Thanks Chief, but you really aren’t in charge…The talk that has to happen.

In most organizations there are several layers of decision makers. Each layer has more authority to make decisions than the one before. Military and law enforcement know this to be called, “chain of command.”

Several times, I have had a high ranking individual come to me and inquire about starting an improvement project. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to help someone make a process better? Unfortunately, I am left telling that high ranking person that their authority is too limited for the project to be successful. Being much lower in rank than they are can make this a very intimidating conversation to have, but still very necessary.

When it comes to making improvements, the facilitator has to have total honesty and integrity, which requires being very candid with everyone involved. Without these elements, almost all projects are doomed for failure. As a facilitator, Six Sigma Black Belt, or whatever title you go by in your organization, remember that you work directly for the CEO’s best interest. Be careful about getting reeled into the idea that since someone that outranks you wants something done, then you have no choice but to do it. This will eventually lead to your demise and destroy the credibility of your process improvement program.

Speak the truth to all you meet. Let them know who the Champion would be for the improvement they want to make. Have them leave your conversation with the understanding that you will help in any way possible, including setting up a meeting with your agency Champion. Without the Champion’s buy in from the inception of the project, you run the risk of failure when new ideas are brought forward that he/she was not ready to pursue. This will in turn tell every member of the improvement team that process improvement doesn’t work and was a waste of their time…don’t let that happen.

If the Chief, or other high ranking person believes themselves to be the decision maker, take the hard road and inform them why they aren’t…your program will thank you.

About the Author: William “Billy” Wilkerson is a Police Sergeant with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and 20 Year veteran with the Florida Air National Guard. He is currently assigned to Sheriff’s Office Continuous Improvement Division and also supervises the Staff Inspections Unit. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been using Lean Six Sigma to streamline many of its processes for the past several years to much success. Billy has also been assisting with the Florida Air National Guard’s rollout of their CPI Program (Continuous Process Improvement). Billy can be found on LinkedIn @ or by email at

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