iSixSigma

Change Management

The Merits of ‘Know-nothing’ Belts and Champions

In the musical Camelot, there is a landmark scene in which King Arthur discusses his dream of a new legal system with Pellinore, the scraggly old king that Arthur adopted into his court. This new legal system would have trials led by a judge and the ultimate verdict would be decided by a group of…

Overcoming Initial Resistance to Six Sigma

“We don’t have processes. What I mean to say is, we don’t use them.” This was the reply of a Fortune 500 executive when asked recently about his company’s processes. Oddly enough, this response is quite common in spite of the inordinate amount of time and effort spent trying to convince managers otherwise. Most managers…

Developing Black Belt Change Agents

The role of a Black Belt is typically described as a Change Agent and the two terms are frequently used interchangeably. Why then, if the change agent role is such an important part of the Black Belt identity, do we spend four to six months training the Black Belt candidates with maybe, just a few hours of…

Integrating Quality with Integrity

You never hear anyone say “I don’t have time for integrity – I have too many other priorities to take care of right now.” So why, as quality leaders, do we consistently hear how some of our business leaders and process improvement teams don’t have time for quality? Is personal integrity more important than the quality…

Organizing Your Quality Life

Getting your “quality” life in order is no easy task. Project meetings, staff meetings, tollgate reviews, and business deliverables can wreak havok on our daily lives. Sometimes it seems as if there is nothing we can do to stay organized – until now. Just as we teach our businesses that processes are necessary to increase productivity,…

A Project Charter Communication Strategy Is Essential

Six Sigma Black Belts, Master Black Belts and Project Champions, when embarking on a DMAIC, DMADV or Process Management project, need to be aware of the importance of establishing a communication plan when developing and validating a team charter. A finely executed Black Belt project can suffer disappointing results if an efficient mechanism is not…

Successful Six Sigma Project Reviews

I cannot over emphasize the importance of communication in Six Sigma process improvement projects. As Patrick Waddick stated in his project charter article, “a finely executed Black Belt project can suffer disappointing results if an efficient mechanism is not already in place to ensure that vital information is relayed to those members who need it.”…

Six Sigma Project Review Sample Agenda

You’ve selected your Six Sigma projects, even chartered one, and now you’re business is trying to figure out the status of the project and it should move to the next phase. Charles Waxer presented the article, Successful Six Sigma Project Reviews. I would like to help you make those words of wisdom a reality by…

Six Sigma Via Context

I’m sure all of us experience daily memos, emails, voice mail, procedures, forms, and reports that are nearly meaningless due to lack of context. Some ramble on with obvious passion but fail to explain what the heck they’re talking about. Some are very beautiful with lots of statistical charts and graphs yet without simple contextual…

Building Team Consensus

The Six Sigma quality methodology almost always requires a Black Belt or Green Belt to lead a team in solving a problem. When teams members interact – and no matter how well the Black or Green Belt can facilitate – opinions of the individual team members will inevitably differ and the team may end up deadlocked, compromising…

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Meeting Action Item Planning Worksheet

A tremendous amount of work goes into the design, planning and execution of a productive team meeting. Attendees should always know the purpose and desired outcome(s) of the meeting before getting too deep into the content. The meeting should start on time, an agenda should be set and previous meeting notes should be reviewed, if…

Words of Advice for Frustrated Black Belts

“I entered the Six Sigma program with our organization in May as a BB candidate. Since then I have encountered a number of setbacks and frustrations. They aren’t unique to me, either. Many other BBs at my company are experiencing the same things. I’m hoping for some general advice. What can you do (as a…

Gain Support with Organizational Improvement Strategy

Striving to improve should be the prime directive for all business leaders. If organizations do not improve, they run the risk of getting left behind. So the question is: What is the best strategy or approach for improvement? Over the last 20 years, many continuous improvement initiatives have been introduced, but only one seems to…

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Preventing Conflicts Through Stakeholder Management

A stakeholder of a Six Sigma project is anyone associated with the project either directly or indirectly. Examples of stakeholders are supervisors providing resources, team members, department heads and employees involved in the process. An up-front analysis of who the stakeholders are and how and when to involve them in the project can prevent potential…

Business Belt: Integrating Six Sigma and Business Sense

As Six Sigma continues to be adopted and integrated across the spectrum of global businesses, from manufacturing, to finance, to pharmaceuticals, it is important to recognize the evolution of the role of the Six Sigma professional within those businesses. Traditionally, Black Belts and Master Black Belts were expected to be experts on applying the tools…

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Voice of the Business, Customer, Process and Employee

Business could not have been better. Customers were reacting positively to the company’s new and enhanced service portfolio, the company entered the market without much competition and customer satisfaction was at an all-time high. Profitability continued to rise, and the company’s efficiency rate was impressive. But then things changed. New account numbers abruptly fell. Some…

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The Initial Focus – Strategy or Projects?

Organizations often have a strategy and process improvement program in place, but eventually start seeing signs of waning momentum. The organizations experience a familiar realization that it is difficult to sustain improvements. Organizations including hospitals and health systems have encountered similar challenges. It is not easy to launch a major change initiative in healthcare, and…

12 Tips for a More Motivated Team and Better Results

Lean Six Sigma, a process-driven program to reduce defects, relies heavily on a decidedly process-free emotion: passion. A motivated, driven team can make the difference between success and failure. I know about the power of motivation – I learned to walk again with braces and crutches after a 55-foot fall that left me as a…

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Middle-out Change Is Difficult – But Doable

There are many stories written about successful top-down change, but few about successful middle-out change – probably because the latter is much more difficult to achieve than the former. Sometimes, however, middle-out change is the only option – and with the right leader, success is possible. The following story, which took place at a North…

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Insights on Establishing Operational Excellence Program

A Conversation with… Gerald P. Belle, CEO of Merial, And Silke Birlenbach, Merial’s Vice President of Operational Excellence In a conservation with iSixSigma, Gerald (Jerry) P. Belle, the executive chairman of Merial, and Dr. Silke Birlenbach, vice president of Operational Excellence for Merial, offer their insights on establishing a program of organizational excellence. Merial is…

Every Reason That HR Should Be Involved in Six Sigma

Human resource (HR) professionals who have a background or education in basic project management have a clear advantage. Being well versed in an improvement methodology, such as Six Sigma, is even a bigger plus. An HR professional who is able to present a business case with a compelling return on investment will be respected. Having…

Change Issues Facing Leaders: Sponsorship

“Change is inevitable. In a progressive country change is constant.” Substitute “company” for “country,” and most people in modern organizations will nod and sigh deeply (although not many will know that the quotation is from British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli – and that it was uttered back in 1867). Change is inevitable – in pursuit of better…

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Keeping Up with Change: A Three Dimensional View

Change happens every day. In today’s business world, it is the only thing that is consistent. But why change? And why are some people better at it than others? And in an environment where everything is changing, why is it so difficult for some companies to change? To answer these questions, it is important to…

Sustaining Change Requires Focus on Stakeholders

A Six Sigma initiative – or any change process for that matter – is only successful in the long run if the stakeholders truly adopt and sustain the change. Process and technology change cannot be implemented without a change in the hearts, souls and behaviors of the people involved in or impacted by the change….

Meeting Facilitation: Important Ingredient for Change

Leaders invest a significant amount of time in meetings. Whether one-on-one or in larger groups, meetings offer a chance to discuss or launch a project, share ideas, consider solutions and reach consensus. Unfortunately, much of this time may be wasted without the use of a few basic management techniques. Along with a well-designed agenda, it…

The Change Game: Engaging Exercises to Teach Change

Successful initial implementation and ongoing maintenance of process improvements requires overcoming the resistance to change. Green Belts are change agents who need to recognize, understand and interpret resistance to change and develop skills to manage it effectively. Managing change resistance is often covered in training, yet a primary learning issue facing most organizations is the…

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Lean Six Sigma Can Serve as a Change Management Tool

Yes, it is true. Lean Six Sigma drives change in an organization. It inspires people to look at their processes differently – through the data-savvy lens of waste awareness – and to discover, characterize and control their processes. In so doing, this behavior drives process improvements, which often require changes to be communicated, deployed and…

Converting Skeptics and Keeping Them On Board

A powerful process improvement tool since the 1980s, Six Sigma has grown in popularity over recent years while less effective initiatives have faded away. Yet some still believe Six Sigma will ultimately share that same fate. These skeptics are people who feel burdened by the disruption Six Sigma has caused in their responsibilities and authority….

Change Dynamics: Prepare for Optimal Buy-in

We are constantly hearing about change. Change in the political environment, change in the economic environment, change in our personal lives and change in the business environment. Change has become part of everyone’s life. For instance, no one uses a briefcase-sized cell phone anymore, and mimeograph machines have long been relegated to the storage room….

Improving Low-maturity Processes Takes Special Approach

Change agents often are confronted with the need to improve immature processes. These can be processes that are undocumented, uncontrolled or highly variable. For improvement to take place, practitioners must first determine if any roadblocks, such as low employee motivation or a lack of strong leadership, are in place that can keep the process from…

Carefully Planned Kaizens Can Lead to Immediate Change

Kaizen events – concentrated meetings that are designed to bring about rapid change – are often misunderstood by those who have not completed one. From the outside, the events may simply seem like advanced all-day meetings with fanfare. What many organizations do not fully appreciate is the investment required to pull off such an orchestrated…

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Gain Support with Straight Talk and Exit Strategy Tools

Effective cultural change is not simply the result of a large group of people accepting the arguments of other influential people – it is the sum of the change of that population’s values, operational knowledge and habitual behaviors. Essentially, culture is not changed until a majority of the population is thinking and acting differently from…

Project Management Plays an Important Role in Six Sigma

The title Black Belt implies that a person carries the knowledge and experience of Six Sigma methodologies, tools and processes. These are the skills necessary for supporting an organization in implementing solutions that help streamline processes, eliminate waste or provide cost savings, to name a few. While Black Belts are technically advanced in the Six…

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Standardize Processes to Make Change Stick

Making changes in an organization, especially when embarking on a new improvement method such as Six Sigma, can be slow going – employees may see the method as “just another fad.” Because of this, leaders need to use a deployment approach that will kick-start a change program, and keep it maintained. One method to approach…

Coach-like Mentors Achieve Greater Effectiveness

Black Belts seldom have authority to direct the teams, sponsors and leaders they work with. Therefore, as a full-time change agent, today’s Black Belt needs excellent soft skills to move things forward from their position within the team. At the top of that skills list are coaching and mentoring. By blending these two disciplines, Black…

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Trailblazing Efforts Drive Strategic Objectives

Turning strategic stretch goals into daily behavioral change has never been easy for big companies. While executives talk about customer focus, what passes for intimate financial interactions in a busy call center is often laden with tedious work-arounds, risk-adverse rules, hopelessly complex technical redundancies and platform interactions. At one of the world’s largest mutual fund…

Ten Ways to Boost Up a ‘Pretty Good’ Six Sigma Program

Many process improvement efforts are doing well enough, limping along with casual support from the management team, blissful ignorance from most first-line employees, some frustration from overtrained and underutilized Belts, and savings and improvement that are neither earth-shattering nor close to entitlement. Here are a few relatively simple and straightforward actions to take to turn…

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Demonstrating Chart Turnaround Success Gains Buy-in

One of the participants in our Six Sigma Black Belt training program expressed concern about a lack of buy-in for Six Sigma in her organization. With little inquiry into the matter, we discovered that the means she adopted to gain buy-in were not apt for selling the philosophy. A lack of buy-in is most common…

Set SMART Goals to Better Manage Time

Time management is a common sore spot among many Six Sigma practitioners. The typical complaint: “I spend most of my time on my day-to-day responsibilities – my Six Sigma projects – and then my personal life suffers.” The question is: How can practitioners best manage all of their tasks and priorities? While time cannot be…

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Focus on Employees to Improve Healthcare Bottom Line

In a recent speech to a local chapter of the American Society for Quality, the speaker stated that in a typical work site as many as 15 percent of the employees actively work to subvert the goals of the organization. Their activities obviously have a negative effect on the clients of the organization and the…

How Six Sigma Adds Value in an Existing Quality Culture

A Conversation with… Randall W. Powell, VP of Eastman Chemical Company In a conversation with iSixSigma, Dr. Randall W. Powell, vice president of Eastman Chemical Company, Europe/Middle East/Africa, offers his views on how Six Sigma adds value to an existing quality culture. Located at the company’s regional headquarters in The Netherlands, Dr. Powell has operations…

How to Turn Resistance into Support for Lean Six Sigma

One phrase in Lean Six Sigma that may be heard more than any other is “culture change.” Most organizations today are undergoing some form of culture change, and 75 percent of all major or cultural changes fail to achieve their goals. Experience shows when strength and culture collide, culture has a higher probability of winning….

Yellow Belts: Creating a Corporate Sense of Inclusion

As the Lean and Six Sigma evolution makes its way throughout the financial services industry and organizations make decisions on how to best spend training dollars, an interesting trend is emerging. Many companies looking at ways to more broadly incorporate Lean and Six Sigma into their cultures are finding that a general knowledge across the…

Reflections on Six Sigma: Eleven Reasons It Has Thrived

It has been nearly 20 years since Motorola executive Bill Smith coined the phrase “Six Sigma.” This makes one ponder why it has been so successful. The following is a list of personal reflections upon Six Sigma’s longevity in no particular order: 1. The Partnership with Finance The involvement of finance in both the estimation…

Storyboards Lend Structure and Discipline to Six Sigma

Six Sigma’s step-by-step approach to problem solving has benefited greatly from the development of a common toolkit, project framework and terminology. That commonality, to a large extent, has made Six Sigma a business phenomenon transcending corporate and national boundaries. However, one broadly implemented element of Six Sigma project management that is often underestimated is the…

Displaying Project Storyboards Reenergizes Effort

Prior to and during the launch of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), the intent of the program and how it will be beneficial to the company must be communicated to all employees, else the organization risks confusion and disenchantment from the outset. Sometimes, even when the effort gets a good start, difficulty arises in maintaining the…

Making the Journey Toward Culture Change in Healthcare

Recognition is growing among healthcare leaders of the need for a culture change within their organizations. Moving from recognition to reality, however, is more difficult. The problem lies in the perception – or misperception – of what a culture change actually entails. Culture change is not a program with a completion date, nor is it a quick…

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