Friday, 24 May 2013

eLearning Course Quality and Six Sigma: Define Phase

The spiralling cost of eLearning course development due to rework, poor requirement management and bad quality is a major concern. Applying quality benchmarking tools and techniques is the solution to many of these problems. An eLearning development team can adopt the Six Sigma approach that involves a highly disciplined and guided process aiming at continuous improvement. This approach can increase quality, reduce defects and improve outcomes of eLearning programs. The team involved in process improvement needs to identify the major root causes behind the broken process and implement solutions to mature the process rapidly so that the organization can properly examine cost performance. The team needs to implement a series of Six Sigma tools to identify, monitor and communicate the need for improvement and create cost effective and easy-to-access eLearning environment.

Six Sigma is a performance goal representing 3.4 defects for every million opportunities. It aims to develop a customer centric focus with a clear link to business strategy. It focuses on key business issues and reduces waste to increase process speed and efficiency. Six Sigma promotes greater awareness of customer needs, performance measurement and business improvement. Six Sigma is a methodology for continual improvement and for creating products/processes that perform at high standards. It is a set of statistical and other quality tools and methods that help us in measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling our processes in a unique way. It is a quality philosophy and a way of knowing where we are and where we could be. Six Sigma is a commitment to our customers to achieve an exceptional level of performance.

The term ‘Sigma’ is used to assign the distribution or spread about the mean (average) of a process or procedure. Sigma capability (z value) is a metric that indicates how well the process is performing. Sigma Capability predicts how the process will hold within the tolerance limit. It measures the capability of the process and reduces process variability to produce defect-free output. A defect is anything that results in customer dissatisfaction. The higher the sigma capability, the better the process is performing.  As Sigma capability increases, cycle time reduces, cost reduces and customer satisfaction increases.  eLearning course Development team can take advantage of this tried-and-tested Six Sigma methodology to enhance improvement efforts and to decrease measurable defects in eLearning Course Development process. It will help quickly and easily communicate improvement needs implementing tools associated with DMAIC methodology.
Six Sigma Framework:
Six Sigma projects follow two project methodologies inspired by Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Cycle. These methodologies composed of five phases each and bear the acronym DMAIC and DMADV

DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) is used for projects aimed at improving an existing business process. DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) is used for projects aimed at creating new product or process design.
This section overviews the Define phase in DMAIC methodology.

Key players: Six Sigma has a special infrastructure of “Champions”, “Master Black Belts”, “Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, etc. to lead and implement the Six Sigma approach. Major roles/key players for a successful project are:

Master Black Belts - Master Black Belts act as in-house coach on Six Sigma and provide expert guidance to team leaders and members on skills and methods.
Champions - Champions promote awareness and execution of Six Sigma lines of business and or functions. They identify the potential Six Sigma projects to be executed by Black Belts and Green Belts.
Black Belts – Black Belts use Six Sigma methodologies and advanced tools (to execute business improvement projects. They serve as Six Sigma knowledge leaders with in Business Unit(s).
Green Belts - use Six Sigma DMAIC methodology and basic tools to execute improvements within the existing job function(s).
Organization Context for Project:

SIPOC: SIPOC Chart communicates the high level scope of improvement efforts and defines the process boundaries. SIPOC is a tool that summarizes the inputs and outputs of one or more processes. It helps identify all relevant elements of a process. It gives a high-level view of the process. Having a high-level view of process helps to define project boundaries and describes where to collect data from. The SIPOC model comprises five elements for closer examination.

Supplier Supplier is the provider of inputs to your process (internal or external   supplier)
Inputs Inputs are the data, resources, and materials necessary to the process or required to execute the process.
Process Process is a sequence of several connected steps or structured set of activities leading to a specific result. The process transforms a set of inputs into specified outputs and provides value to customers and stakeholders.
Outputs Outputs are the products/services that result from the process.
Customer The customer accepts process results. (internal or external customers).

Sample SIPOC for eLearning process:

Voice of Customer: In pursuit of collecting meaningful data, interviews and trainings need to be conducted one-to-one and in small groups. Interviewers need to make effort to collect information about whether the eLearning development team is able to meet the critical requirements of customers and business. This helps investigate the gaps in stakeholders’ perception of quality eLearning course. In addition to collecting business rules and other forms of information, conducting one-to-one or group interviews with key stakeholders gives an opportunity to solicit participation and understand and respond to process gaps.  Accordingly subsequent plans could be adopted to enhance learning quality and bridge the process gap. Based on this gap analysis the team can further improve the eLearning course development process and become more amiable.  VOC information needs to focus on assessment of customer satisfaction with our current process. It should give a true “outside-in” perspective. The next step is to find out what customer really wants in order for fulfillment process to run smoothly. This information helps us understand the gap between where we are with our customers and where our customers want us to be.

eLearning Course Quality Gaps: 

Gap 1 (Knowledge Gap) – The difference between actual customer expectations (expected eLearning Course Quality) and management’s idea or perception of customer expectations.
Gap 2 (Standard Gap) – Mismatch between manager’s expectations of service quality and service quality specifications (eLearning course quality specification).
Gap 3 (The Delivery Gap) – Poor delivery of service quality.
Gap 4 (Communication Gap) – Difference between service delivery and external communication with customer
Gap 5 (The Expectation and Perception Gap) – Difference between Expected eLearning Course Quality and Perceived eLearning Course Quality

CTQ (Critical to Quality): CTQs are customer needs translated into critical process requirements that are specific and measurable. In Define and Measure phase the team translates a customer need into fully developed CTQ. In order to achieve customer satisfaction over time, we need to ensure that we view our processes from the customer’s perspective. We need to see that customer needs are exactly linked to our processes and an improvement project has a direct impact on customers.
Identify Customers
-> List customers
-> Define customer segment
-> Narrow list

Review Voice of Customer
-> Review existing VOC data
-> Decide what to collect/select VOC tools
-> Collect data

Conclude CTQs
-> Organize all customer data
-> Translate VOC to specific needs
-> Define CTQs for needs
-> Prioritize CTQs
-> Contain problem if necessary

Project Charter: A project charter is a written document and works as an agreement between management and the team about what is expected. A project charter for collecting and communicating information about the scope of eLearning Course Quality improvement effort needs to be created. It provides an opportunity for executives and team members and other stakeholders to define, document and obtain agreement on (sign-off on) all aspects of the improvement effort. The project charter includes following.
-> Project scope
-> Roles and responsibility
-> Objectives and deliverables
-> Impact and risks
-> Preliminary budget
-> Preliminary schedule
-> Project success criteria
-> Client/Stakeholder approvals

The Project Charter should be treated as a kickoff document and alterations should not be allowed under normal circumstances.  The explicitly defined project charter is a tool that ensures that the project progresses in the right direction. 

During Define phase we map the processes to be improved with defined goals and apply data mining practices to create improvement opportunities.  At the conclusion of the Define phase, you will have a clear understanding of your customers, their issues, their requirements, project goals, scope, budget, and deadlines.  
Six Sigma is a way to improve processes, products, services; the bottom line   is it substantially improves the financial performance. My next post will focus on how the Measure phase of Six Sigma DMAIC gets implemented during eLearning Course Development Process improvement.
Please share your comments. 

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