3 Keys to Avoid Lean Six Sigma Project Failure


Recently I had my regular coaching session with one of my Green Belt student. Let’s call her Jess (not herreal name).
Jess was having a hard time with her project due to the following 3 important reasons. Pay attention tothese 3 elements and you will have an easy time completing your Lean Six Sigma project.

Key #1: Problem Owner Absence

Jess has been working on reducing workload of the Sales Department. This project was initiated by theDepartment Manager, but he was not regularly visiting the team sessions held by Jess.

This caused Jess to have to balance between the opinions of her team (consisting of Sales Managers) andthe Department Manager.

I advised Jess to avoid this problem by inviting the Department Manager (Problem Owner) to everyproject team meeting. Jess should not play the role of “postmen” saving time and improving thecommunication.

I told Jess that the high workload is NOT HER PROBLEM but of the Department Manager. He has tomake it clear to the team why is this a problem that must be fixed.

If you are a Green Belt or Black Belt project manager, make sure that the problem you work on is not yourproblem. The Problem Owner (who is responsible for the part of the operation that needs to be improved)should be 100% involved in the Lean Six Sigma project.

Key #2: Ask Questions Instead of Telling What to Do

Jess was – just like I used to be – very keen on preparing herself for the meeting with facts, figures andcharts in order to convince the project team about the problem.

She collected Voice of the Customer information, time registration forms, made nice analyses out of it todemonstrate that the first most important task of the Sales Team, issuing quotations timely, was poorlydone.

I advised Jess not to spend too much time in preparation of the charts and her presentation but spend moretime on thinking about what QUESTIONS could she ask from the team.
When you ask questions, you create awareness and active participation of the team. Team members try toanswer your questions, so they have to think about it and they discuss it with each other.

In this way you are working constructive with the team and the members convince themselves instead ofyou trying to convince them.

Telling people what they should do creates a defensive reaction and puts you in conflict with one anotherinstead of working together.

Key #3: Change is Required.

It should be clear right from the beginning: Lean Six Sigma project will find a solution to the problem.

Meaning: the way this Sales Team used to work has to change. CHANGE IS UNAVOIDABLE.

Jess – and every Green Belt and Black Belt – needs the support of the Problem Owner at this point.
Explain this to the team right at the very beginning of the project – and even before the start.Shange isgoing to come if we are working on a real problem. (Of course, if there is no problem then nothing has tochange.)

Because the Sales Team in Jess’ project did not want to change the way they work, no significantimprovements could be expected. And that is not good.

Solution? The Problem Owner has to make it clear: the Sales Mangers have to change the way they work.The current lead time for sending quotations and the quality of the quotations is not acceptable.

So again, be very clear about one thing: change is not an option but a logical consequence of the Lean SixSigma project work.

Are you working on a (Lean Six Sigma) project and want to be sure you are taking the right steps?

There are coaching seats available for you.
Warm regards,

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