Six Sigma WIIFE...What's in It for Employees?

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Bryan Camoens

Dumidu Ranaweera, Process Excellence & Lean Six Sigma Manager, for Sri Lankan telecommunications service provider Dialog Axiata, spoke to PEX Network’s Bryan Camoens on the importance of. the methodology He also debunks the idea that Lean Six Sigma cannot be applied in an environment of low mix models and that it requires continuous flow for its application.

Bryan Camoens: Could you please explain how the deployment of lean Six Sigma can keep you ahead of competition?

Dumidu Ranaweera: As Jack Welch use to cite, just implementing Lean Six Sigma does not assure you great market share nor number one position in the market, but it can help in the strategy of assuring the desired, sustainable competitive advantage of an organization. Lean Six Sigma in simple terms is a powerful problem solving methodology that act as a catalyst in the journey of organizational excellence.

In other words Lean Six Sigma thinking itself can help organizational leaders in taking vital market/customer related decisions with more confidence than the competition. As its application provides the decision makers to take more customer focused decisions justified by data and forecasting where applicable, Lean Six Sigma has become a vital element in marketing decisions.

Especially in the time of recession that was passed, many companies fell the importance of Lean Six Sigma more than ever and used it to gain more assurance in the decisions that they had to take in the shrinking market space.

Outsourcing becoming more popular in the agenda of management discussions, Lean Six Sigma application and practices also emerged as a key differentiator for outsourcing companies as it was essential to show case their ability in value creation post outsourcing a function/operation for its clients.


Bryan Camoens: Creating a corporate culture to motivate employees comes from the top, but how can you get effective buy-in on the benefits of Six Sigma from employees?

Dumidu Ranaweera: It’s clear that Lean Six Sigma deployment needs to be a Top down approach for it to leap and generate accelerated results, but its sustenance is heavily dependent on the commitment of its talent pool.

Employees desire intrinsic and extrinsic benefits to be attached to a concept or a long term deployment strategy, hence the first thing to define is ‘WIIFE- What’s in it for employees?’ and identify change leaders who can drive, communicate, WIIFE towards employees. Change leaders should be the employees that have the highest influencing power in the organization who are convinced first, that Lean Six Sigma is a Win-Win solution.

It is important that the leadership always highlight that lean six sigma is nothing but a problem solving methodology that entails great value to self & organization and not another management fad. Employees should always see recognition by generating results from its application.

Most of the time innovative competitions on Lean Six Sigma can create hype (e.g. most helpful Black Belt, Poster competitions etc.) and continued attention. Lean Six Sigma application to new areas is also used by many organizations to create continued interest (e.g. Green Lean Six Sigma).

At a maturity level when most of the employees perceive value over Lean Six Sigma application and when believes it’s a part of their DNA, generating results from Lean Six Sigma can be made part of their day to day deliverables (e.g. including in performance appraisal).It is also essential that Lean Six Sigma gradually becomes a key element in employee wow sessions i.e. Induction programmes, to inculcate interest from the inception.

Bryan Camoens: When it comes to implementing low mix models with Six Sigma to maximize output quality, what are some of the common challenges faced?

Dumidu Ranaweera: It’s a common misconception that Lean Six Sigma cannot be applied in an environment of low mix models and it requires continuous flow for its application.

The common challenges faced in this regard in terms of defining value stream for low mix products and determining the ideal quantities to produce the timing of the inventory and load leveling. Take time for a shared product family with varying demand is also considered as a challenge for low mix model products.

Bryan Camoens: What are some of the yet to be explored untapped opportunities in Six Sigma that have yet to be explored?

Dumidu Ranaweera: Lean Six Sigma has been applied and tested in many areas of late and still keeps proving its potential. Green Lean Six Sigma (application of Lean Six Sigma towards reducing environmental impacts), Lean Six Sigma in Marketing, Lean Six Sigma Accounting, and Lean Six Sigma for SME are some new emerging areas of Lean Six Sigma application.

For the future there can be also grown interest on how Lean Six Sigma tools can be used in Socialnomics i.e. mainly to enhance leverage of companies operating based out of Social media. There are many blue oceans in the Asian and African terrain that still needs to be explored even by the promoters of traditional methods of application. Lot of interest has also generated towards applying the concept in College education and making Lean part of the standard student curriculum.

It’s an area that many organisations can think of venturing out from their normal operations. There is also huge potential and growing demand on academic programmes (i.e. specialized degrees) on Lean Six Sigma and online education and open source training material.

Bryan Camoens: Going forward how do you see Six Sigma evolving over the next decade?

Dumidu Ranaweera: I believe Lean Six Sigma will evolve further by adding on more tools and concepts & linking itself with other tools/standards (e.g. COPC, CMMi etc) like in the past. Lean Six Sigma has great potential in becoming a part of children education and a mandatory topic in all management education.

There is a great chance that Lean Six Sigma application in the Green (e.g to support carbon trading) and Social context becoming more popular than ever as the world itself placing more effort and importance on Environmental protection and Social responsibility.