Like many organizations, ours began their Six Sigma deployment with a consultant-based training and project mentorship. We were successful at internalizing the training, and we’ve used a value-stream approach to selecting improvement projects, but the process owners never seemed to be the ones to light the fire – most wait to be tapped on the shoulder and told there was a project planned in their area. We realized that we were in danger of having a passive, Black-Belt-driven approach become our standard.

Through a lot of discussion by our Master Black Belt to bring that issue to our leaders’ attention, we’ve redesigned our Green Belt coursework to focus on tools for improvements that process owners can do even outside of a formal project structure (although we teach that too!).

To build on that, our CEO recently gave a new challenge to our leaders. For their annual performance goals, each leader was asked to determine the “voice of the customer” for their area of responsibility and then to implement a change based on the customers’ needs, where targets were not being met.

WOW! All of a sudden, all those lectures on VOC and CTQs became important to remember – leaders didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a Black Belt to appear with a project idea. Most leaders began toget actively engaged in seeking out customer feedback. Many had relied on customer-survey scores without delving deeper into the 5 why’s, or had relied on occasional feedback rather than active communication. Now thearea of Operational Improvement looms a lot larger in their annual performance evaluation goal-setting.

As many surveys have shown, executive engagement and commitment is one of the make-or-breaks of successful deployment. We are fortunate to be in the “plus column” in this area.

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