150% increase in productivity – What worked?

This is an unusual headline! But this engagement transformed my belief in Lean forever! They were contract laborers who didn’t want to appreciate company’s turnaround time commitments to the client”, Give me my money, I am outta here”… was their way.

# 1 – Identify and address ‘what’s in it for me’.

“On an average, how much money do you make per day?” I asked the supervisor.

“Why do you ask? Are you in the same Business?”, replied the supervisor.

Oh no, ‘I don’t do this Business’, but I thought you could double your income! I said.

“How ??? Came the reply, in a flash ! I smiled and said, want to try?

# 2 – Know what you are looking for! – The demand

If you are looking for 300+ per man-hour, it is not about, will it be achieved or not, the question is how to achieve it? If this is the target per man-hour to comply with client’s turnaround time, what options do you have? There are no options but one – figure how to achieve it? I calculated the demand in terms of TAKT time and worked backwards to tie it up with production per man-hour to achieve the given turnaround time.

# 3 – Time and motion study – Compare Cycle time vs. TAKT time

Man-hours required = Cycle time / TAKT time. I estimated man-hours required using this formula, and converted the result to number of people necessary to accomplish desired work load in given time limit.

# 4 – From batch to flow

Before – Everyone in the team would do ‘end to end’ completion of one work unit, After – I created a ‘assembly line’ for them – Call it a cell. Contrary to the belief, I used a batch size of 50 work units between two operation steps. Single piece flow is good but, you cannot have ‘one size fit all’ solution.

# 5 – Discipline to follow the SOP

This was a difficult implementation – “I asked them, while assembly line is at work” on one uses cell phone, no calls encouraged during work. Supervisor and his people were angry on me! I said, you have to make a choice – double income or phone call. Both can’t happen at the same time!

When the cell ran – from start to finish – no one had even a minute to look here and there, let alone attending to phone calls. When they finished, and looked at the watch, they were astonished! There was a glow on their faces, one could see a sense of accomplishment on their faces!

Ah, what a day it was, I can never forget.. I congratulated them and left the place submerged in my own sense of accomplishment, this was the first time, I could see Lean helping double productivity!

I have added this story in great detail in my upcoming book – Lean Made Simple, click the link below to pre order the book to get the ‘exclusive offer’. Click on the link below to know more.

Pareto analysis in Human Resources

Lean Six Sigma application in Human Resources

Practical question

A company pays its workers both fixed and variable pay. The company pays minimum wages to its workers as per Government rules. The variable pay to workers is based on their performance. If a worker produces more than the set target, she is eligible for incentive payment. The incentive amount proportionate to the number of units she produced more than the target. Are the workers earning incentives? Are all of them earning incentives? How many workers earn incentives?

Statistical question

How is incentive distributed among the employees?

Statistical analysis

Use Pareto analysis.

Statistical inference

50% of incentives is earned by 28 out of 196 operators! 14% of the workers earn 50% of incentives.

Practical inference

More workers should earn incentives! These workers (14%) are the role models for other workers (around the tail of the graph) to strive and achieve more. HR department should brainstorm with production department to develop an effective plan improve the workers (around the tail of the graph) skill to enable them earn more than what they are earning.

Can the incentives be more uniformly distributed? May be yes, but it needs a good planning and execution.

How to reduce attrition?

A problem well defined is a problem half solved

A company wants to reduce its employee turnover. It uses the following five problem solving steps.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Measure the current state.
  3. Analyze for the root causes.
  4. Implement solutions and achieve improvement.
  5. Plan and execute ideas to sustain the gains.

As a first step it sets up a project charter to define the problem. A Project charter is a one – page snap shot of the project.

A Project charter

A project charter contains

  • The Business Case – Why this project?
  • The problem statement – What is the problem faced?
  • The goal statement – What is the goal of the project?
  • Team members names.
  • Team leaders name.
  • Sponsor(s) name.
  • Process owner name.
  • Primary and secondary project metrics.
  • Project completion timelines, financial and/or customer benefits and what will / will not be in scope.

Find below an example of a completed project charter focused on reducing attrition.

Problem Statement
High attrition. It is more than the benchmark in our industry!
Financial & customer benefits summary
Potential annualized savings of Rs. 57 lakhs PA.
Business Case
Attrition, means loosing our employees, who are trained and skillful resource. When a trained employee leaves. Hard losses include:

  1. Loss of sourcing cost per worker.
  2. Loss of training cost per worker.
  3. Loss of production on account of replacement time for new employee.

Other losses include:

  1. Loss of company’s brand equity, if the worker left in bitter terms.
  2. Loss of company’s image on other working employees, who could follow the pursuit.
  3. Loss of ‘healthy working environment’, resulting from negative propaganda (if any).


Project completion – Start and End dates
Define the problem September 2018 September 2018
Measure the current state September 2018 September 2018
Analyse for vital causes October 2018 October 2018
Improve the process October 2018 November 2018
Control and sustain gains November 2018 Till at least 3 months.
Project constraintsAchieve the solution without negatively impacting worker satisfaction, with least or ROI justifiable investments. Executive sponser: Venugopal

Project sponser: Svaboda

Project Leader: AGM – HR

Project team members:

  1. Personal offiers.
  2. Welfare offiers.
  3. Compliance manager.
In Scope / Out of scope – Category of employees – Workers
Goal statementReduce attrition to = or < 9%; Retention period of LSL = or > 90 days, Min target – 180 days.
Project metrics:

Primary: Worker retention in days, attrition in %

Secondary: Worker satisfaction

Applying basic statistics to analyze attrition data

“we dont know what we dont measure, what we dont measure, we dont control, what we dont control, we cannot sustain or improve”


Practical scenario

About 400 people have left the company during last six months! How many days did they stay, after being hired? How many people left early enough? How many people stayed at least three months with us? We should try to retain them for at least 180 days, worst case 90 days! Says, the senior management.

Statistical question

What is the mean tenure? What are 25th, 50th and 75th percentile values of the tenure? How is the tenure of ‘people left’ distributed?

Statistical analysis

Use Histogram to study the distribution of tenure, find the figure below.

Histogram – Distribution is skewed (most departures are around 8 to 38 days). Between 18 to 28 days 70 people left, 20 of them left between 8 to 18 days.

Basic statistics – Calculate the basic statistics and tabulate them a table as shown below. Average number of days people stayed before they left is 63 days. 25% (25th percentile) of them left within 32 days, 50% (50th percentile or median) left within 55 days, 75% (third quartile) of them left within 86 days. The worst case was someone leaving in 8 days while the best case was 209 days! One can say with 95% confidence, average tenure will lie between 60 to 67 days.

Practical inference

Situation is alarming! We hire new people and train them for a period of one month! If average tenure is 63 days, it means they are leaving just a month after their training! We need to know why are they leaving so early. We need to move the distribution to far right. Let Production and HR department meet to draw a plan – How to ensure new hires stay for a minimum 180 days?

Analyzing attrition data – Married vs. single – who stays more?

Practical scenario

About 400 workers have left us in last couple months! What does the data say? Whom should we hire more? Is the attrition more for one gender than the other? Is attrition driven by ‘marital status’?

Statistical scenario

Construct an ‘interaction effects’ plot to study the effect of gender and marital status on attrition.

Statistical analysis

Married males leave the least, next married female leave the least. On the other hand single female leave the most followed by single male. There is an interaction between marital status and gender, leaving the company.

Practical inference

Married male tend to leave us less than married females! Let’s figure out why? Single females, whom we hire the most, leave us the most! Is it because we have them the most! Hmm.. we hire them the most as they are relatively easy to hire compared to other categories. Wait a minute, why do we hire them the most? Because they are easy to hire, did I say that? Here we need to change, we should hire the ones most who are most likely to stay with us for longer tenure perhaps or a good blend of married, single, male and female… we need to figure this out.

Statistics apart, someone please emphasize on proper exit interviews to check, why is anybody leaving us in the first place? Where do we need to improve? to retain more.

Top 10 traits to become a successful leader

There are many traits of a successful leader, and successful leaders are successful learners as well. Find below, my pick on successful traits of a leader, if you aspire to become a successful leader in future, these traits are a must have!

  1. Have a vision : You can only go as far as you can see. How far you can see, decides how far you can go. To see beyond what you already see, you will need insights. Insights come from experience of successes and failures. How many times have you succeeded and failed in the past? What is the long term strategic vision you hold? To know more than you already know, you must invest in yourself and become a continuous learner. Continuous learning with action will give experience and wisdom over time. Wisdom will provide necessary insights you will need to see beyond what you already see.
  2. Be customer focused : Improve performance on quality and delivery not to satisfy your manager, peers or even a CEO, you must improve because a customer who pays for your service or product relies on you, has posed his faith on you, and believes you will do a great job. It is your customer who tolerates poor performance, deviations from specifications yet gives another chance with a hope that you will change and do better next time. Be loyal to your customers , look at your routine from your customers view point. This will never let you fail, it is a proven path to become exceptional leader.
  3. Trust : Misery is not when others don’t trust you, it is when you don’t trust yourself. To trust yourself is a strength. To build trust you should admit your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses alike. You should continuously work and improve on your weaknesses. Persevere on the path and realize you only have what you have worked for. People don’t fail intentionally, everyone wants to succeed, but constrained by abilities and skills. Appreciate failures that were a result of sincere efforts, trust yourself and others, create a climate of trust.
  4. Be fearless, be loyal – Deliver your actions fearlessly to meet or exceed your customers and organizations expectations. Always question, what you do and how you do it? Was it in the best interest of your company and its customers? Combat circumstances and people with least respect, thought and actions aligned to company and its customers. Did you know? Only 7.6 grams of gold is excavated from a tonne of ore! Leaders are but 7.6 grams of gold excavated from a tonne of ore. Do what is right for the organization and its customers, be relentless, fearless and loyal to your company and its customers.
  5. Be a listener, drive optimism – Listen, give credit to others, help others get credit, encourage those at the bottom of the pyramid to think and share fearlessly. Best of the ideas bubble from those who run the shop, those who run the last mile.  Many don’t speak out their views, because they are afraid how others will view them?  Be a good listener and do not discourage people who come with out of the box ideas, no matter how weird they sound. Project optimism, be full of energy, be receptive to new ideas. Replace grimness with humor and laughter. ‘Give’ is a leadership term, give optimism and energy to all.
  6. Be persuasive – What happens when you suggest your views and people reject them? You feel bad even worst, you may think to give up, to discover and carry good ideas anymore. If you do so, you miss a wonderful opportunity to improve your skills to convince others. Be persuasive, every time you fail to present your message effectively, follow it up with a better plan, conviction and enthusiasm next time. There is only one way to reach the finish line, move towards finish line. Instead of considering to stop persuading great thoughts and actions just because you failed to communicate them effectively.
  7. Set stretch goals – If people are not laughing at your goals, consider they are ordinary and anyone can achieve them! Progressive leaders don’t set and chase such goals. If you are see the dartboard, you will hit all over the board, if you see only the bull’s eye, you will do exceptional work! This is the proven way to set and achieve stretch goals.
  8. Stress speed – Speed decides the road you are in, and road decides the time to destination. Underline speed! Prefer experiments and rapid prototypes over lengthy studies to test your theories. If you succeed with less perfect solutions, perfection will only make it better. Early failure will leave you with some time to work with alternatives, a late failure leaves you with a calamity. Speed is the key.
  9. Be candid – How often do you call ‘good’ as good, and ‘bad’ as ‘bad’? It is not easy, judgment and conditions prevent you from giving candid feedback. When you give true feedback, bluntly at times, other person will count on you for ‘honest’ views. If you are not candid, you won’t be open to receive them either! Be candid, it is a significant milestone in the path to leadership.
  10. Be action oriented – Judgment, conditions and expectations are breeding ground for inaction. Rid yourself of these three, act at the speed of thought! Relentless action distinguishes a leader from others. Be fast, be first, nobody knows second, ‘first’ is the leader. Swami Vivekananda has said, if there is no here, there is no hereafter.

This is just my pick!

Think what is your list of top 10 traits to become a successful leader! – You deserve more than what you already have, start with this thought. Rest assured, your ‘self’ will guide you further, just make a beginning, the cosmos will rush to help you in all possible ways!

The ‘5S’ of Learning and Development

When was the last you ever read any book? If your answer is in ‘months or years’, you just identified the first barrier to overcome! – Lack of self study or Svadhayaya a term in Sanskrit synonymous with self study. I once read a book ‘Kundalini’, by Robert E Svoboda in which I came across the path of ‘5S’s for Anusthan (a term in Sanskrit meaning ‘firm place’). Since then in my own ways I have tried to relate these 5S’s to individual’s learning and development including my own.  The first question to ask is – ‘Do we need to discipline ourselves to ‘learn’ any subject? A definite yes! Our efforts to learn and imbibe a new subject either in life or at work will not be much fruitful if the 5’S’s of Anusthan disappears. What do these 5S’s mean? They mean – Sthana, Samaya, Sankhya, Samagri and Samyama.

Sthana – Means Location. Decide the location, where you wish to study. This location could be a study room in your house, a library, or any other such place which can be conducive for self study. Avoid studying in noisy places, studying in front of a television or with earphones. A labelled place for self-study will create and preserve positive energies necessary for effective absorption of learning.

Samaya – Means ‘the time’. Fix a particular time for your self study. If you are a parent, you ask your children to fix a particular time to do their homework or reading, why do you do so? Because ‘samaya’ plays important role in effective learning and development. You should fix a certain time for self study and try to adhere to it.

Sankhya – Means ‘the number’. How much do you wish to carry out each day? Is a good question to answer which will help you with a plan to carry out, as they say ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. So a plan to carry out certain known quantum of learning every day, expressed either by chapters or pages to finish is essential.

Samagri – Means ‘the materials’. Organize for necessary aids for self study – a pen or a pencil, a note pad, calculator, an Internet connection on a tablet or mobile for necessary web reference if needed.

Samyama – Relates to ‘perfect control of the mind’ in one sense. In other words during self study prevent the mind to wander on other matter, than you are focusing or reading. This is most difficult to gain, if you lack concentration. If you practice meditation regularly, it will help you achieve ‘Samyama’.

Six Sigma tools for Project Managers

The word ‘estimation’ is unanimously associated with project management. A project manager is expected to estimate overall time a project will take to complete which in turn is derived from tasks that constitute the project. Literal meaning of the word estimate is, educated guess, ball park figure, calculate approximately as per dictionary therefore it is unfair to expect zero difference between an estimate and the true value, let us start with this. Before we start, Six Sigma techniques do not replace standard project management practices, rather these techniques compliment and make a project managers ‘way of work’ produce breakthrough results…. Read more

Bonus : Access and view as you read, HD self learning videos on the tools covered in this article. (No login / email id required).

Lean Six Sigma application in Human Resources

Learning initiatives becomes ‘program of the month’ if they are not applied successfully. Lean Six Sigma is no exception to this rule therefore if you are new to Lean Six Sigma, find out how it can help you in your work area.

Learning can do wonders! If you apply it with a right purpose and in right way. I have helped problem solving assignments for more than a decade across +20 diversified industry segments. During this time I have coached several Human Resource professionals to reap success.  In the table shared below, find out how a Human Resource professional can make use of LSS concepts. I have added two columns next to the opportunity listing to point the intensity of use of Lean and Six Sigma tools. This is not a standard but just an indicative of how it works based on my personal experience. Read more…

How to select a Lean Six Sigma course provider?

Are you looking to do a Lean Six Sigma certification course anytime soon? Then this article is a ‘must read’ for you. I am sure, you will be looking at one or more of the benefits mentioned below from Lean Six Sigma certification course.

In all I have made a table. In the first column I have stated ‘realised benefits from a Lean Six Sigma course’. In second column I have translated them to real need (my perceptions as a user). These needs are translated to course features and key questions to ask. Please refer the blog below to read more on the topic. I hope you find this useful.