Frequently Asked Questions

1. What do we get from Eckes & Associates, Inc. that we don’t from other Lean/Six Sigma consultants?

Eckes & Associates, Inc. prides itself on not being the McDonald’s of Lean/Six Sigma. Clients are often surprised that despite our international reputation the consultants assigned to a project are Sr. Vice Presidents that have worked for Eckes & Associates, Inc. for 15 years or longer. It is also the case that George Eckes will personally be involved with much if not all of the consulting done for a client. Second, with Eckes & Associates, Inc. you don’t receive training, you receive project coaching on actual work that affects your organization. Using Adult Learning Theory Eckes & Associates, Inc. consultants teach a tool quickly and then immediately go into breakout groups where the tool or technique is immediately applied to an actual project. Third, when hiring Eckes & Associates, Inc. your first year deployment doesn’t begin with a project. Management first is engaged strategically, creating the business process management system and receiving coaching on tactics before a project team is formed.

2. What does a first year deployment working with Eckes & Associates, Inc. look like?

The first two months are spent with management identifying key processes and their impact on business objectives. This leads to the selection of the worst performing, highest impact processes that are then chosen as “first wave” projects. The third month is spent with management who will be sponsors of these first wave projects teaching them how to coach a project team to success. Months four through nine are spent with the first wave project teams coaching them through the methodology and more importantly making sure they accomplish their goals and objectives for a first wave project. In the last three months of a first year deployment Eckes & Associates, Inc. conducts a certification program for selected participants who will then be the internal coaches and trainers so that the client becomes self sufficient in their program by the middle of the second year of implementation.

3. Why does first wave projects take so long?

The short answer is that most organizations don’t have the required data associated with processes. Additionally, the first weeks and months are spent with management to identify processes, do preliminary data collection and teach them to use Lean Six Sigma as a strategic weapon. The first wave of projects are geared to have participants both learn the methodology while simultaneously apply what they learn to real work. The good news is by the second year of implementation projects can take 50-70% less time as the organization acclimates to collecting process measures and data.

4. What can I expect by way of results?

Six Sigma literature indicates that the average Lean Six Sigma project generates a $250,000 cost savings based on improved efficiency and/or enhanced revenue. Of course the underlying foundation of Lean Six Sigma is understanding variation. Eckes & Associates, Inc. experience is that in a typical first wave of 7-10 projects 2-3 projects will be outstanding successes, 2-3 projects will be moderate successes and 2-3 projects will fail to achieve their goals/objectives. Eckes & Associates, Inc. last 15 of 18 clients have generated seven figure ROI in year one of their launch.

5. Why do projects fail?

Eckes & Associates, Inc. takes seriously the role of change agent and has collected over 20 years of failure analysis for projects that don’t achieve their goals and objectives. There are five major reasons for projects to fail:
#5-Poor or non-existent stakeholder buy-in to the project’s solutions
#4-Poor or non-existent champion involvement with the project team
#3-Poor or non-existent root causation
#2-Scope creep
#1-Team Dynamics

6. There are a host of inexpensive training materials available on the internet for my purchase. Can I just buy these materials and train on my own?

The key to knowledge transfer is not just the materials. While this may seem an inexpensive method to learn Lean Six Sigma, hiring a competent consulting firm is the best way to learn from others mistakes.

7. What is the most common mistake in implementing Lean Six Sigma?

There are many mistakes in implementation of Six Sigma. First and foremost is jumping into projects without the active involvement of executive management. At its core Lean Six Sigma is a management philosophy. If management does not become actively involved in creating the business process management system and understands their role as project champions, tactical project work often fails.

8. Can I just take an online course to learn Lean Six Sigma?

Eckes & Associates, Inc. is a proud member of the Villanova e-learning program. However, we have always recommended that e-learning be an adjunct to “on the ground” training. The interaction between a live instructor and his/her participants is an invaluable learning tool. Additionally, at Eckes & Associates, Inc. our teaching of a module rarely takes longer than an hour and most of our knowledge transfer occurs in project team breakouts that occur immediately following the large group instruction of a tool. Still, the use of e-learning is a great way to reinforce learning done through live instruction.

9. Why is Business Process Management so critical to the success of a Lean Six Sigma deployment?

Business Process Management is the cornerstone of a successful Six Sigma initiative. Without Business Process Management, Six Sigma is often nothing more than a short-lived cost savings initiative. Creation and management of the Business Process Management system results in Six Sigma being an enabler to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization rather than just another quality initiative. Through Business Process Management, executives align their key processes to the strategic business objectives of the organization, determine performance and ultimately select the highest impact, lowest performing processes for improvement. Most importantly, through the work of Business Process Management executives actively participate in the first weeks and months of a deployment and thus have “skin in the game”.

10. What exactly is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma? Technically, Lean projects aim to reduce or eliminate waste in a process while the goal of a Six Sigma project is to reduce the variation a customer feels from a process. While at Eckes & Associates, Inc. we conduct Lean seminars with the goal of eliminating waste, it is also true we use most of the tools in Lean in most of our Six Sigma projects so that the process acts more efficiently as well as produces a more effective product or service for the customer.

11. Why is Adult Learning Theory important in learning Six Sigma?

Most Six Sigma consultants use a model where they are the expert and teach a tool or concept expecting the client to absorb what is taught. At Eckes & Associates, Inc. we practice Adult Learning Theory which we believe is a differentiator in hiring EAI. There are several elements to Adult Learning Theory. One is that participants learn best when they have a chance to immediately apply what is learned to “real” work. Therefore, we have divided all of our seminars into small modules that last less than an hour. We then immediately break the participants into natural work groups where they apply the tool or technique. While they are not expected to complete the work in the breakout they get to experience the tool and receive the feedback of Eckes & Associates, Inc. consultants so they can master the concept and eventually complete their work related to the project. Another concept of Adult Learning Theory is that participants learn best from easy to understand examples before they begin their work. Therefore at Eckes & Associates, Inc. we provide large group teaching examples that everyone can identify and understand. Sometimes these include daily activities like buying a car, planning a vacation or staying at a hotel. Once they understand the concept with an easy to understand example the participants are better prepared to apply the tool or concept to real work. There are a host of other elements of Adult Learning theory Eckes & Associates, Inc. practice that include varied teaching methods, constant reinforcement of what is learned and active interaction with participants as they learn a tool or technique.

12. What is certification and why is it important?

Certification is a method where a participant shows mastery of Lean Six Sigma and is awarded a certificate from a governing body. While there is no standardization to a certificate receiving a certification from Eckes & Associates, Inc. carries much weight given our background and credibility in over 20 years of consulting. Our certification is based on the same criteria we helped create at General Electric. Participants must matriculate through the course, show results from their project and complete a competency exam. The reason certification is important is that the American Society of Quality has data to show a Black Belt or Master Black certification can add 20-30% more to their salary.

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