Please help me maximize this job opportunity
June 13, 2011 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Tools for process improvement, quality monitoring and reporting/metrics?

Help me maximize this opportunity

After managing people for 15+ years, I'm in a new position. I'm now responsible for a number of operational aspects of running a technical support group, including, but not limited to:

- reporting and metrics
- quality control
- root cause analysis
- process improvement

I'll be working side-by-side with the managers of the group to provide them with information, advice and direction. This is a new position in our organization, and because upper management already trusts me, I have significant latitude to implement things as I see fit.

I have lots of informal experience with each of these area, since I've been managing the people side of technical support groups. But now I'm looking for additional resources or information that can provide me with opportunities to develop my skills along more formal lines. I'm pretty good with math and Excel, and I have joined the ASQ (American Society for Quality), and will be taking a few of their courses. I've been looking around online and in libraries, but there's a lot to take in, and a lot that seems sub-par.

So please tell me about books, Websites, training classes or other resources that can provide information about tools, tips and techniques along any of the above-listed lines. I'm more interested in the practical than the theoretical in the short term (since they want me to start producing now), but I'd also like to learn the theory as well. And upper management doesn't want me to take any Six Sigma training, so that's off the table.

Thanks all, for your input.
posted by Gorgik to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sig Sigma training gets really complicated, really fast and can cause managers to hyperfocus on the numbers instead of the hands-on operation, in my opinion. But, in it's simplest form the program has a lot of easy-to-use concepts that a good manager can implement almost invisibly to help drive improvement. If you can leave out all the statistics, graphs, greenbelt-blackbelt nonsense, you can find exactly what you need, I think. Maybe this one?
posted by raisingsand at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2011

Agreed that Six Sigma is hyper-structured and can feel like you're spending all your time doing math rather than making things better, but it sounds like that's a non-starter for you anyway. That said, your bullet points are *exactly* what Six Sig programs do. What's the nature of the objection?

The key takeaways of my green belt training were diagramming processes at various levels of detail and taking the time to gather as much data as possible. If you're going to have any meaningful metrics, your data's got to be reliable and organized. In quality control, root cause analysis and process improvement, you're looking for variations. Variations from your usual and variations from the product/customer spec.

Personally, I don't really see a good way other than Six Sig to do this. Take that with a grain of salt because I've drunk the Kool-Aid.
posted by bluejayway at 9:15 AM on June 13, 2011

I assume you're already doing ITIL?
posted by iamabot at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2011

I didn't get the industry/domain you are working in, so if you are not in IT, please ignore the following advice.

One of the best starting points that you can look at is the CMMI framework, published by the SEI institute. With a long history, there is a lot of literature/case studies/papers etc. Level 4 and Level 5 are measurement-driven and need statistical validation of numbers. is a great resource. You can contact the author of the blog for courses in your city.

From my experience, Six Sigma is really useful once you have basic processes in place, because you need to collect data on activities, that without basic processes can be very unstable.
posted by theobserver at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2011

A few things, in case anyone is still looking/thinking:

1) My department (IT) tried to implement ITIL, but the efforts fizzled out since there was no broader organizational support for it (we aren't a technology shop, and the other demands of the business took precedence). We use a few of the ideas, but no broad structure.

2) My immediate manager had suggested Six Sigma to me, but I think it's a more involved than this organization would support. In addition, I heard (through him) that our upper management thinks Six Sigma is akin to zealotry, and is considered a waste. Whether it is or not unfortunately will not have anything to do with whether they will pay for training, but maybe raisingsand's book and a few others will give me stuff I can use for now.

3) theobserver, I'll investigate that. On first pass it looks useful.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.
posted by Gorgik at 10:01 PM on June 13, 2011

Gorgik: Just in case you have other related questions, need more information or make a case to your organization, feel free to Mefi mail me.
posted by theobserver at 4:20 PM on June 14, 2011

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