Motorola: "Understand the Why" (Transcript)

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Helen Winsor

Six Sigma can be perceived as slow and arduous, says Tom Goodwin, Director of Lean Six Sigma at Motorola Mobile Devices, but it doesn’t need to be. The key, is understanding the "why". In this PEX Network interview, Goodwin shares his tips for rolling out Six Sigma across an organisation.

PEX Network: Today we’d like to get a bit of a snapshot of what you’ll be talking about and discuss some of the key themes that will be coming up at the conference in June. To start, Motorola obviously have a renowned history in Six Sigma. Tom, how has the focus of your process improvement changed over the past five years?

T Goodwin: We have, and it’s a great benefit having been there in the forefront in developing it and making it work. We’ve gone through different phases and even a reinvention. About five years ago, coincidentally, we went through to put more emphasis on digitising our solutions in making sure they stayed safe. So that was leveraging our computer systems and controls and tools to remove the old habits, and the only way we could do stuff was to do it systematically. So we went through that and it’s been very effective. In that reinvention period we also tried to reinvigorate the campaign mode and, from that, we’ve done such a great job of re-stoking the fires, if you will, that now it is just rolling without that absolute top-down driven push forward. People are doing it because they know it works, they’ve seen it work, and it’s just part of how we do things.

PEX Network: How do you keep people in your organisation enthusiastic about improvement when it starts to fall down the priority list?

T Goodwin: I think in today’s times things are certainly very challenging. Everyone’s gone through their headcount reductions and there’re simply less people doing more activity, and I think that’s what keeps thing going. I think that’s what the emphasis on Lean is. Now that we can’t do the things the way we used to before, we can’t keep working harder. That’s just not an option. So how do we work smarter? By identifying value-add, looking to reduce errors that consume time to go back and re-work, so really people are enthused. There’s a way, I’ll call it even simply a quality of life and quality of the business, and we’re all out to be a successful company and everyone’s very motivated to get through these times. I think those two things together keep people enthralled and it keeps rolling.

PEX Network: In your view, is this transferable to organisations without Motorola’s depth and range in Six Sigma, or do you think that they’ll struggle with this?

T Goodwin: I think it depends. I think certainly having the culture there helps a great deal but I don’t think it’s an absolute necessity. I think you have to start it slow, show your successes, prove that it works and then use it when it’s appropriate. I think sometimes people get a little over zealous and they try to apply it in all places and I think that can be a downfall. So I think as long as it’s a very measured and deliberate approach with keeping things simple and keeping to the true voice of the customer. The reason we’re here is to do things and deliver for our customers, and deliver for our stakeholders. I think it can be transferable.

PEX Network: Some really great tips there. What would you call your biggest personal success in Lean Six Sigma since working at Motorola?

T Goodwin: I guess for my personal success I would say we were at a real crossroads when our company went through our public separation in January and there was a lot of work leading up to that and a lot of discussions : do we still need this, is this still viable, do people want this? And the answer, resolutely, under what we call now Motorola Mobility was, yes we do! And I was able to keep the programme running; our enrolment in it and tool usage has been constant among just a sea of change. So I personally am very proud that we’ve kept the programme going and that the interest is still very high.

PEX Network: What’s the biggest business success that you’ve seen in Six Sigma and Motorola since working there, looking at the wider business?

T Goodwin: I think it’s in the pure number of applications we’ve had. Its success, I think, is the sheer number of successes that we’ve had. We’ve had entire facilities, for instance, in our Brazil and China sites that have taken on Lean projects at a facility level, where there’ve just been hundreds of small and yet very powerful things that have gone on. We have areas in design for Six Sigma, areas in Lean, areas in transactional process improvement, and all those, cumulatively, I think, speak to the success we’ve had here with the programme.

PEX Network: You’ve recently gone through a major organisational change at Motorola. You’re going to be speaking at our Telecoms and Utilities Conference about how to leverage change for transformation. So, Tom, could you give us a brief insight into how and what you’re doing to facilitate a smooth change within Lean Six Sigma?

T Goodwin: I think the key, and I touched on it a little bit earlier, is be careful not to oversell it. I think sometimes people see it as a super power or trying to do things that are just too large and I think that’s where it falls down and fails. I would say set expectations appropriately, talk about what’s really at heart, what problems are we really trying to solve and I think you’ll quickly get there’s common agreement that we need to do things faster and we need to do things with more accuracy, we need to understand what our customers are asking for. So you scope your projects, pick your efforts that align to the biggest business needs, and then find your people that truly see this as a way to learn more for themselves. If you marry those things, then I think that brings you through these times like this.

PEX Network: In summary, start slow in small scale and build it up across the organisation?

T Goodwin: Absolutely. And there are some high profiles wins. They are there, and when you see them, celebrate them and communicate them.

PEX Network: Finally, what would be your top five or top three tips to any organisation using Lean Six Sigma, if they were using it, a few changes to avert common stumbling blocks?

T Goodwin: I think almost immediately of change control, understanding what’s the why. Why are we doing this? Why is it relevant? How can it help our business? So get out there with some very good change management out front. Stick to the tools; follow the process without being bureaucratic. I think sometimes Six Sigma can be perceived as something that’s slow and arduous and it doesn’t have to be. What problems are we trying to solve, what’s giving us the confidence we’re doing the right things? I think that looking at the tools with that balanced judgement of what’s appropriate and what’s needed is there.

And I think, finally, just following through and celebrating it, recognising when people have successes and then tell people after the fact, well, here’s how we got there, these are the things we did to get there without the heavy jargon and bureaucracy that sometimes can come along with it. I think that would be the immediate things that pop into my head.

PEX Network:Now just to finish off, which of the elements of the programme are you looking forward to most at the event, looking at the schedule?

T Goodwin: I love to see what other people are doing. I love to see the presentations with the other companies, to get ideas from them, so get an understanding of the best in class ideas that are going to come across. And I think that networking is always very positive. I like the interactive nature of your conferences and the ability for real time problem solving with the people that are there. They’re always very interesting to meet with.

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