Matt Stewart – Chapter Eleven

Matt Stewart

QPE: A LSS Approach to Process Management & Sustainability


Most, if not all, of my colleagues in the consulting world would agree: when you ask the majority of companies, whether management or the workers, most know what must be done to fix their woes. Knowing how to get it done and implemented in the “Express Line, 10-items-or-less” method, however, is the issue that seems to stop everyone in their tracks. Many companies have tried the shotgun approach to Lean Six Sigma (LSS), firing away with kaizen events or Six Sigma projects, with no solid methodology, plan or purpose behind their attempts. This
ultimately leads to failure, followed by scrapping the whole thing. As a result, Lean Six Sigma has left yet another company with a bad taste in

The foundation of a successful business is having the process pillars (Financial, Operations/Supply Chain, Quality, and Launch/Change) in place with robust processes supporting each one. When one pillar contains a weak process or a new requirement is introduced with no supporting processes, the pillar can become unstable, producing detrimental effects on other process pillars, compounding the issue. No
matter how severe the damage or how deep the hole you may be in, there is a LSS methodology that can help: QPE – Quantify, Prioritize and
Eliminate. QPE is an institutionalized process for the continuous elimination of constraints throughout the entire value chain.

This chapter will help you to:

  • Create a defined, process-based approach to QPE.
  • Discover which situations call for QPE.
  • Identify the main players in QPE.

QPE within the Four Process Pillars of Every Operation

QPE is the LSS methodology of making improvements and/or repairs to business processes through the DMAIC approach: establishing relevant metrics, disciplined collection and quantification of data, prioritizing the work to match capacity, and eliminating constraints through proven tools and methodologies. This is the shortest and most cost effective way to ensure ongoing, sustainable success in any business environment. (See Chapters 12 and 19 for details about DMAIC).

Figure 11-1: Organizational Process Pillars

Allow me to use story told by my good friend and colleague, Ron Chandler of the Chandler Wiles Group LLC, on how QPE could even work for your golf game:

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very consistent golfer – consistently bad that is. Over the course of any season, I will consistently shoot between 95 and 105 on any given course any given day.

While someone in my position may be inclined to follow the advice from the latest advertisement in Golf magazine and buy the new Cobra Titanium-Ceramic Mega-Hit golf clubs for $5000 and hope that the latest and greatest flavor of the month club improves my game. Or I can seek the advice of a professional who has lived through clients like me before.

Let’s say I contact a professional. His first step would be to conduct an assessment of my game, perhaps by playing a round with me and evaluating all aspects of my game.

During the assessment, I make sure I mention that my clubs were bought at K-Mart for $100 and show him the ad for the Cobra Mega-Hit clubs, pointing out the statement that they will lower my handicap after only 4 rounds. However, after the assessment,

The pro explains that we need to first fix my putting; by doing so, I will be able to improve my game by 15 strokes in 90 days. So, I engage him in the implementation of a better putting method and my score range moves to 80-90 in about 90 days.

So, I’m now ready for the Cobra’s? Nope. Next he explains that by improving my short yardage game, I can improve my score by 10 strokes in 60 days. So, we implement the next phase, and in 60 days, my score range has improved to 70-80. Finally I can

The data indicates that I can take an additional five strokes off my score by improving my course management, making good decisions and immediately fixing mistakes before they become disasters. So I implement his methodology and within 30 days, I am consistently scoring 65-75 per round. At $100 per lesson, I have spent $400 and improved my game to the point where I can compete with just about anyone. So, I’m done, right?

Wrong. In the interest of ongoing improvement, the pro suggests an incremental investment in new clubs: not spending all $5000 all at once, but instead replacing one club at a time, starting with the club I use the most (guess what, it’s the putter!), and making additional purchases after I see whether or not the previous club made an improvement. In some cases, I find out that I use a club so rarely, I can take it out of my bag instead of spending the money to replace it.

So, the pro started with an assessment of the client’s current game, identified all opportunities to improve any area of the game, and then implemented the best, most specific improvements based on the their impact on the client’s overall performance. This is QPE, and it is still the most effective way we have found to achieve the greatest performance gains at the lowest relative cost.

As we move through the details of QPE in the next few sections, the case study we will use is from the manufacturing sector, within the process pillar of quality, but suggestions will also be made as how to use the methodology in additional industries and throughout the other process pillars.

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