Developing a Thriving Team from Many Skills

Since my staff in my department is entirely composed of students I have many advantages and disadvantages when creating teams and working on projects.The advantages of a student staff include the high turnover rates and those who see their time with us as just another job to kill time and get a paycheck.

Some of the advantages are that, as a collective whole, are like a coat of many colors.They are from different majors (i.e., business, computer science, mathematics, etc.) and are at various educational levels from freshman to graduate student.This coupled with a desire to learn real-world skills and to do something that looks good on their resume gives them an advantage that other teams may not possess.

Another aspect of our team was the size.Since we have a mere seven to ten people on average that left me to wear many hats…from champion to master black belt.This also left me with the ability to have a green belt, since I couldn’t devote anyone entirely to Six Sigma in our department.

The choice of green belt came about in two ways.First was to ask who had interest in that position.This cut the number of choices by more than half.Then I had to look at who had the best background and classes in statistical training, computers and project management. That helped narrow the number down again to my best choice, a junior business major with an emphasis in economics and computer science.

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The remainder of the staff would be training in what Six Sigma was, why we were doing this in our department, what it looked like, and how it was linked to compensation for them. Their training would be less intense than in our pilot semester but they would begin to actually see a project in action so many things would become clearer to them.

At this point this new team structure went into place but how would it become a thread in our department, especially in our hiring of replacement employees?The first thing I did was placed Six Sigma, as it looked at that time, in our new strategic plan.This way I could plan for it and monitor progress easier.The second thing I did was develop a small community of practice where knowledge could be shared and captured so that what we were learning wasn’t lost the next year.

Comments 2

  1. Jennifer Baughman

    Do you find it difficult to make progress given the general turnover of your team? You mentioned trying to capture the collective knowledge given you turnover you experience, have you been successful in doing so and if so, specifically how?

    Across our department, site, company, corporation we have a very difficult time communicating our initiatives. Your approach to adding it to your strategic plan is excellent. Do other departments have access to what you are doing? Can they learn from your mistakes, knowledge, training?

  2. Lisa Moore

    Our progress is a bit slower, I would imagine, than others with less turnover but we make large strides regardless since I always have at least 2-3 students who are very dedicated to Six Sigma. They realize the importance to our department and what they’re going to gain themselves. I suppose selling it to the staff is a big idea here.

    Our knowledge capture has also been slower but has yielded good work. We not only keep all of our work but also do knowledge harvesting of our student leaders each spring. Capturing what they’ve learned is a big help to those that come after them.

    We also have a very strong communication plan that helps share all of our work, including Six Sigma, with others at our campus. We want to develop a team website soon so that anyone with web access can see what we’re doing and what we’ve done in the past.

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