Seven Steps Towards Building an Effective CI Initiative

Here is the 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 step will truly make or break 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 best to develop your own internal talent rather than hiring from outside. However, when you are just getting started, you need outside talent to get the journey going. If you are new and just getting started, you should select an internal leader who understands the business and the LSS culture the best to lead the initiative. Often, when you hire someone from outside to lead this initiative when it is new, it takes time for the individual to understand the operations, business, and the company culture. It is much easier to train someone internally who understands the operations, business, and culture of Lean Six Sigma, than to familiarize outside talent with your company’s culture. Also, companies need to be careful about hiring Lean Six Sigma professionals who are inflexible and unwilling to modify their approach to suit the business and cultural needs. The Lean Six Sigma concepts are straightforward, but the application of these concepts is never due to the nature of the business and the culture of the company. Hence, you need to select the people who are capable of quickly diagnosing and understanding the business nature, the existing culture, and developing an approach that is best suited for your organization.

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 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. Often an outside company will help you ensure that your organization is protected from the pitfalls of Lean Six Sigma implementation. Ideally, you will need to 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 our 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 initiatives. In many cases, they truly do not know what to do or how to manage the Lean Six Sigma world. This lack of knowledge is, more often than not, one of the single 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: In order for LSS implementation to strive and be successful, at the beginning of the Lean Six Sigma 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. To avoid this failure mode, we recommend that companies go for the biggest impact project first. In addition to helping the business solve one of its most complex problems, this creates the excitement in the company atmosphere that is required to be successful. To further spread this excitement throughout the organization, some of the most popular ways to communicate successes are company-wide newsletters and webcast sharing. Creating and communicating success are areas where your outside consulting company will be of great help in identifying the right project and successfully achieving results to excite the whole organization

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 Lean Six Sigma, 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. While many organizations have bonus programs for certain levels of employees, it does not typically excite the entire organization. In many cases, it only sends the wrong message to the employees who are not in the bonus program– Why should I work hard when it is other employees who get more money? 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 that the companies that have these programs have a great sense of ownership and accountability at all levels of the organization, and every employee is a leader and able to call out poor performance when they see it.