Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do you know the dirty little secret of Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is an invaluable methodology for any business looking to drive continuous improvement across their organization. It provides a defined framework for systematically defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling complex business problems. But there is a dirty little secret that you won’t get many champions or even black belts to admit. Here it is: no matter how clever Lean Six Sigma tools are, or even how expertly they’re used, you still need really great improvement ideas.

If solutions were easy to find, nobody would need us. The truth is that Lean Six Sigma is usually employed on issues that have already been examined by line managers, top performers, or even the top-paid executives. Problems are generally very easy to find. There never seems to be a shortage of reasons why something doesn’t work, can’t work, or won’t ever work. I’ve even heard some people take personal pride in how well they can poke holes in ideas. Well, unless that same person has some real solutions… who needs them!

Now don’t get me wrong, performing root-cause-analysis to discover unknown relationships and possible correlations is a critical part of DMAIC. That’s not what I’m taking about. This is about shifting the culture away from the “can’t do” mentality towards the “can-do” mindset. Start by praising and rewarding your best problem solvers. Encourage creativity and unconventional thinking. And never allow a problem to be voiced without at least one solution in hand. PhDs in problem-finding are way overrated!

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