The One Secret to Successful Lean Six Sigma

Manoj Patel

Six Sigma
Many of my clients and colleagues are forever asking the question: "How do we assure sustainability for a Lean Six Sigma project?" This is by far the most difficult part to achieve and it is all about the people.
Based on my personal scars and experience, any improvement activity is 20% about the tools and 80% about the people and it is people that determine the sustainability. So, what determines whether change ‘Sticks’ or not ?
The beliefs, behavior and actions of individuals all form part of the make up of the ‘Culture’ of an organization and it is this ‘Culture’ that determines the sustainability of your Lean Six Sigma project, Program or Transformation.
In order for anything to remain in place, it has to be accepted as ‘The Norm’ or the ‘Modus Operandi’, or put quite simply, "It’s the way we do things around here". The change must become part of the culture of the organization. If it doesn’t, it will always be "The stuff we have to do as well as our day job" and will be dropped at the earliest opportunity.
So, what exactly do we mean by Culture? Associated words and phrases…
  • Way of life, customs, traditions
  • Society, background, ethnicity
  • Conduct, behavior, habits, manner
  • "…relating to the cultivation of the mind or manners especially through artistic or intellectual activity…"
  • "… the norms and values that people live by…"
  • "…unwritten rules that define what is expected of people and how they should behave…"
  • "…the way we do things around here…"
That Leads us to our Next Question: ‘What do we need to change the culture?’
Firstly, we must begin to change the behavior, values and beliefs of the leadership. To do this successfully requires skill in building rapport, influencing and sales, as the first step in any change of ANY kind is, DESIRE!
Then we need to find Change agents within an organization who exhibit a "pioneering spirit". We need to define a ‘picture’ and ‘feel’ of the desired future and plan a strategy and roadmap to make it happen.
Involve as many people as possible who will define it, create a plan and take the actions necessary for it to be realized. And finally, Effort, skill and patience.
  • What do we need to do to go about creating the desire, which will in turn allow us to begin to change the behavior, values and beliefs of the leadership? Firstly, answer the following questions:
  • Who has a need that I/we can & must satisfy? – either a business or a specific person
  • Who do you know who is respected by the people you need to influence?
  • Who do you know that you suspect might be respected by the people you need to influence?
  • If you don’t know anyone then what research will you need to do to find out?
  • What chains or links between people can you create?
  • What value could you create for the person/people in the chain?
Ok, so we’ve covered what we need to do to make Change stick but to be honest, that’s the easy bit.
Now we get into HOW we go about changing the beliefs, behaviors and actions of the key people connected to the change program. This can only be achieved by influencing, negotiating, demonstrating the benefits and getting the stakeholders to WANT to do things differently – Creating the DESIRE!
Some say these are the "Soft skills" or the "Fluffy stuff" or "People skills" and that some people have these as a natural ability but they can’t really be taught to people who don’t "Have it".
That’s absolute garbage! This is an exact science, as exact a science as physics. Its common name is… SALES
Or, how we use these exact techniques to build solid relationships with high degrees of rapport and trust in order to get our stakeholders to actively want to exhibit the desired behaviors and actions that will in turn, shape the culture into one which embraces the changes introduced, as the new NORM.
This is too big a section to be covered extensively in this article but it’s covered in our black belt certification.