From Inclusiveness to Buy-In: A Lean Six Sigma Project Experience

Ann Nguyen, LSSBB Lexmark International, Inc. Lexington, KY, USA 

Co-Speaker: Michelle Binder


An effective project team requires a leadership paradigm that is firmly established on the principles and practices of inclusiveness — as an engine of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodologies and techniques.

As interactions between the flux of progresses in human, process and technology continued towards unprecedented levels of complexities, inclusiveness more than ever should become an essential component of LSS leadership capabilities. Only at their own perils should project managers navigate through the storm of uncertainties, constraints, expectations and threats without the confidence in knowledge, skills and dedication of a loyal and enterprising crew. Inclusiveness allows the project manager to accurately interpret the reality of project definitions and constraints. A worthy challenge then would be how to architect a LSS project leadership paradigm that is mindful of the importance of inclusiveness from project inception to close.

Through case examples and personal experiences, it is contended that inclusiveness is not as easy and simple concept. Yet, it is the responsibility of the LSS project manager to integrate inclusiveness paradigm at all levels of the project structure. Lessons drawn from living through the horrors of war and all its effects, coping with immense material and opportunity scarcity, and last but not least surviving a terminal illness have served to shape and solidify the author’s perspective on inclusivity as necessity not only in LSS projects but indeed in all aspects of life. A mindfulness model outlining the Five-Step Constraints-Opportunities Transformation methodology is suggested to help map appropriate pre-requisites and considerations prior to LSS project engagement. Early awareness of multilevel constraints from the project itself to those of individual team members including those of LSS project leaders is important in project structure design and formulation. From the author’s personal perspective, fear of failure is one of the strongest motivational factors driving accurate constraint management. Respecting constraints have allowed for effective architecture of inclusiveness-based LSS project structure. A brief review of project constraints will be presented as well as its correlations to inclusiveness. The benefits of inclusiveness-based management is discussed where a case example of an international kaizen event representing multi-departmental and disciplines resulted in unprecedented success is examined. Successful factors namely: 1) executive buy-ins/participations; 2) organizational approach; 3) visualization tools; and 4) team efforts are discussed. The effect of project success on LSS project managers on a professional level is briefly examined. Project success should earn project leaders respect among team members and stakeholders. Regarded as the voice of authority among peers should facilitate buy-ins in future projects.

Finally, the author offers personal insights into the need to make Lean Six Sigma more acceptable across organizations. It is indeed important for all LSS professionals that the methodologies are widely accepted. A mindful approach to LSS projects facilitating success is not only important at a corporate level but as well at a personal level as well. Inclusiveness touches at our most basic natural instincts by being considerate and helping others.

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