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The Official Baldrige Blog

Learning: Baldrige to Lean Six Sigma

Baldrige to Lean Six Sigma learning analogy. Reacting to problems, general improvment orientation, systematic eval & improve, learn & strategic improv, org analysis & innovation.
Credit: Eric Franks

How would you visualize learning when considering the relationship between the Baldrige Excellence framework and its Criteria and Lean Six Sigma?

Eric Franks, an adjunct instructor at Tennessee Tech University and alumni Baldrige Examiner (he was also the manager of technology and quality assurance at Baldrige Award recipient PRO-TEC), teaches a class called “Quality and Productivity Systems” about Lean Six Sigma. Recently,  while teaching the topic of "Implementing Six Sigma," he used the Baldrige slide "From Fighting Fires to Innovation: An Analogy for Learning" and discussed the challenges for small businesses.

2017-2018 Baldrige Framework Fighting Fires to Innovation Analogy JPEG Download

To get at these challenges, he asked some of the following questions:

  • Where is the organization along the cost of quality (COQ) curve? (This would show an organization's relative maturity.)
  • What are the realistic project expectations and outcomes?  
  • What is the alignment of the project expectations to the vital few objectives?
  • What are the available resources of time, talent, and treasure  (since no one has unlimited resources)?

    At the end of the slide presentation, Franks asked the students for questions. The students asked for help to better understand how the Baldrige graphic corresponded to Lean Six Sigma projects. After brief consideration, Franks said he went to the white board and sketched the COQ curve and marked the related five points in the diagram he created to capture the concept.

    Baldrige to Lean Six Sigma learning analogy. Reacting to problems, general improvment orientation, systematic eval & improve, learn & strategic improv, org analysis & innovation.
    Credit: Eric Franks

    Franks adds a few notes to go with the diagram:

    • In regards to circle 4, “where you really want to be," this position would be sector/industry dependent. The position might be very dependent on competitor quality and the organization’s investment in innovation.
    • The diagram makes an assumption that circle 3 (optimal) may be represented by a Cpk of 1.0 (+/- 3 Sigma) in statistical control.
    • For the automotive industry (shown in the diagram), a typical customer expectation of a steel supplier may be at least a Cpk of 1.33 (+/- 4 Sigma).
    • In the case of commodity products/services, the COQ may be driven by just what the customer is willing to pay for and/or competitive position.
    • The arrow pointing to the second graph's dashed green curve (a.k.a. the cost of "good" quality) shows a breakthrough improvement in quality for the same relative cost (total cost is not shown).
    • Much like a reliability "bath tub" curve, moving toward ever-higher quality is a case of diminishing return (i.e., requiring breakthrough improvement).

    This of course is just one expert's opinion. Other experts might have pause with calling #3 "optimal," suggesting there may be a more appropriate word. Another might suggest that #5 be lowered a little in the diagram, as the total cost of quality would hopefully go down. 

    How would you visualize learning in terms of Baldrige and Lean Six Sigma?

    A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance

    2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework cover photo


    Baldrige Excellence Framework

    The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

    Purchase your copy today!

    Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

    About the author

    Dawn Bailey

    Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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