Help! Do You Know Anything about the 4P Process?

I have been doing some project work in Scorecarding and Dashboarding lately and ran across the term the 4P Cycle in Gupta’s book, Six Sigma Business Scorecard. $P Cycle

The 4P Cycle consist of

  1. Prepare represents ensuring good inputs to the process, The inputs consist of Ishikawa’s 4Ms (material, machines, methods, and manpower or people). The objective is to ensure these four Ms are received well as inputs to ensure the process output will be on target.
  2. Perform implies the process steps are well defined, and understood for effective and consistent execution.
  3. Perfect means assessing the performance against the established target performance. If the process output is not on target, the gap is assessed.
  4. Progress leads to reducing variability or the gap around the target, and striving toward the targeted performance.

By continually applying the 4P cycle, one can reengineer process to achieve the results desired by the customer through better process management, instead of increased inspection.

My understanding is that it is the method to Perform an Opportunity Analysis of a project or undertaking like PDCA or Six Sigma. Of course to a Six Sigma person it may make perfect sense. To a Lean person that thinks continuous improvement is continuous ( we know that is not exactly true) it seems a little out of sync.

Either way, I found it fascinating but have found little reference to it in other literature. In fact, Gupta I feel leaves me hanging a little on the 4P Cycle and was interested if anyone could reference it in other work or shed some light on their understanding or use of it.

Making a Kaizen Event Sustainable

Mark R. Hamel has played a transformative role in lean implementations across a broad range of industries including aerospace and defense, automotive, building products, business services, chemical, durable goods, electronics, insurance, healthcare and transportation services. Mark has successfully coached lean leaders and associates at both the strategic and tactical level. A National Shingo Prize examiner, Mark assisted in the development of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)/Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME)/Shingo Lean Certification exam questions. Mark is the author of the SME published, Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework, and Standard Work for Effective Events and blogs about Lean at Gemba Tales.

In this Podcast (Complete Transcription and podcast: Kaizen to Standard Work) Mark gives some great tips on moving from Kaizen to Standard Work.

Joe:  Well you mentioned one thing, and I am always inquisitive about this because seems to be that every time I read a book it always tells me how I am supposed to do the preplan, what I am supposed to do, what I am supposed to do during the event. Then you get to the sustainability part of it, and that’s the shortest chapter in the book and it’s over with but that’s the toughest thing to do.

The question I have is: “What are some of the key things that you need to do to make a Kaizen event sustain?”

Mark:  Good, good question! So within the event, when you’re in the execution phase, certainly by the latter portions of the event ? and we know it is a plan, do, check, act, type of approach ? but as we come up into taking our improvement ideas and developing the post?Kaizen situation, we need to validate that new standard of work within the events. So if you are doing an industrial application, often times it is pretty easy depending upon the cycle times to actually implement, apply the standard work, train people, and run the line, the cell, whatever, for multiple shifts. And in doing that plan, do, check, act, make the adjustments and fine tune that standard work so that we can leave the Kaizen event knowing that it works and that it is explicit and that it is properly documented, as well, on the standard worksheets, and standard work combination sheets, and that type of stuff.

In a transactional environment, the format might be a little bit different if you are dealing with really long lead times. For example, like a bodily injury claims process, you might end up doing tabletop simulations but you definitely want to test it and keep adjusting it.

Another big thing is obviously communicating and training the folks in the new way. Then on the follow upside, you can’t just introduce it and let it flop there. So this is where the lean leaders really need to come into play to make sure that there is process assurance with the new standard work, and also checking process performance.

We can do that through a number of different ways, primarily the lean management system, which is comprised of the leader’s standard work. So actually physically going somewhere and observing reality, hopefully, aided by good visual controls to tell if they’re getting a normal condition or an abnormal condition, to know whether or not there is process assurance.

And also, from a daily accountability perspective, “Am I getting the performance?” whether it is a plan versus actual chart or whatever to give you that feedback, and then to respond to that.

So you end up going from really a plan, do, check, act situation to a standardized do, check, act, where I’m checking the standards to make sure that they are being applied, to make sure that they are sufficient and if they’re not then I make adjustments to those. The rubber really meets the road; people happily get into lean implementation. The rubber meets the road often when it’s like, “OK we got some new standard work and this is in many ways a test of whether or not people are going to live and apply standard work.”

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Difference between DMAIC and PDCA 0

Dr. Liker is a nationally recognized authority on lean manufacturing methods and Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is an expert on U.S. and Japanese differences in manufacturing and supply chain management, and co-founded the Japan Technology Management Program at UM. He had a discussion with me on PDCA in this related podcast and transcription: PDCA The Toyota Way.

Joe:  What makes PDCA, something other than just another problem-solving methodology like DMAIC? Is it a cultural thing? Is that what it’s all about?

Jeff:  Yes, I think it’s a cultural thing. I’ve worked with various trained Black Belts and learned a lot from their Six Sigma Training and the projects they did. But the way I would look at DMAIC is that it’s very scripted, mechanistic approach. The underlying assumption which I think is a strong Western, scientific assumption ?? is that if you can understand the phenomena well enough through a combination of data and analysis of that data, you ought to be able to predict what’s going to happen.

The better you analyze the data, and the more you are precisely trying to identify exactly what the cause is, the better able you are to predict what’s going to happen. If you get it right then you’ve solved the problem, and like I said, the case is closed. You’re like the electrician. You put the tools back in your toolkit, and the case is closed.

In the Toyota way of thinking, again, it comes from humbleness, and it also comes from a background of the company, which started in a rice?growing region of Japan. If you’re a rice farmer, no sane rice farmer would think that they could control everything. They can’t control light; they can’t control the weather; they can’t control soil conditions. So they’re constantly trying to struggle to adapt to things that they can’t control.

That was the environment in which Toyota grew. It kept that humble attitude that the world is just too complex, and we’re never going to be able to predict what’s going to happen. It’s kind of a false sense of security to spend an enormous amount of time collecting data and analyzing the data with ever more sophisticated methods. Because the precision is false precision anyway, and we don’t really know what’s going to happen.

If we can come up with a lot of different ideas and try those ideas quickly, and then, actually learn by doing and actually see what happens. Then we have to go the next step of actually checking what actually happened, and what actually happened isn’t just what happened the week after the Six Sigma project was done. It’s what happens over the next six months, over the year, and over more than that. Do we sustain the process? So you live with the process to understand it.

Then you now have to, somehow, capture that information in a way that it’s reusable, so that people won’t make the same mistakes and don’t have to start the learning process over again in three years, when the manager has moved on, and most of the people have moved on. They have no idea that you made this great intervention three years ago, and you’re aware that these 10 things that work and these five things that don’t work. That’s where you become a learning organization.

My complaint is not necessarily DMAIC itself, but rather, the underlying philosophy and the organizational approach, which is you send in a Black Belt, who’s like the expert electrician. They take the tools out of their toolkit; they fix your problem, and they may work with you to try to teach you a little bit while you’re there. Then they put away their tools, and they go away.

They assume that they if they did enough statistical analysis which often, in these Six Sigma projects that I’ve been involved with, and even when I’ve seen the Lean Six Sigma that comes out of Six Sigma, I sometimes use the analogy that it’s about 80 percent massaging data numbers and about 20 percent actually thinking deeply about the problem, and taking action, and learning from what happens.

It’s the reverse in the Toyota way. It’s about 80 percent thinking deeply, engaging the right people, trying, observing, figuring out what happened, and educating the people who are part of that problem-solving process. Then, there’s about 15?20 percent, which are the tools and techniques and the analysis. That’s generally considered fairly irrelevant. It’s not a big deal, the methods themselves. The measure of success is what a person has taken away from this process: the hourly workers and the supervisors. What did they learn from this?

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How Important Are Your Role Players 0

David Veech is the founding member of the Institute for Lean Systems and serves as its Executive Director. In this Podcast/Transcription: The Fun Side of Standard Work, I asked him about role players.

Joae: So you are saying that when you are building the team, you really do have to identify maybe even the roles within the team a little and get the right role players just like you need to build a basketball team up, let us say, or a football team, you have got to have the right role players. You have got to have a rebounder, and you’ve got to have a shooter, a passing guard or whatever.

David: Well and that is what the teams are going to find out. They are going to find out who is good at what. Even some lean organizations, even some key Toyota suppliers, even Toyota itself in Japan, they tend to have somebody kind of focused on one role. Where, to get the true benefits that I am talking about in this self-efficacy article, we really need them to do multiple things. We really need them to rotate. Now, at Kentucky, they rotate very effectively, but when we went to Japan to see them working at Toyota City, they did not rotate. Some of the key Toyota suppliers, they did not rotate.

We talked to some very expert people who were fantastic at their job, but that is the only job they get to do. Variety is one of the key pieces of a satisfying job. Despite the wonderful work environment that you might want to create, if your job sucks, your job sucks.

So, if there are jobs that suck and then jobs that do not suck quite so bad, I want you to do a variety of different things during the day. I think that will have a positive impact on a person’s feelings of their worth, their contribution and I think it will build better skills.

It is also safer because they work different muscle groups, and we have less of a chance of repetitive motion injuries and ergonomic problems. So it is really important to me that we drive this key rotation feature. So, that means the physical structure of the workplace, the engineering behind it, it has got to be in place too for the people stuff to really come out.

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Are Your Executives Using Machine Thinking? 0

The co-author of The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement: Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance. James Franz,  answered a question of mine around how executives are trained in their thinking.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Toyota’s Continuous Improvement

Joe: Is this what you mean by machine thinking that’s attractive to a lot of executives?

Jim Franz: Yes. It’s one of our biggest challenges we’re going up against the entire “B-school” world out there. Steve Spear, I thought, talked about it very well in Chasing the Rabbit where he talks about all of our leadership now tends to come out of business schools. Who are taught to think in terms of transactions. “Where do I put the factory? Is this a make or is this a buy?” You do some accumulation of data and then bang! You make a decision!

That’s what makes a really good strong leader, is you can make quick, decisive decisions, et cetera. We support that kind of firefighter, chainsaw, Al Dunlap kind of thing, but the company and business isn’t a machine. It’s not something you walk up with a big honking wrench and crank on the bolt two times clockwise and suddenly your productivity goes up six percent. We don’t all show up in the morning, plug our brains in, and get our updated downloaded software telling us how to do our work.

When you think about the business as a machine, you think that there are some types of solutions. You’ll bring in technicians ?? how about consultants from the outside, to tweak the machine, to play with the source code. Ignoring the fact that your business is populated with people, and those people need to be developed into problem solvers to help the business achieve its goals. You totally miss that way of thinking when you get caught in this machine?head type scenario.

It is attractive, because you can think of things ?? well, like Lean ?? in terms of, “This is a project, how about a war on waste?” That’s attractive ?? that’ll look good on a banner when you come in the front door. “We’re engaged in a war on waste!”

Well, what do you do in a war? You gather all your troops, the generals plot the strategy. You unleash your strategy; you have this big huge war. Then the war is over, you declare victory, you send all the troops home and you demobilize. This is really the exact opposite of what we’re talking about, when you start talking about continuous improvement by developing your team’s problem solvers.

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What’s different about an A3? 0

In a past podcast, I had Daniel Matthews author of The A3 Workbook: Unlock Your Problem-Solving Mind and ask him why he favored A3s over 8D or some other problem solving tools. The answer I received was much different that what I expected.

Daniel learned what it takes to make a truly successful Lean transformation by comparing his 14 years of experience at Toyota with his observations of more than 20 different types of organizations. During his time with Toyota, Daniel was part of the original group of trainers at the Georgetown Kentucky Toyota plant charged with developing an A3 curriculum that would be used to educate team members at all levels of the organization. While working for Toyota he became an experienced Training Within Industry (TWI) instructor.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Unlock Your Mind With A3 Thinking

Excerpt from the Podcast:

Joe:  What’s different about an A3?

Daniel:  I guess, from my perspective, and this is something that I’ve actually been working on. It’s something that I take managers through when I first introduce them to the A3 process. But as you said, there are many different types of problem-solving methods out there. From 8D to the problem solving that was created after World War II put in conjunction with TWI program.

I guess the reason I picked A3, one obviously is because I worked for Toyota and that’s what I’m very familiar with. But the other thing is, is that those other problem-solving methods are typically, for the most part, from what I’ve seen are isolated to small areas.

What I mean by that is, 8D is a very good problem-solving method and it has a format that you follow to document that, but it’s typically multiple pages. It also is typically for a corrective action process.

Whereas A3 can be used for quality circles, it can be used for individual problem-solving efforts by the operator. It can be used at a strategic level, to define the conditions of the organization and what direction the organization needs to go in.

The things like the problem-solving format for TWI, it really limits you in terms of the focus. It’s really focused at that supervisor level and it’s not really an organizational type problem-solving method. It really forces you to kind of use job methods, job instructions and job relations as your solutions to the problem.

So it, to me, limits your ability to be creative and come up with some really innovative ideas to improve situations.

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Update on Marketng with PDCA 0

Marketing with PDCA is about managing a value stream using PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act). Using the new SALES PDCA Framework throughout the marketing cycle will provide constant feedback from customers, and can only occur if they are part of the process. It is about creating value in your marketing that a customer needs to enable him to make a better decision.

Targeting that value proposition through the SALES PDCA methods described in this book will increase your ability to deliver quicker and more accurately than your competitor. It is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitate the journey to customer value.

This book also introduces the Kanban as a planning tool or, as I like to think about it, as an execution tool. Improving your marketing process does not have to constitute wholesale changes nor increased spending. Getting more customers into your Marketing Kanban may not solve anything at all. Improving what you do and increasing the speed that you do it can result in an increase in sales and a decrease in expenses.


Table of Contents

  1. Lean Marketing House
  2. Future of Marketing
  3. Marketing Funnels
  4. Cycles to Loops
  5. Knowledge Management
  6. PDCA
  7. Sales and Marketing Teams
  8. Kanban
  10. Marketing with PDCA Summary
  11. Marketing with PDCA Case Study
  12. Constancy of Purpose
  13. Marketing with Lean Program Series

SALES PDCA is the framework I use for the process that takes place in the customer groups. It is nothing more than a standard PDCA cycle except the SALES part of the framework is where the sales team gets its directions and coaching from the team coordinator and value stream manager. Within the actual PDCA stage the sales team is empowered to make their own choices and determine their own direction to accomplish the goals of that cycle. This framework is introduced in the Marketing with PDCA book.

The individual stages of the SALES – PDCA framework are as follows:

Select the initial problem perception
Analyze the current knowledge of the process
Locate the people who understand the process
Empower the team
Select the improvement that needs to take place
Plan the improvement that needs to take place and plan the change
Do it the new way, execute the plan.
Check the results of the plan to determine whether the plan worked.
Act on the results. If the plan worked, standardize the change. If it didn’t work, readjust and go through the cycle again.

Lean Sales and Marketing is built upon the philosophy that there has been a subtle shift to knowledge as the way to engage, develop and retain your customer base. The sales and marketing team must act as a vehicle to cultivate ideas not only within their four walls but more importantly from their customers and markets. If this is true, how do create new knowledge? How do we learn? Most studies show that we learn best by doing and by being forced to resolve our perspective with those of others who disagree with us. This means that you have to encourage contradictions and be willing to push the envelope with your customers.

This is a strange paradox. Disagreement with your customer can hardly be seen as a positive mechanism for sales and marketing. However, it is the embracement of this understanding that will move your sales and marketing efforts to a higher level of performance.

Can you disagree with a customer? Can you purposely cause tension? You must! You must move away from the comfort zone and create a healthy tension and instability in your sales and marketing process. The first step in doing this is that you must create an atmosphere of respect. The next step in the process is surprisingly easy but difficult to do. It is the process of reflection or in Japanese, hansei. There are three key components of hansei:

  1. Recognize that there is a problem – a gap between expectations and achievement – and be open to negative feedback.
  2. Voluntarily take responsibility and feel deep regret.
  3. Commit to a specific course of action to improve.

The first step, acknowledge that there is room for improvement is not that difficult. However, putting a number to it may be a different story. When we create a performance gap we identify 2 things, one where we are at now and where do we want to go. Of course we may not get there overnight but there will be limitations. You have to determine what is realistic to achieve. A simple but effective way of looking at it is, “From what to what by when”. The second step can simply be stated – don’t look for excuses. Take responsibility, feel a little humility and move forward. Without this, you will never fully release from the past and it may be much more difficult to bring fresh ideas to the table. This is your action plan to move forward. However, without step 2, you will seldom be passionate about step 3. It will just be another effort and ownership will be limited. Ownership cannot be done without an emotional attachment.

The steps of Respect first, Reflection second will drive the 3rd step of Kaizen or continuous improvement. This is the process and culture of PDCA in your marketing cycle. It is the embodiment of tension, a performance gap to send you off on a new path. This path acts as expanding spiral of co-creation of knowledge with your customer that will be truly valued. THE ABILITY TO SHARE AND CREATE KNOWLEDGE WITH YOUR CUSTOMER is the strongest marketing tool possible. Few companies will take this path. Few companies will take the time to develop the level of respect required. Even fewer will use Hansei and look at performance gaps releasing their own pre-determined reasons. Few will ever practice continuous improvement in sales and marketing.

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