Seven Steps towards Building an Effective CI Initiative

The final set of steps that needs to be put in place in order to have a truly performing CI initiative in an organization

1. Selecting the right people to run your LSS program: This makes or breaks your LSS journey. As we all know, truly talented people suited for Lean Six Sigma are hard to find. Our experience shows that it is good to consider your own internal talent first, however, when you are just getting started you may need outside talent to get the journey going. An experienced LSS professional will have the knowledge to lead the Culture Change and the Process Improvement initiatives.

2. Selecting a right outside company to help you: Almost all companies need support from an outside service provider to get them started in the right direction. Companies should look for someone who is willing to partner with them to implement the principles and customize in a way that will work with the culture of that organization. While the concepts of Lean Six Sigma are straightforward, their application to each company can be as unique and diverse as the company itself. Ideally, a company selects the people who are capable of quickly diagnosing and understanding the nature of the business. Find a partner who has lived this role and has experienced it first hand, not just consulted!

3. Training the leadership first: If there is one initiative that will truly test leadership, this is it. Lean Six Sigma will test your leadership skills, support, know-how, and relentless follow-up and follow through skills. It is not uncommon for people to say their Continuous Improvement efforts failed due to lack of leadership support and commitment. We challenge this by asserting that the real root of the cause is that the leadership typically do not have the knowledge that is required to support these LSS initiatives. This lack of knowledge is one of the most cited reasons these initiatives fail. LSSE strongly recommends starting your LSS implementations with leadership training first. After all, it is only fair to train them before you expect them to support it.

4. Creating quick wins to excite the organization: The LSS implementation, to be most successful, at the beginning of the LSS journey, an organization must create quick wins. Often, companies pick the easiest thing to fix to demonstrate the concepts which may or may not have significant impact to the business. Lean Six Sigma Experts utilizes our process to identify quick wins and long-term complex impactful wins. This approach creates steps in the process to build on for our clients' Process Improvement successes and sustainability. The company can create excitement throughout the organization by promoting these wins. Some popular ways to communicate successes are company-wide newsletters and webcast sharing. This is where your outside consulting company can help you create and communicate the right projects to highlight.

5. Expanding it Enterprise-wide: Now that you have the right people, the right leadership and the whole organization excited about Lean Six Sigma, it is time to expand the concepts enterprise-wide. Most organizations typically start in one of their departments or functions in their company. Organizations should move quickly to expand the application of the concepts throughout the company before it is attached only to the function where it is started, e.g., “It is a shop floor thing; it doesn’t apply to the offices.” Also, in order to achieve the fullest potential of LSS, the applications of these principles should be extended to suppliers and customers of the organization. The timing of integrating suppliers and customers will vary depending on the industry and maturity level of the organizations.

6. Leveraging the improvements to GROW the business: This is one of the single most important reasons why Lean Six Sigma dies down after a successful start. Also, this is the biggest missed opportunity after all the hard work has been put in to ensure the successful beginnings of Lean Six Sigma. Many organizations fail to leverage their LSS success to win more business from their existing clients or acquire new clients/businesses. The most common reason any company wants to start their Lean Six Sigma journey is to grow market share and profitability. One of the easiest ways to improve your profitability is to increase your net sales with relatively same level of staffing. Lean Six Sigma, if it is done correctly, will help you to achieve this.

7. Pay-for-Performance for All: The last piece of this puzzle can be explained perfectly with the adage “Put your money where your mouth is.”  All of the successful organizations in CI have a pay-for-performance program for all employees. No matter how much we don’t want to believe it, behavior follows money. Though the level of reward will be/should be different, all employees should be rewarded for exceptional performance in addition to their regular salary. What we have seen is, companies that have these programs create a great sense of ownership and accountability at all levels of the organization. Every employee is a leader and able to call out poor performance when they see it.  

-Jayaprakash (JP) Gnanam, President
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