Change Management Strategy – Ensuring that Lean Six Sigma Works

Reports of impressive resource savings and improved quality output achieved by organisations employing Lean Six Sigma change methodology have been nothing short of breath taking. However, not all Lean Six Sigma initiatives have resulted in such pronounced gains. So what are the differences between star performers and organizations that yield less than spectacular results when it comes to change management?

The most likely cause of failure of the Lean Six Sigma approach to change management is lack of buy in from senior managers. A primary goal, at the project initiation stage must, therefore, be heightening awareness of senior managers to the Six Sigma philosophy. A good approach is to introduce management to a team in a different organization that has successfully implemented Lean Six Sigma with measureable benefits.

Dismissing dissent from dubious parties and pushing forward with the initiative, regardless, inevitably proves counterproductive. Instead, at this early stage, members of the management team must be encouraged to express their doubts and the initiative should not be allowed to proceed without the endorsement of all members, without exception.

Once all members are on board, running a pilot is an excellent way to demonstrate the power of the methodology and strengthen support for its blanket application throughout the organization. With this aim, a model value stream of manageable size, to increase likelihood of success, should be chosen. Visibility must be high so that it becomes the model of Six Sigma success in the organization. It is also advisable that its success is linked to a significant, measurable business benefit.

For project success, chosen team leaders must believe in the process, be able to convey enthusiasm and be influential at all levels. Special care must be taken to prevent a blame culture developing between production management and change agents and often appointment of a production manager as a change agent reduces this risk.

Before the project is implemented senior management needs to introduce the Lean initiative to all organizational stakeholders and request support from all. Once the project is underway, a weekly meeting of a steering committee of department heads helps to promote lean concepts and prevent the initiative from losing momentum/ management support. The steering committee should receive a weekly report from the change agents tracking quality, cost and delivery measures along with progress towards other targets for the transformation.

A Stakeholder Analysis is often carried about at the start of a program to gauge whether certain stakeholder groups will require further work to bring on board. This comprises a questionnaire soliciting attitudes toward the upcoming project. Making use of existing relationships between teams is often a good way of getting less than enthusiastic teams on board which is a must, if the success of the project is to be guaranteed.

Other factors which contribute toward success include:

• Appropriate use of assessments such as Cultural Audit, Business Assessment and Current state Value stream analysis
• The use of KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to give visibility to areas of concern
• Ensuring that a robust disciplinary procedure is in place to ensure that procedures are carried out as prescribed
• Use of regularly updated performance measures which are highly visible.
• Introduction of a highly visible issue resolution system
• An emphasis on transforming culture to support the new philosophy
• Improving the flow of material through the system through, “Takt Time,” production.
• Use of TIPS (Implementation Plans) as maps delivering step by step procedure to operators and documenting the desired future state
• Ensuring that appropriate training is scheduled, to develop the required skills matrix across the board.
• Ensuring that resources (e.g. financial, human, logistics) are in place to achieve the set objective
• Accountability and the unwavering application of process confirmation (involving auditing of tasks to schedule)
• Frequent written and verbal reports from the process operator to top management
• Visibility of top management on the shop floor
• Recognition of project pioneers
• Management’s ability to communicate the compelling need for change
• Management’s ability to set stretch goals that are not over ambitious
• Recognition of the importance of targeting flow as opposed to process
• Measurement methods which are compatible with lean manufacturing
• Excellent communication channels
• Totally committed management that leads by example

In conclusion, complete, absolute and long-term commitment to Lean Six Sigma by senior management and a careful attention to and application of the aforementioned factors will help to ensure that any one single Lean Six Sigma project implementation will end up being a profitable success.

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