Gauging organizational maturity is one of the most critical tasks undertaken prior to the implementation of Lean / Six Sigma. Not only is it important relative to determining where to start, it’s also an indicator of how much of a cultural shift will be required to make sure the methodology sticks.
The U.S. military seems to understand the need to match the mission with the appropriate resources, be it people, equipment, support, etc. Not that they always get exactly what they’d like to have to accomplish a mission, but at least it is in their DNA to lay out a plan for said resources and then go about modifying the plan to determine what their probability of success will be. Special Forces are required for some missions and regular infantry for others. If they don’t see that they can accomplish the mission with the resources available, they will modify the plan until they develop a reasonable probability of success. Do their plans always come to fruition as expected? Of course not. But they don’t quit assessing capabilities and planning missions because one such mission fails. And thank goodness for that.
Keeping a finger on the pulse of the organization to understand its readiness, capabilities, morale, etc., isvital to military strategists. Likewise, it should also be important to corporate strategists planning a Lean / Six Sigma effort. Just as the military would be unwise to use tanks & infantry when they really need an aerial attack, so too is the corporate sponsor unwise if he/she tries to shoehorn an advanced methodology on an incapable and unprepared employee base.
Our target end state for an organization is that of a mature populace which has taken the tenets of Lean / Six Sigma and woven them into the everyday fabric of the business. One which communicates problems in a common vernacular, uses data to develop solutions, and develops a relentless pursuit of perfection. That said, most companies, even those we as practitioners worship as companies that “get it”, will admit they are a long way from such an end state ideal. Thus, even for companies several years down the road on their Lean / Six Sigma journey, it is important to understand exactly where you are before you can figure out how to get where you want to be.
If knowing where to start is the first key to successful implementation then understanding organizational maturity has to be the single most important factor in finding the appropriate starting point. But how does one go about gauging organizational maturity? Tune in to my next post to find out…