Lean Six Sigma Without the Jargon

Can one person trained in continuous process improvement and committed to efficiency, make a difference in any organization?

Absolutely, ONE person can be the starting point to introduce tools, thoughts, and “sprinkle” continuous process improvement into their organization or via projects.

Some of you may be scratching your head, given that the number-one success factor for any organization embarking or reigniting continuous process improvement has a support system or a Champion.

A Different Approach

Most of us have heard the terminology, Lean, Six Sigma, TPM, Baldridge, and so forth and you have seen the eye rolls or slight gag from those with a poor taste in their mouth from failed deployments. If you can feel the resistance before you even begin, don’t get discouraged. It just takes a Different Approach. You can use all these methods and tools without even using the words “Lean,” “Six Sigma,” or even “process.”  

Here are 6 quick ways to make improvements – even if you don’t have a champion.

  1. Know Your Customer & Identify Value – A customer is simply the recipient of a product or service, and value is everything that the customer is willing to pay for. If you know your customers, what they need, and how to produce – if changes require little resources, there is no need to launch a formal project – make the changes using the tools needed. If you require a few helping hands…
  2. Find your CREW – who are others within your team or company who are not only enthusiastic but influential in their teams to help you solve a problem?  Find a common thread or a common pain point to solve, and if you are lucky enough to have an engineer or quality person in your crew…that a bonus!  Again, don’t use jargon, but find colleagues who share the pain for the problem you are solving.  Find the value to your “crew” identify “What Is In It For Me” building the case for change is similar to building the case for value to your customers – but also value for those involved.
  3. Find & Eliminate Waste – A good practice is to start with a process or project that you are the subject matter expert and one that allows you to showcase WINs to build upon momentum and success. Identify an opportunity that you can influence. Start by looking at processes within your control. Is there waste that can be eliminated? Waste is anything that does not directly add value to the final product or service and is often characterized as transportation, motion, inventory, waiting, overproducing, over-processing or defects. Where is there more work than required? Where is there unnecessary transportation or movement of people? Where are the errors that need to be eliminated?  Sometimes, simply keeping a clean work area organized can boost productivity and reduce errors.
  4. Use Data or Collect Data – If you have data, document how it is performing now and compare it to the performance after the change. If not, document how it is performing now to help build your case for change if needed. To change something that requires approval, gather the data to support it.
  5. Find a Champion – if you can not find one in your organization at a minimum, find someone outside of your organization who can support you through the process.  Having a good mentor to help you with ideas on how to remove roadblocks, hurdles, address resistance is a must to keep you fueled and motivated when challenges appear. If you can not find one contact, she will gladly serve as a champion on strategy, techniques and lend you an ear to keep you motivated.
  6. Do not label or use jargon – You can do all of the above without even using the words “Lean,” “Six Sigma,” or even “process.” Engaging directly, working side by side, asking questions and discussing approach and ideas, not the terminology, will yield better results.

Bottom Line

When you can build an alignment or common interest and apply the human side to your continuous process improvement tool bel, success is bound to follow. True Continuous Improvement takes root when those who have embraced a new approach or way of thinking versus feeling as if they have been forced to use the latest fad, tools or method.  No one feels good about having something “done to them,” but they always welcome something they helped build and create value or made their life easier.

About the Author

Joselin Sams is the Founder and Managing Director of Exemplar360. She has been helping organizations for over 18 years to achieve excellence through Organizational Change Management, Lean Six Sigma application, project management, strategic planning, and facilitation. Her experience includes Fortune 500 organizations such as Chevron, El Paso Energy, Calpine Corporation, ADP and many others establish or re-ignite their Continuous Improvement Programs or as she likes to call it, “build their problem-solving muscles.” She is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Lean Sensei, Certified Project Manager, and Change Management professional.