Interview with Charlie Protzman and Patrick Adams Creative Safety Supply Have a question? Submit a voice message at
April 19, 2021
E32: How Lean Events Accomplish More Than Process Improvement
A recent Value Stream Mapping event was held virtually, and we received some positive feedback from the event attendees. I wanted to share some of the comments to show how process improvement helps much more than just faster processes with less quality issues. It helps engage employees in the future direction of the organization, builds teamwork across departments, and creates a safe space for discussing problems and challenges. Please contact me if you'd like help with facilitating your own lean events, so I can better understand how to assist you in this important tool of process improvement. Links Value Stream Mapping Training (YouTube) Kaizen Event Training (YouTube) Have a question? Submit a voice message at
April 9, 2021
E31: Why a Structured Problem Solving Approach is Important
Does your organization use a structured problem solving process, like DMAIC, 8D, or PDSA? If no, why not? I share my views on what challenges are created when you don't have structure to your problem solving approach. Links Have a question? Submit a voice message at
April 5, 2021
E30: Using a Prioritization Matrix to Select the Best Projects
Are you trying to decide how to select the best projects to work on, but have many stakeholders and customer needs to consider, and too many project ideas? Check out the Project Prioritization Matrix to help you objectively evaluate these projects and select the ones that meet the most important criteria. I pulled the audio from the training video for you to listen to in this podcast. There is also a link to the video if you had trouble following along, and I provide a link to the template you can download.  Links Video: What is a Project Prioritization Matrix? Selecting the Best Projects with Many Stakeholder Criteria Template: Project Prioritization Matrix (XLSX) Have a question? Submit a voice message at
March 24, 2021
E29: How to decide on the right number of people for your lean event?
I received a question today that I thought would be helpful to everyone: “Imagine you are getting ready to kick-off the value stream workshop and you start to receive emails from a bunch of different people in the organization asking to attend. What would be your response?” I answered the question in an article on my website, but I wanted to read my response for this podcast. Links Article: How to decide on the right number of people for your lean event? Creative Safety Supply Have a question? Submit a voice message at
March 22, 2021
E28: Don't combine financial data together, separate into these 3 buckets
When making improvements to a process, cost savings and avoidance is a common outcome that is estimated and reported. A common error is to combine the data together into one overall number, but they should be separated into three distinct buckets of money: Income Statement, Cash Flow and Growth.  Links Article: Client saved $800,000 in 3 Days E2: What is the difference between hard and soft financial savings? Creative Safety Supply
March 17, 2021
E27: Calculate cost of nonconformance to get management's attention for Lean
One of the most impactful quality initiatives I was involved with was the creation and deployment of the Cost of Nonconformance (CoNC) report. It was a method to assign a dollar amount to quality problems in order to bring attention to management in the language they most often respond to, money! It could also be applied more broadly beyond just quality issues to any type of waste to increase visibility for your Lean or Six Sigma initiative. Check out our Cost of Poor Quality course at Links Cost of Poor Quality Course Creative Safety Supply
March 13, 2021
E26: Common Data Types for your Process
In process improvement, there is a strong focus of data. But in order to analyze data for an improvement project, you need to know what type of data you have or need, so you can perform the correct analysis. I share the different types of data you may encounter for your project. Links
March 10, 2021
E25: Why do we need 30 data samples?
I saw a recent question in a forum, asking about the origin of the sample size of 30 data points. I decided to read you the response I gave, and make it a new blog post on my website.  Links Article: Why do we need 30 data samples?
March 6, 2021
E24: Top 3 things to validate before removing test or inspection steps
I share an article I wrote back in Dec 2013 about reducing or eliminating test or inspection steps using Six Sigma analysis methods of capability and stability, along with risk mitigation tools like FMEA and error proofing. Links Article: Top 3 things to validate before removing test or inspection steps Article: Which Should You Use Cpk or Ppk?
March 3, 2021
E23: What is the Lean Communicators network?
I share an interview I did with Mark Graban about why I created this podcast. He included me in a new networking group called Lean Communicators. We are a group of podcasters that talk about Lean, and we meet about once a month to discuss best practices and learn from each other. Check out the website of all the contributors at, where you can subscribe to an email list of new episodes from all contributors, or subscribe to individual podcasts. You can also follow us on LinkedIn using #LeanCommunicators. Mark also appeared in Episode 11 of this podcast, so you can hear his questions and my responses. Links LinkedIn #LeanCommunicators Lean Blog Podcast #394 with Mark Graban - Interviews with Lean Communicators network Lean Six Sigma Bursts - Episode 11 with Mark Graban
February 21, 2021
E22: Why calculating Median can be better than a Mean or Average
Most people calculate the average when summarizing data, but what about the median? The median is not as sensitive to outliers and skewed data, and can be a better indicator of the typical or most common outcome in your data. Links Wikipedia: Median
February 20, 2021
E21: What is the Hawthorne Effect and does it explain temporary improvements?
Do you see problems recur later after all the attention has gone away? That could be the Hawthorne Effect at work, which can create confusion on whether your improvements are actually working. Links Wikipedia: Hawthorne Effect
February 16, 2021
E20: Why I like using the Ideal State Mapping approach
When I facilitate mapping events, after completing the current state map and before we create the future state map, I like to first walk the team through an ideal state discussion. I categorized these concepts and share the list with you in this podcast. Links Why I like using the Ideal State Mapping approach
February 5, 2021
E19: Typical Ground Rules for Your Next Lean Kaizen Blitz or Kaikaku Event
Ground rules are an important element of running a successful process improvement event (called Kaizen Blitz or Kaikaku events). In this podcast, I share a compiled list of rules that you can use as a starting point for your next improvement workshop. Links List of Typical Lean Kaizen Event Ground Rules
January 24, 2021
E18: Does Jon Taffer of "Bar Rescue" Practice Lean?
During some recent travel, my wife and I ended up watching multiple episodes of "Bar Rescue."  I've watched the show for many years, so I re-watched it with a new lens, now that I'm consulting on my own.  As I thought about my approach to consulting, how would I help these bars and restaurants make dramatic improvements? Listen for my comparison of how I would prefer to help these bars versus the approach used by host Jon Taffer. Links Bar Rescue Show
January 6, 2021
E17: Writing a Book in Small Batches with LeanPub
I discuss the Lean approach to writing a book, which is how I published my first 2.5 books. allows you to write and publish your book for free and release similar to software, instead of one large batch like in traditional book publishing.  Links Lean Six Sigma for Good: How improvement experts can help people in need, and help improve the environment Lean Six Sigma for Good: Lessons from the Gemba (Volume 1) Lean Six Sigma for Good: Lessons from the Gemba (Volume 2)
November 25, 2020
E16: Unique Internal Lean Six Sigma Certification Program
I discuss the internal Lean Six Sigma certification program I helped develop and implement at Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace), and why I think it's a good model for other organizations to consider if you want to offer certifications. Links
November 9, 2020
E15: Lean and Six Sigma Improvement Project Ideas by Industry
If you've struggled to decide what improvement project to work on at work or for a certification project, check out this list of project or event ideas that you could consider for your industry. I have examples from the following categories: Personal Life, Finance and Accounting, Human Resources, Sales, Shipping/Receiving and Warehouse, Information Technology (IT), Product/Service Design, Call Center, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Sports, Grocery/Supermarket, Nonprofits, Environment, Corporate Responsibility, Diversity/Equity and Inclusion, and Education. This is a longer podcast than usual, so I apologize but hope you found it useful! Links Lean and Six Sigma Project Ideas Check out our FREE “Lean at Home” online course for ways to improve your personal life!
November 5, 2020
E14: How many wastes are there? And what are the 3 M's?
I try to simplify some confusion about the 7 types of waste (or are there 14 types?), the 3 M's, and explain simpler ways to think about opportunities in a process. Links Article: From 7 Wastes to 3 – The Yamada Method Acronyms for remembering the wastes
October 16, 2020
E13: Need to Implement Continuous Improvement for certification? Start with Lean!
I finished writing an article about two sustainability certification programs that require continuous improvement, but don't give guidance on how to do that. I explain why I think Lean is the best method to adopt for these mission-driven organizations. I also share examples below in the links about why I think Toyota is a leader in community engagement and environmental causes, not just financial performance. Links Article: Continuous Improvement key to B Corps, Fair Trade and other mission-driven organizations Toyota Toyota Kentucky facility reflects parent company’s commitment to the environment Toyota and the Earth Charter Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) - Donates time to nonprofits and government agencies
October 13, 2020
E12: First SDCA before PDCA
I had a call this week helping out with a Black Belt project, and I was reminded about the Standardize-Do-Check-Act model that should be implemented first, before trying to make improvements to a process using the PDCA model (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Links Kaizen - The Key to Japan's Competitive Success by Masaaki Imai Photo from Masaaki Imai's "Kaizen" book about SDCA and PDCA
October 6, 2020
E11: Two Questions from Episode 1 about Cost Savings
I received two questions from Mark Graban about my first episode. He is a well-known Lean consultant with expertise in the healthcare industry, and has authored multiple books, including Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen and Measures of Success. He is also the host of multiple podcasts, including Lean Blog and My Favorite Mistake. Learn more about him at Links Episode 1: Why are Six Sigma Black Belts paid so much?
October 2, 2020
E10: Explaining Lean and Six Sigma to Natural Problem Solvers
During Lean and Six Sigma classes, I meet a lot of people who are good problem solvers already, and they mention that the topics are similar to how they approach problems. Here are some of my observations about my interactions with them, and what takeaways I gathered. Links
September 28, 2020
E9: Access historic PRODUCTIVITY newsletters from Norman Bodek (1980-1993)
I share exciting news that we have digital access to Norman Bodek's past PRODUCTIVITY newsletters from 1980-1993. He lived in Vancouver, Washington (near Portland), but was moving to Japan permanently, and we have scanned in the documents for you to search, download and review. Links PRODUCTIVITY newsletters and interviews with Norman Bodek
September 15, 2020
E8: Safety, Quality, Delivery and Customer - How SQDC charts can drive daily management
I discuss the simple visual management templates called SQDC (also called QDIP). These visuals help simplify the daily management for a process area, to quickly bring attention to areas that need help. A video of the discussion is available on the product page in the link below Links Watch a video or download the SQDC templates
September 5, 2020
E7: Applying Lean at Home - Contest with Prizes Ends Sept 30th
I discuss the Lean at Home contest being run by Lean Portland. We are giving away $200 in prizes to those who submit an improvement project at home that was completed in the last 6 months. We also have a free online course you can take if you need some help! Links "Lean at Home" contest "Lean at Home" - Free online course
September 1, 2020
E6: What are Pareto charts and why should you display them horizontally?
I explain what Pareto charts are, and why they should be used more often than they are. I also summarize an older article I wrote about changing the way to display these charts. Links (Pareto) New spin (literally) on an old quality tool
August 30, 2020
E5: What are hypothesis tests and why do we need them?
I explain how and when hypothesis tests can be used, based on a recent article I wrote, which looked at the racial inequities brought up by football players at the University of Iowa and the data that can support these claims. Links Affordable Green Belt Training Racial Differences in Football Player Retention at the University of Iowa
August 28, 2020
E4: What is the DMAIC Improvement model?
I created a video that accompanies this quick explanation of DMAIC, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. DMAIC is the core structure used in Six Sigma projects Links Video of DMAIC Overview
August 23, 2020
E3: What is the Influencer model and how it applies to wearing masks?
In this episode, I discuss the Influencer behavior change model, and how it applies to getting people to wear their masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 Links Article: How Behavior Change Can Influence Wearing of Masks
August 23, 2020
E2: What is the difference between hard and soft financial savings?
In this episode, I answer a question I often receive about how to categorize financial cost savings from improvement, either hard or soft, and what is the difference? Links
August 23, 2020
E1: Why are Six Sigma Black Belts paid so much?
In this first episode, I answer a question I received about salaries for Six Sigma Black Belts, and why I think they make good money. Links
August 23, 2020