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The Pied Pipers of Change Management

Pied Pipers

Back in the thirteenth century, in the German town of Hamelin, when the Pied Piper played his pipe, all within hearing range chose to follow him, no matter where he chose to go, or so the legend goes. So, too, effective leaders must possess, a Pied Piper-like ”magic”, that enables them to call the tune heralding strategy change, confident in the knowledge that the vast majority will follow their lead. This, “Pied piper” ability to influence others is perhaps the most essential skill a leader can have. Even in normal circumstances, when major change is not an issue, a leader without followers is a contradiction in terms, so all leaders, to some extent, must be Pied Pipers.

The hugely successful Lean Six Sigma change management methodology seeks to, “mould” specific processes to a new lean, skeleton, which vastly improves them in terms of both end product quality and economic use of resources. One of the major essentials for the success of a Lean Six Sigma initiative lies in the Pied Piper abilities of the Leadership team.

LSS Hierarchy

Pied Piper skills are crucial at all levels of the Leadership hierarchy (above figure) As such, the senior manager who introduces Lean Six Sigma into the organization, otherwise known as the sponsor, needs to be able to impart his or her enthusiasm for Lean Six Sigma and a belief in its potential to positively transform the organisation to the senior executive (leader) who oversees Six Sigma Projects. Similarly, this enthusiasm must be imparted to the champions within the organisation i.e. those responsible for negotiating inter-departmental co-operation for individual Six Sigma Projects and similarly right down the chain to team members.

Championing any chosen methodology, including Six Sigma, is critical to its success and this is especially true at senior management level. The Pied Piper magic does not work, if senior managers themselves are just playing lip service to a process in which they have no confidence. Their buy in must be real, absolute and ongoing, if they are to effectively inspire all members of the organisation to make the significant mental and physical effort necessary to effect change.

It might be safe to assume that Master Black Belts, by definition, possess Pied Piper abilities since a pre-requisite for the Master Black Belt role is a record of success in Six Sigma Project Management. The role of the Master Black Belt is to coach and mentor black and green belt Lean Six Sigma project managers. Although, Black and Green belts do receive Lean Six Sigma training of several weeks duration (less for Green Belts), they can benefit immensely from the experience and support of master black belts who have already been through the ropes.

It is considered that a coaching and mentoring, as opposed to control and command approach to management is a key factor in maximizing the influence a leader can develop with any individual or with the team as a whole. A coaching and mentoring approach is, hence, advisable throughout the organization, from the sponsor right through each link of the hierarchy down to the process operator (who brings process expertise to the project but has no Six Sigma training).

In order to possess influence leaders must have:

  • Charisma
  • Believability
  • The ability to inspire loyalty
  • The ability to positively make use of channels of influence within the organization
  • Top communication skills and
  • Skills in turning around dissenters and enlisting pioneers

We’ve come a long way since the days of the thirteenth century Pied Piper. Methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma have transformed the change management landscape. Indeed, the Pied Pipers of the Lean Six Sigma world have one up on the original Pied Piper, for not only can they inspire others to follow, but they possess, in addition, Six Sigma tools, skills and knowledge to lead their teams and ultimately the organization to ultimate, streamlined and profitable success.

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