Situation: A professional service company is intrigued by LEAN and Six-Sigma approaches to increasing production efficiency and reducing costs. Most of the examples that they see of LEAN and Six-Sigma in action are in production or manufacturing settings. Do LEAN or Six-Sigma programs apply to processes in a professional services environment?
Advice from the CEOs:
- LEAN and Six-Sigma are heads-down approaches to process improvement. In a customized solution environment, standardization of processes has less pay-off. As an alternative, consider Agile Development and similar heads-up process solutions.
- Agile Development is both a philosophy and a process. Steps to introducing Agile Development to a professional services environment include:
- Identifying high risk areas of individual project plans,
- Double resourcing high risk areas to increase the likelihood of fast, satisfactory solution outcomes,
- Looking for collaborative synergies and scenarios,
- Scheduling regular team meetings to enhance collaboration,
- Working opportunistically rather than systematically to increase efficiency, and
- Using project post-mortems to refine systems and processes.
- One professional services company which has adopted Agile Development assigns Senior Engineers as outside consultants on projects. These individuals bring a more experienced perspective, and can identify more efficient ways to find solutions and produce a more cost effective and timely result.