Build In Quality From The Start

I was working with a client this week who was struggling to obtain financial information in a timely manner from their accounting office. As we evaluated their processes, it became clear that the accounting group was spending a significant amount of time identifying data entry errors, tracking down why the errors occurred, and fixing the errors. The problem began at the “front of the house” and proliferated as the transactions continued through the system, resulting in wasted time to circle back and make corrections. Although the client implemented measures to identify and correct the errors, their solution was laborious and unduly burdened the accounting group.

Using the Lean Six Sigma approach, we determined WHY the errors occurred in the first place, instead of creating a safety net to catch the errors further down the pipeline. We created a picture of the process and found the source of the problem. We also included team members involved with the transaction cycle at all levels. By employing the group, we found the root cause of the problem and developed an appropriate solution.

This example conveys two important lessons: 1) Build in quality from the start. Errors occurring at the beginning of the process create a snowball effect that increases work-load, frustration, stress, risk, and negatively impacts profitability and customer service. 2) Determining the root cause of the problem is critical. Instead of creating methods of correction, organizations should identify the source and cause of the problem. Only then can a true solution be developed.

About the Authors

Mike Sibley and Katie Davis are passionate about creating thorough and sustainable systems to help organizations become Lean Enterprises. In addition to writing and speaking on Lean Six Sigma, Mike and Katie work directly with an organization’s members to evaluate an existing process and identify solutions that eliminate waste, as well as build efficiency and quality into the process. Mike and Katie have applied these approaches for manufacturing, construction, professional services, and governmental entities.