Using Lean Six Sigma to Improve and Innovate

Bryan Camoens

Seow Hong Xuan, Deputy Director, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt for Singapore’s largest Telco, SingTel explains the difference between the strategic and tactical deployment of Lean Six Sigma and argues the case for going the extra M.I.L.E.

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

Seow Hong Xuan: Lean Six Sigma is deployed in 2 thrusts – Strategic and Tactical.

Strategically, LSS is deployed in a longer term visional perspective. Define what is the 1-Year or 3-Year Business Goal or Market Requirements. Measure the current baseline. Analyze what is the customer requirements at present vs in 1 or 3 years’ time. Improve on what is required at present and work on what is required for us to get there. Control the entire strategy process to ensure that it is sustained and become a competitive business advantage over competitors.

Tactically, LSS is deployed in a business or process reactive or Just-Do-It (JIT) perspective using Lean or Accelerated Lean (AL). Define what is the current pain-points that business or customers are facing and understand how this is impacting current business or process performance.

Measure the current business or process performance thru customer pulse, process gap reviews, feedback from Voice-Of-Customers (VoC), Voice-of-Business (VoB), Voice-Of-Regulatory (VoR) etc. Analyze the various touch-points’ pain-points and performance thru the various LSS tools on what is the Critical Customer Requirement (CCR). Improve on the gaps either thru Lean or Six Sigma or combination of both, understanding when to deploy Lean or Six Sigma will require a more in-depth understanding of the problem and focus area. Control the improvements focusing in 3 important areas namely: Business Growth, Process Sustainability & People Engagement.

Deploying LSS in these 2 thrusts will definitely help an organization to stay ahead of competition.

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?

Seow Hong Xuan: Focusing on Going the extra MILE.

M – Motivate the employees thru showcasing the best performer/project as well as rewards & recognition, encouraging those who face difficulties thru mentoring and ‘Help’ programs

I – Inspire the employees to attain a expected level of performance, sharing successful experiences and case-studies from external companies to inspire to exceed expectations, instilling the ‘Can-Do’ attitude and always present a positive outlook and attitude to inspire the employees

L - Lead with confidence and passion, display a sense of calmness when leading project meetings, be fair and equal to all team members, acknowledge all achievements and failures within the team, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team members and manage the ‘expectation’ of the LSS team members

E – Engage and Energize the team with different approaches in project meetings (formal style of meeting/informal style of meeting/meeting can be held at offices or cafes etc), the team will usually slow down the efforts towards the mid-way of the project, hence it is important to hold the momentum of the project

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?

Seow Hong Xuan: The challenge is FAITH.

F – Fortitude: Lack of Fortitude to embrace new methodologies to improve and staying too much in their comfort zone discourages looking forward towards new challenges

A – Attitude: Lack of Attitude to embrace new thinking and accept changes that they are facing in this competitive business landscape

I – Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration to challenge own self to self-improve to move forward

T – Teamwork: Lack of Teamwork spirit to participate in cross-functional teams or projects to work and improve key problem areas, too many "SILO" people

H – Holistic: Lack of Holistic view to be able to see the vision and broader picture, hence unable to work towards a bigger goal or objective

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

Seow Hong Xuan: Lean Six Sigma is a structured approach towards problem solving. People used to say Six Sigma only works for process that has controlled factors but it has been proven otherwise. People used to say Six Sigma is for manufacturing, again it has been proven otherwise.

Many other industries are deploying in their areas. Importantly, Lean Six Sigma should be deployed and used as and when there is an opportunity in terms of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. If you look at any happenings in the day-to-day activities, DMAIC just happens to everything. You don’t know what you don’t know, so just go forward and uncover any opportunities that come along with DMAIC.

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

Seow Hong Xuan: Lean Six Sigma has been evolving over the past many years back and it will continue to evolve over the next decade. The key question is, are we using Lean Six Sigma enough to improve and innovate? But very soon the key question will be are we using Lean Six Sigma enough to INSPIRE?

Charles Darwin said that "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most Intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." This is very true indeed and Lean Six Sigma will become a way of life for everyone….