The Continuous Improvement Blog

How to get your business ready for Lean and Six Sigma 

Written by Colin McArdle on 28 Mar 2018

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You may have some knowledge of Lean and Six Sigma tools. Perhaps you’ve already completed a Lean Practitioner or even your Green Belt training course.

Although you may have the knowledge to get going with implementing these tools straight away, successfully embedding Lean and Six Sigma in your organisation relies on a bit more than simply knowing the tricks of the trade.

In this blog post, we look at three key things you should consider before you embark on your Lean and Six Sigma programme.

Organisational readiness

As with any change initiative, someone needs to take the lead in driving it. Assigning a Champion to take overall responsibility for maintaining and prioritising potential projects is key. They will need to take charge of reporting progress to the CEO and making sure projects are aligned with the business strategy and priorities.

Establishing a baseline snapshot of the organisation is also important. How well are you currently meeting KPIs? How satisfied are your customers? What are their pain points in the customer journey? All this will provide context for when you come to assess the results of your Lean and Six Sigma programme.

Another question you should be asking at this stage is: what is the attitude towards change amongst your employees? Are they happy with how things work? What are the things that frustrate them on a daily basis? This will also help you identify areas for improvement.

In the same vein, it’s worthwhile speaking to senior leaders in the business to get their take on past experiences - what’s worked well and what hasn’t? Unpick any barriers to change, particularly to Lean and Six Sigma. This way you can be prepared to handle any tricky questions or concerns before you get going.

Engagement

Start off on the right foot with the workforce by giving them a reason to believe in Lean and Six Sigma. Every deployment should be based on a major challenge or risk. Having a clear reason, communicated well, allows everyone to be on the same page.

Describe how things will be different once deployment of Lean and Six Sigma starts.

A big part of a successful Lean and Six Sigma implementation is changing the mindsets and behaviours of employees, and this won’t come without challenges. Emotions and opinions will be challenged as requests for process and data-based decisions become commonplace. A functional silo mentality will be challenged as process mapping shows opportunities to re-organise activities. And those who have been working in their role for a long time may not respond positively to the idea of change in the first instance.

It’s also a good idea to include Lean and Six Sigma projects and activities on management meeting agendas. This will increase its visibility and reinforce how important it is.

Team

Before you can get started with deploying Lean and Six Sigma, you’ll need a team to oversee and to run it. While eventually, you want everyone in the organisation to be focused on continuous improvement, at least initially, you will need to invest in select individuals to take the lead.

Alongside the Champion, a typical Lean and Six Sigma team will include:

  • A Project Sponsor who takes a lead role in identifying the business gap or opportunity, defining and initiating projects and selecting the right Black and Green belts to lead them.
  • A Master Black Belt and/or a Black Belt who will lead on projects full-time.
  • A Green Belt who supports the Black Belt on bigger projects and leads on smaller projects.
  • A Yellow Belt who works closely with the Green and Black Belts.
  • Process Owners who are the owners of the processes being targeted for a project. They may participate by gathering data, implementing solutions and identifying other project opportunities, as well as ensuring ongoing results.

Other team members may include Lean practitioners who have had an introductory training in Lean methods, or others within the business with specialist knowledge relevant to the project.

To make sure the team work effectively together there needs to be a clear understanding of tasks and what each team member is responsible for. Your team may need to differ from project to project to meet specific needs. However, the Champion should maintain overall responsibility for the entire Lean and Six Sigma programme.

Training as a Black, Green or Yellow belt is usually classroom or online based. And there are plenty of training courses available in the UK. Beyond gaining the knowledge to apply Lean and Six Sigma tools and techniques, it also helps individuals to develop leadership and people development skills. Skills which will be crucial when deploying projects throughout the organisation.

Deploying Lean and Six Sigma successfully within your organisation isn’t simply a case of equipping yourself with the right tools and applying them. It relies on an element of structure and planning to make sure it aligns with the strategic goals of the company, support and engagement from all employees, and a solid team who can work effectively together to drive projects forward.

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Topics: lean, six sigma

Colin McArdle

Written by Colin McArdle

Colin McArdle, the Founder and Managing Director of Kaizen Kulture is a Lean and Six Sigma Master Black Belt who has over 30 years industry experience. Kaizen Kulture's mission is to be true to the ethos of continuous improvement.