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FAQs About the Reasoning Backwards Techniques


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Why should we add the Reasoning Backwards Tools to our existing improvement process?

Answer: There are three reasons. Speed, Impact, and Cost.

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How would we add the Reasoning Backwards Tools to an existing Six Sigma process?

Answer: First, a group of Master Black Belts, Black Belts and Green Belts goes through the Reasoning Backwards Tool training. They come prepared to address several of the organization's biggest problems, where defect levels are hurting profits and customer loyalty the most. They first learn how to identify the root causes of the defects and eliminate them in just days to weeks by improving control of the current process. Then, they learn how to reduce cycle time, improve cash flow, and increase the profitability of the current process. Finally, they learn how to lock in the gains they have made. They learn how to use the tools in the training session, and then they receive coaching on their first usage of the tools.

As they master the Reasoning Backwards Tools, the Black Belts will able to tackle more projects, and to lead others in the usage of these tools. In this way, the Black Belts will become Leader/Coaches, helping others learn how to conduct successful projects.

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How quickly can we start finding root causes?

Answer: Teams start planning their initial experiments during the first day of Reasoning Backwards Tool Training. They begin gathering data on their first day back on the job. By the following week, they should have gathered enough data to reduce the number of possible root causes to just a manageable few. In many cases, teams will identify the specific root causes and implement solutions during the first few days after training. In our fastest example, it took just 15 minutes to discover and eliminate the root cause of a chronic yield problem that had been limiting profitability for years.

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How quickly should we see results?

Answer: Historically, in about 75% of cases, the teams will identify the specific root causes using just the Reasoning Backwards Screening Tools. Teams never have to interrupt the operation, even though it may require a series of experiments to zero in on actual root causes. For example, initial examination of a device may indicate a particular component is at fault. A second round of study will indicate which parts in that component are causing the component to vary. A third round of examination reveals the process conditions that are causing the critical parts to vary. Some teams may find root causes very quickly (in less than a day), while others will have to persevere through successive rounds of testing before the root causes become clear. In either case, the techniques are simple and straightforward. The team will be able to isolate the specific root causes and develop effective, inexpensive solutions quickly.

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Why are the Reasoning Backwards Tools so fast?

Answer: The weak link in most improvement processes is their inability to identify root causes quickly. The Reasoning Backwards Tools address this weakness. They begin by observing that a process is NOT flawed if it generates acceptable output most of the time. Some variation of inputs or process settings generates the defective output. The Reasoning Backwards Tools examine the very best and very worst outputs from the process to determine the patterns and consistent differences between them. This initial screening quickly generates clues about the root causes of the variation that exists, without interrupting normal operations. The Reasoning Backwards Tools "Listen to the Process" first. Root causes are identified in just days to weeks, and improvement is easy because the solution is tighter control of the existing process, not the development of a new process.

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Why does the Reasoning Backwards approach have such a big impact?

Answer: The Reasoning Backwards Tools do not change the original process, at least in the beginning, because the process works acceptably most of the time. Pareto's Law assures that no more than 3 root causes are responsible for at least 90% of the defects that occur. The Reasoning Backwards Tools identify which 1-3 conditions have changed when the process produces defects. They show which variables are critical and must be controlled more tightly to prevent the defects from occurring. This approach often drops defects to zero. The Reasoning Backwards Tools look at ways to streamline or change the current process only AFTER the critical variables are known, and their tolerances have been adjusted to eliminate defects.

Company culture is the other area where the Reasoning Backwards Tools have a big impact. These tools are so easy to use that everyone in an organization can use them and become an effective problem solver. As they do, they develop a strong sense of ownership and commitment. The tools are simple, the training time is short, and all employees can get involved in solving problems. This creates an improved atmosphere and higher profitability as everyone can become an effective problem solver. Companies also use the tools with both customers and suppliers to help them improve their products and profitability as well, which improves customer loyalty.

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How would we start? Does it make a difference how large our organization is?

Answer: The answer is the same, regardless of the size of your organization.

Large organizations may want to internalize the Reasoning Backwards Tools training by having quality or training professionals receive Train the Trainer instruction. As companies move forward, the workforce often takes ownership of the tools, and the quality professionals can become resources for process redesign when it is appropriate.

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Where are the Reasoning Backwards Tools applicable?

Answer: Any repetitive operation that occasionally generates defective outputs is a candidate. These tools were developed for use in manufacturing operations, including automotive parts, components and vehicles, electronics parts, components and finished goods, appliances, aircraft, machining operations, assembly operations, food processing, chemical processing, heat treating, and plastics processing. Over the last decade, they have been adapted and used successfully in administrative and transactional processes in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing organizations, including hospitals, sales and marketing, education, utilities (including both generating plant and field failures), hotels, and human relations, among others. In every case, the Guiding Principles are the same:

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How quickly can we start finding root causes?

Answer: Teams start planning their initial experiments during the first day of Reasoning Backwards Tools Training. They begin gathering data on their first day back on the job. By the following week they should have gathered enough data to reduce the number of possible root causes to just a manageable few. In many cases, teams will identify the specific root causes in that first week of data gathering.

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How quickly should we see results?

Answer: Historically, in about 75% of cases, the teams will identify the specific root causes during the first few days of a project when they are analyzing the output, without ever having to interrupt the operation. This may require a series of the experiments to zero in on actual root causes. For example, initial examination of a device may indicate a particular component is at fault. A second round of evaluation will indicate which parts in that component are causing the component to vary. A third round of examination reveals the process conditions that are causing the critical parts to vary. Often it is possible to do all three of these rounds of testing without ever breaking into production. Some teams may find root causes very quickly (in less than a day), while others will have to persevere through successive rounds of testing before the root causes become clear. In either case, the techniques are simple and straightforward. The team will be able to isolate the specific root causes and develop effective, inexpensive solutions quickly.

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Is a Black Belt network necessary for the Reasoning Backwards Tools? What support is needed?

Answer: Black Belts were created in Six Sigma because that process uses large amounts of data that requires involved statistical analysis to sort. The Black Belts are trained in statistical methods to process all the data they collect.

The Reasoning Backwards Tools are different. They examine the output extremes from the process, the very best and the very worst. These tools look at specific differences and determine what has caused these differences. These simple tools are statistically powerful without having to use complex statistics. All members of the project team can master these tools quickly and easily. The only required support is someone to teach the tools and to provide counsel as they design their first few experiments. From then on, the teams should become self-sufficient. Young Associates provides coaching on the first round of projects to assure the experiments are well designed and the team's analysis is complete and accurate. Once these learners have become self-sufficient, they will be in position to teach the Reasoning Backwards Tools to other employees, and to customers and suppliers as it becomes appropriate.

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Will the Reasoning Backwards Tools work in non-manufacturing operations?

Answer: Absolutely. One of the shortcomings of many other improvement programs has been their limited effectiveness in administrative and transactional processes, even when the techniques have worked effectively in manufacturing operations. The Reasoning Backwards Tools have improved performance in Accounts Receivable operations, in Sales and Marketing, in Human Relations, and in Field Service areas to name a few. The basic guidelines remain the same: Select a repetitive process with an unacceptable level of defects. Compare examples of the very best and very worst output to identify patterns and consistent differences. Identify root causes and take action. Control the process to maintain the gains. The Reasoning Backwards Tool Training includes several successful examples of administrative and transactional projects.

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