Logistics Woes

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    Charlie Brown

    HELP! I am currently supporting the integration of a 6 Sigma program in a logistics environment. The large facility I am working is in unionized, and most of the 300 plus employees have worked for the company for over 20 years. Many of the managers have at most a high school deploma, and the Black Belts that are being trained within the company are getting only one week of training.
    Does any one have any suggestions about working in a unionized environment were the skill sets are not appropriate to support the effort needed to create sustained change.



    Start by getting appropriate training.
    Next fo work with the unionized employees and find out what their legitimate beefs are.
    Address their legitimate beefs.



    The only way out in an unionised environment is to prove that Six Sigma works in all situations. For that to happen, take these union members into confidence which I feel would work out well for you.
    You would also need to show “”what is in it for them”.



    One thing that must be done with unionized workers is to provide a foundation of knowledge about what you are doing.
    If you do not educate the workers and their leaders about the beneficial aspects of improving and maintaining product and service quality with controlled costs, they may not develop the trust necessary to make Six Sigma a success. In fact, they may sabatage it if it appears threatening to job security.
    You must make union buy-in an element of your strategy and invest in some education for the leaders and rank and file members. It doesn’t have to be at black belt level, but two days of familiarization and training can make a world of difference.
    [email protected] 


    Six Sigma Saviour

    Run! While there is still time!



    i was in the exact environment.  very mature company with mature processes and a union environment that resisted change.  i worked well with the workers because i listened and acted on there suggestions/complaints/ideas. 
    many union workers have given up sharing their ideas for several reasons; lack of attention, lack of action, lack of listening.
    you have to build trust.  make a promise that any savings in labor will not result in a layoff.  help the union workers understand that the Six Sigma process will enable the team to take their ideas and organize them into a meaningful tool to help management understand the value of the ideas.
    many of those union workers have great ideas, as a Six Sigma Black Belt, i told them i would take them through an organized problem solving process, an that after we went through the process, we would gathered enough info to back them up (their ideas) or shut them up. 
    one last idea for you.  as you lead teams, don’t be a facilitator, be a “Thought Leader.”  it changes your role in the meeting, you are organizing THEIR thoughts.
    Hope this helps, Thomas



    Charlie,Never lose hope! My suggestion in general is to keep things simple. If most of the people you are working with do not have advanced education, chances are that they will be more willing to change if the changes are smaller. [You’ll have to determine if this is true in your work place or not.]I am a Green Belt in an area where plenty of employees have degrees, but are resistant to change anyhow. My experience with their change-resistances has yielded plenty of ideas. Here are one or two.No matter how little training your Black Belts have received, try to learn and utilize one LSS concept/tool at a time. (Sometimes the massive amount of LSS available can be a distraction; there’s so much!) This will help to keep your change agents focused. You need to have your Black Belts (and others) “bought into” the idea of the change. Keeping things small and focused will help them to feel that they will not be overwhelmed by the administration of the LSS event or the forthcoming changes that may result.Bottom line is, give them the whole cake over a period of time, but only let them chew a bite at a time. They’ll digest it better that way and they’ll be ready for the second bite sooner than if they were swallowing the cake whole. Scott


    Reinaldo Ramirez

    Appoint some unnion leaders as Green Belt as a tactic to your efforts. If they have 5, 10, 15 years in the company, they’ll understand the effort.
    Unions are part of the system (W.E. Deming)



    C Brown:
    Union Environment: Not a major issue. As other post noted, show the “whats in it for me” – Applies to union or non-union shops. You just have to be cognizant of work rules and keep a communication line open with the stewards.
    High School educated supervision: No issue – the thing I like about BB projects is the tools are largely uncomplicated – the power is in how they work together and the DMAIC structured approach
    You get one week of training: BIG ISSUE – grossly insufficient and questions if the managers kicking this off in your company have any idea what they are doing


    DANG Dinh Cung

    Good evening,
    I agree with Reinaldo. During Cold War, Unions are considered as the “drive belt” of Communist Party. Nowadays European managers ask them to transmit their messages dealing with  company strategy, company culture,… because they know to whom and how to speak to.
    A quality improvement project is the best opportunity to involve Unions so that they are aware that what is good for the company is good for employees.
    Best regards,
    DANG Dinh Cung,[email protected]



    Charlie Brown.
    First things first.  Become familiar with the labor agreement as possible.  You want to be sure that in the approach and/or deployment of your efforts that you don’t create any problems in that arena.  Secondly, convey the fact that Six Sigma does not take any union jobs or responsibilities away from the workers and then demonstrate that fact.  First hurdle overwith.
    Secondly, train as many people on the front line as you can.  take them through a 2 -3 day seminar so they can walk the walk and talk the talk.  Those folks will be your levers. 
    After that, you will know what and how to do it.
    Good Luck………….helper



    Hi Charlie.
    You face a tough challenge. I can make many recommendations but need to know more about a couple of things.
    1/ What is the Organisations ‘quality’ background ?
    2/ How is SixSigma being deployed strategically ? Who is involved etc
    3/ How does the Union view Training and Development for its members and what has their role been so far ? How much do they know ?
    If you can help me with this info I will let you know my thoughts.
    Best Regards


    Bill Woehr

    I am more concerned about the lack of training for Black Belts (one week?) than the unions. How are you going to be able to talk to the union workers when the Black Belts themselves are not properly informed.
    Management support is your top priority, then the unions.

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