The following Ten Top Tips for Lean and Six Sigma are adapted from a 2011 RiverRhee newsletter with a similar title.
1. Effective Lean and Six Sigma implementation is about behaviour as much as the tools
For Lean and Six Sigma, a key behavioural change is people’s willingness to relentlessly address problems as they arise, rather than simply work around them. Once people have committed to changing their behaviour in this way, then the tools come into their own. Without this change in behaviour, training in Lean and Six Sigma tools is simply academic.
2. Integrate Lean and Six Sigma into organisational strategy and core methodologies
Lean and Six Sigma implementation will be at its most effective when integrated into the organisation’s strategy and goals. Without that, it will just be another initiative with an associated short-term life. What’s more, if an organisation has a core methodology which is integral to its way of working, then integrating Lean and Six Sigma into that will also increase it’s chances of success.
3. Make sure all leaders and managers are engaged with, supporting and reinforcing Lean and Six Sigma
Although it can be tempting to start applying Lean and Six Sigma in a bottom-up approach, our experience is that it is well-worth the effort to engage middle and senior managers. Not only will their engagement facilitate the implementation of ideas and improvements, but, by modeling and reinforcing associated behaviours, they will cause an exponential adoption of similar behaviours by others. Without the engagement of middle and senior management, adoption of Lean and Six Sigma will flounder and die.
4. Start with some Lean and Six Sigma champions to lead the way and show how it will work
In any organisation, there will be some people who are more eager to explore new ideas and ways of working than others. Rather than spend a lot of time and energy at this stage trying to convince the skeptics, we’ve found it best to start with a handful of people who will help to lead the way in exploring how Lean and Six Sigma can bring benefits to their work. Others will become curious about what their peers have been doing, and the word can then start to spread through the champions’ internal networks.
5. Start with some high profile and quick win Lean and Six Sigma projects
This point builds on the earlier ones. Pick early projects that support the organisation’s strategies, are endorsed by middle and senior management, are led by champions, address something that people care passionately about andwill bring some early tangible results. Our workshops help people to identify just these kinds of improvement opportunities.
6. Recognise that people will have different styles and preferences in their adoption of Lean and Six Sigma
People will take to the Lean and Six Sigma tools and approaches in different ways. For example, some will enjoy the clearly structured step-by-step DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) approach, others will want to make more use of their intuition or of their creativity.
7. Recognise that organisations will have cultural differences in their adoption of Lean and Six Sigma
Each organisation has its own distinct culture and our experience is that cultures will differ between countries (we have experience in the UK, US and France in particular) and between different kinds of organisations (e.g. international vs. local, corporate vs. small or medium, private vs. public or government). So we’ve found it important to try to put aside assumptions about how Lean and Six Sigma will be adopted and certainly to avoid using the ‘jargon’ unless this is what an organisation wants, and look for ways again to integrate with the language that the organisation uses.
8. Encourage your organisation to keep records and measures of impact and benefits of Lean and Six Sigma projects, and to prioritise them accordingly
Once people start realizing the power of Lean and Six Sigma, there can be a rapid proliferation of improvement projects. We’ve found it important to work with middle and senior managers to prioritise these projects and assessing the potential strategic benefits of the projects can help with this. We encourage participants to define measures (both tangible and intangible) to monitor the actual impact of their improvements, and also to keep a central record that again will help with the wider communication to the organisation.
9. Ensure that there is ongoing communication to engage the wider organisational community in Lean and Six Sigma
Our experience is that there can never be enough communication, and that this needs to be in as many different forms as possible to ensure that people a) receive the communication (see it, hear it etc.) and b) absorb it in a way that will lead them to either reflect or act upon it. Small group, face-to-face communication with opportunities for discussion always seem to be more effective for example than mass e-mail communications. Our clients have also used local displays with updates on work in progress and visual summaries of forward plans or targets to be achieved as a way to help with engagement.
10. Create Communities of Practice and other knowledge sharing approaches to help sustain Lean and Six Sigma in your organisation
Knowledge Management techniques have a lot to offer Lean and Six Sigma practitioners to learn from each other’s experience, continuously improve their skills in applying the principles and tools and generally sustain the application of Lean and Six Sigma in their organisations.
This will result in dramatic improvements in the productivity and quality of your output, and in the team's general sense of being in control of its work.
Contact us to find out more about how we can help your team work more efficiently and so achieve greater productivity and improved staff morale.
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