It’s a journey. All of it. Life, relationships, business. The implementation and optimization of Lean Six Sigma strategies are the same. There are many moving parts to any organization, but at the core, it’s people who make every industry tick.

Working with people means process improvement and management is never truly finished. It’s an ongoing process that requires continual adaptation, dedicated communication, value assessment and a commitment to building a culture of support in which each member of the team can thrive.

For many managers, the demographics of their teams may make creating this environment feel that much more challenging. Today’s workforce can be broken down into five separate age groups, generally defined as born between the years noted:

  1. Traditionalists: 1925 to 1945
  2. Baby Boomers: 1946 to 1964
  3. Generation X: 1965 to 1980
  4. Millennials: 1981 to 2000
  5. Generation Z: 2001 to 2020

In many industries, these diverse generations work side-by-side.

Implementing Lean Six Sigma strategies among such teams requires conscientious management that takes into consideration generational differences and, more powerfully, similarities. In this ongoing management process, seven keys help to enhance and lead diverse multigenerational teams.

1. Waste Is Waste

No matter the age breakdown of your team and no matter the industry you work in, waste will always be waste. This principle applies to any team and must remain a core consideration if you plan to optimize and improve your team dynamics, individual roles and the processes that they support.

2. Be a Transformer

The element of adaptability has become all the more important in light of cultural shifts and the continued effects of COVID-19. For example, even as broad cultural values of beauty changed, the once titanic corporation of Victoria’s Secret stuck to using the same models and messaging formula that had won it big returns in the past. It failed to transform, even though the world around it had. As a result, corporate shares dropped considerably between 2016 and 2018, and in 2020 the business shuttered hundreds of stores.

3. Mentally Reframe

Most of us show up at different stages of our journeys with preconceived notions of who our peers are, and much of that is informed by the stereotypes associated with the five generations at work today. For example, based on these stereotypes, Baby Boomers expect deference to their opinions, Gen X is comfortable with top-down authority and Millennials are tech-obsessed.

If leadership is to accomplish growth and use the principles of Lean Six Sigma to succeed in the workplace, it’s vital to relax the stereotypes that dominate our expectations of each generation. When we see each team member as an individual with a distinct personality, expectations and work style, it is easier to connect and engage.

4. Don’t Use Labels

Along with relaxing our assumptions and stereotypes, we must be aware of the importance of the language we use in the workplace. Management should avoid labels that make team members feel like they’re being boxed in. Make sure you’re selling and implementing the process and procedures of Lean Six Sigma based upon team members’ unique goals, values and personalities – not upon who you assume them to be because of their age.

5. Focus on Overall Team Efficiency

What’s at the heart of Lean Six Sigma? The improvement of performance and elimination of waste to create true efficiency across all processes, leading to overall business growth. A key step in optimizing your team, no matter its generational breakdown, is to never lose focus of the values that are guiding your management. Lean Six Sigma emphasizes collaboration, so don’t neglect the goal of collective efficiency. Keeping in mind the overall needs of the business and the cumulative impact of the whole can guide our interactions, building camaraderie and a spirit of collaboration.

6. Most People Want the Same Things

Despite our differences, we’re all human, and we’re all on this journey together. Lean Six Sigma can help bridge these gaps and deliver our team members what they want. So, what exactly does every generation want? They share a universal desire to feel heard, respected and valued in their workplace. They want a structure that supports their individual roles and a collaborative bent that honors a shared mission.

When it comes to clear communication of expectations and workplace structure, 88 percent of Traditionalists reported that this was important; 90 percent of Baby Boomers stated that this was desirable in the workplace; 95 percent of Gen X’ers said the same thing as did 98 percent of Millennials, according to the Pew Research Center.

7. Re-Examine Norms and Step Outside of the Process

When it comes to truly valuing team members of all ages and backgrounds, we must step outside what’s considered typical to assess our team members as individuals and gain a big-picture perspective of the needs of the business. Sometimes, it can be difficult to gain an accurate gauge of productivity and efficiency when we’re deeply entrenched in day-to-day processes, tasks and minutiae. Being able to open our minds and zoom out to see how each piece fits into the overall strategy is invaluable to ensuring we’re making the most of our diverse, multigenerational talent.

If you share a workplace, you share a core mission. Expectations rooted in stereotypes can inhibit the ability to create a workplace where every team member thrives, communicates effectively and puts to work the core collaborative principles that reduce waste and move the business forward.

Loosening the assumptions, ditching the labels and honoring individuality can have tremendous resonance when it comes to creating a company culture that supports every team member’s desire to be heard and feel valued.

None of this happens overnight. The willingness to pivot when necessary, reassess the situation and adapt to shifting values is what creates long-term, sustainable efficiency. It’s a marathon, and if you’re here, it’s already in progress. Trust the process and remain flexible, and you’re bound to lead your team toward Lean Six Sigma success.

About the Author