Setting Up & Implementing Lean Six Sigma

For any organization, the first step in a Lean Six Sigma deployment is deciding to use the methodology. Once the leadership of an organization believes they can benefit from using Lean Six Sigma, they can follow eight steps – from creating a burning platform for adopting the approach to recognizing team member contributions – to complete the rollout.

Organizations must have a compelling reason for implementing Lean Six Sigma. Some examples of a burning platform message:

  • “We are suffering huge quality losses. They account for more than 45 percent of our costs.”
  • “Our competitors are gaining our market by 12 percent every quarter.”

Without a burning platform, there is seldom a motivation to implement a continuous improvement initiative. Company leadership should become familiar with the burning platform, and understand how Lean Six Sigma can address the problems in the platform statement.

Do not hesitate to hire the right resource at right price. This is applicable to any resource, be it employees, material or technology. But resources alone do not ensure that a deployment will be successful. They must be able to work together as a team, and be empowered to carry out initiatives.

For Lean Six Sigma to survive for a lifetime, organizations need to train their team members to be powerful change agents. Yellow Belt, Green Belt and Black Belt training, along with skilled mentors, can help increase organizational awareness. The employees identified for training should share the organization’s vision.

Crucial Steps for Implementation

Once resources and training are in place, a number of opportunities may present themselves. Organizations must make it a priority to:

  • Listen to the customer
  • Identify critical-to-quality criteria
  • Ensure Lean Six Sigma efforts are linked to business goals

It is important to learn what to overlook and where to take risks. Activities must be assessed to ensure they are meeting the expectations of the organization’s goals.

It must be clear who owns the Lean Six Sigma initiative. This may involve appointing a committee to find out who is responsible for the entire team. With ownership comes empowerment and a sense of pride, and team members who are more committed, accountable and engaged.

What cannot be measured cannot be improved. By creating a measurement system, practitioners can determine baseline performance and use the data in objective decision making and analysis of variation.

Organizations also must find a way to measure process performance to ensure they receive data at a fast pace. Having too many items on a scorecard may shift practitioners’ attention from the critical few metrics. They need to identify and measure the key leading indicators instead of measuring the many lagging indicators.

A proper governance structure can help a program sustain momentum. Poor governance or too much governance can lead to the vision falling apart. For instance, establishing a business quality council can help to clear any hurdles that may slow a project, allowing the project to adhere to timelines.

Proper governance also helps practitioners create a best practice sharing forum, which helps projects to be replicated and can highlight common challenges. Without regularly scheduled, productive meetings or review sessions, the program can veer off course and employees may lack guidance.

Recognize Contributions

Rewards and recognition play a valuable role in making sure team members remain satisfied in their roles. They can help build enthusiasm for the program from a top-down and grassroots level. Rewards and recognition also can help drive innovation throughout the organization.