Just Do It
©2022, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

Part of being a good Lean Six Sigma Practitioner is knowing when not to practice Lean Six Sigma.

I mean this in a positive way. There are times when it is so obvious that there is something that can be done to immediately improve a process that there is little point in going through the usual protocol of a six sigma project or lean event.

In other words, long before Nike adopted the phrase as its slogan (in 1988, by the way), there was Just Do It.

A real life example from the logistics world: A shipment of a single package of ordinary batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 9 Volt) does not need to be overnighted for any reason at any time, and especially during December when it's as likely as not to be put under the Christmas Tree in a gift for which Batteries Were Not Included as to be used for whatever legitimate reason there might be for a repair of some sort. (And there were very few instances in which this was true.) Once this was pointed out, it took about five seconds for management to put a stop to the practice of expediting Evereadys and Duracells to service technicians, not only saving a non-trivial number of dollars but also freeing up time for more important things. This decision was accompanied by the statement, "They can get their own... batteries." (With some colorful language between "own" and "batteries.")

There can also be Just Do It aspects of more traditional Lean Six Sigma projects. Early on, some improvement opportunities may present themselves, or might be presented by process participants who have been noting to whoever would listen that if just this little change were made there would be a big impact. The issue was that no one would listen. Assuming that there is a sufficient engaged and suitably empowered sponsor or champion, the little change can be made and duly noted in the project description. In other words, don't wait to go through the entire project protocol. For those who might worry about such a change occurring during the project, don't worry—change will likely happen anyway, and you'll have to account for that in any case. The world does not stop while a project is ongoing.

However, it’s still important to point out that the entire project would not consist of a series of Just Do It items. You either don't have a real project or you have a leader that wants to implement change under the guise (or perhaps, cover) of a Lean Six Sigma Project—which is the same thing as not having a real project. The practitioner still needs to practice good judgment here. Just do that, too.

More from the Notebook...