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How to Avoid 24/7 Firefighting: Attack “Common Cause” Variability
By Forrest W. Breyfogle, III

For any given process, non-conformance can be traced to either of two types of variability. One is special cause variability, or glitches in the process, and the other is common cause variability, which is caused by process input variation, process-step implementation differences or process design flaws.

Many businesses treat the two types of variability in the same way. This can lead to ongoing firefighting and typically provides little, if any, long-lasting improvements. There’s a better way…

W. Edwards Deming estimates that 94% of improvement opportunities are common cause. Sources of common cause problems include predictable variability in suppliers’ raw materials, differences between personnel/machines/departments, time of the day/week, and inefficient/ineffective process steps. Focusing corrective efforts on common cause non-conformance can improve enterprise performance dramatically. This is done by integrating Six Sigma and Lean tools up and down the value chain.

Apart from reducing common cause problems, this effort also will reduce instances of the blame game and, in turn, build a more cooperative, more responsive workforce.

Adapted from “The Integrated Enterprise Excellence System: An Enhanced, Unified Approach to Balanced Scorecards, Strategic Planning, and Business Improvement,” (copyright Bridgeway Books., 2008) by Forrest W. Breyfogle III, CEO of Smarter Solutions, Inc., www.smartersolutions.com

Forrest W. Breyfogle, III, is the founder and CEO of http://www.smartersolutions.com/, an Austin, Texas-based company. He has authored and co-authored 11 books and published over 80 technical resources for well known, worldwide publications on Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Lean methods. In 2004, he was the recipient of the American Society for Quality Crosby Medal for his book, “Implementing Six Sigma,” 2nd edition. Breyfogle is an ASQ Fellow and a member of the board of advisors for the University of Texas Center for Performing Excellence.

Smarter Solutions maintains an articles section, which can be found at http://www.smartersolutions.com/articles.php.

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