Lean Six Sigma: Ready, Fire, Aim
At the weekly staff meeting the boss makes an announcement that a trainer will be in next week and you will begin LEAN Six Sigma green belt training. BTW, the training will be 2 weeks long. What’s a six sigma? And how am I going to meet my deadlines? Er… what's a green belt?!
That “buy-in” scenario occurs all too often and while the answers to what a Six Sigma Green Belt is and is not are pretty quickly answered, but the aspect of who is going to cover for the trainee when they are out of production invariably leaves the line supervisor scratching their heads. Clearly the target that the boss intended to hit, has turned into a miss.
As with any new program buy-in by all levels of the company is essential for success. For LEAN Six Sigma (LSS), the impetus for bringing it in the house may have been one of the following:
· Too many errors
· Perceived (by someone) or evident bloated internal processes
· Low profitability
· Competitive advantage (or equivalence)
· Client expectation
Is every effected stakeholder aware of the situation? If the effected individuals can recognize the need for improvement, then there is greater opportunity for buy-in. Perhaps the problem exists in an external- to-the-company situation e.g., competitive advantage. This needs to be explained in understandable terms. Example: Client A awarded the contract to Vendor B because they had a LSS program and thus had the potential for fewer errors and cost overruns.
Who is leading the charge to make LEAN Six Sigma a resident program?
· Executive Management
· Middle Management
· Quality Assurance/Quality Control (there is a difference)
Often the leaders who have been faced with “issues” are the first to grab on to a LSS program. Executive management sees what the market is doing, how the customers are viewing the company product/service output, and where the company is ranked amongst the competitors by the clients. Middle management often sees first hand where the issues are, although unable to “get a handle” on how to address them. The Quality Assurance unit had been losing confidence with level of compliance coming out of the laboratory as too many errors need correcting. Quality Control has observed an increase in the number of faults/errors and re-do’s are now being considered as part of the regular schedule. The CFO perceives/theorizes wasted money in time and materials. All of these observations come from different vantage points and each needs to be incorporated into the roll out program.
Who’s on Board?
Who is on board with bringing this potentially onerous program in-house to disrupt everyone’s routine? Those words are fairly negative but if the program is rolled out in a half-hearted way that is exactly what it will LSS become. Buy-in by ALL leaders is required otherwise it could be a painful experience.
· Upper Management
· Middle Management
· Everyone Else (unified vision)
· No one!?
If the top of the organization is driving LSS and the front line staff are committed to it, but the middle management is not supportive, then the program will not succeed. Further, if the leadership is dragging (or nagging) the staff into participation then the six sigma program is going to be an uphill battle.
Ready, Aim, THEN Fire.
Before launching into LSS all stakeholders need to understand what the drivers are, what is at risk if remediation (of the issue) does not occur, what the realistic time commitments are required, and how business timelines are going to be maintained.
At the heart of LSS is change and change is not something that comes easily to organizations that do not recognize that there are issues. While it has nothing to do with LSS, the movie Kinky Boots (PG-13) could well be shown to organizations that need to change but are reluctant to do so.