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So far we've looked at ways to solve problems with delay, defects, and deviation using the methods and tools of Lean Six Sigma. After Lean Six Sigma teams have sunk their teeth into a few improvement projects, they often begin to wonder if they are working on the right issues and processes. This seems to be a natural progression: from achieving early success using the improvement tools to wanting to focus the improvement efforts more precisely.

Lean Six Sigma has some excellent tools to help refine your improvement focus. Most people aren't ready to use these strategic tools until they've started to understand the basic methods and tools, however.

I've also noticed that Lean and Six Sigma started out as separate methods and tools but have been on a collision course for the last few years. I've also noticed a trend in the press toward something called process innovation. Just as Six Sigma eclipsed total quality management (TQM), I suspect that process innovation will become the new catch phrase that encompasses Lean Six Sigma. Regardless of what you name it, the improvement efforts can benefit from more rigorous focus.


The focusing process was originally called hoshin planning. I call it laser focus. In this chapter you will learn how to use the key tools required to laser focus your process innovation:

  • Use the voice of the customer (VOC) to define customer requirements.

  • Develop critical-to-quality (CTQ) measures to link the VOC to your business processes.

  • Create a balanced scorecard to focus and align your organization's mission with both long- and short-term improvement objectives.

  • Select and graph indicators to measure your customer requirements and the progress of the improvement effort.

The planning process feeds directly into problem solving to increase speed, quality, and cost by reducing cycle time, defects, waste, and rework.

Voice of the Customer

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse.


The voice of the customer helps hospitals focus their improvement efforts in ways that will achieve breakthrough improvements in speed, quality, and cost that serve the patient. Stop thinking of a patient as a patient and start thinking of them as a customer. Using the voice of the customer (VOC), business (VOB), and employee (VOE), you can develop a master improvement story that links and aligns multiple teams and improvement efforts to achieve quantum leaps in performance improvement.

Michael George speaks of understanding the heart of the customer, not just the head. To understand the heart, he suggests that you will want to (1) develop strong links to both the core and the fringes of your market, (2) study the behavior of customers to gain insights ...

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