Lean Six Sigma Gunslinger: What Do You Have in Your Belt?

Patrice Boutier, Business Advisor, TMAC, Arlington, TX, USA

Keywords: Respect for People, Sustainment, Cultural Change

Industry: Career Development, Manufacturing, Service

Level: Basic


Many in Lean Six Sigma notch their belts with projects. With pride and a sense of accomplishment, they point to money saved, processes implemented, productivity increases, better quality, and improved customer satisfaction.

Great, when sustained. What happens after you walk away? Some time down the road, do those projects still matter? Whose lives did you impact? Did people in those value streams understand, comprehend and buy into the “improvement”? Did you change their habits? Was ‘Respect for People’ exhibited? Showing Respect is a cornerstone of Lean. Often an LSS practitioner with a gunslinger’s mindset miss this key tenet, in the Improve and Control Phases.

Lean Six Sigma should be more than firefighting addiction, making a splash, and moving to the next fight. It should be about helping people with cultural change to prepare them to react appropriately. Otherwise, they revert to old habits and the process atrophies. New habits are needed.

The goal is to develop habits, so that sustainment of the solution is assured – instead of hope. Additionally, showing respect by providing knowledge and skills allows them to respond to future changes. Don’t just notch your belt, be aware of tools that equip people to adapt.

These often overlooked skills have a successful history. Training Within Industry (TWI) - Job Relations and Job Instruction - provide habits to anticipate changes in output and attitude. They provide skills on how to instruct people to quickly remember to do a job - correctly, safely and conscientiously. “Toyota Kata” has proven effective in assisting companies dealing with changes and adapting through the “uncertainty zone.” Key habits are learned by practicing the Improvement and Coaching Kata.

Learn habits to sustain results and to prepare front-line staff to respond to ongoing business challenges, part of “Respect for People”. While Lean Six Sigma projects may fade away, establishing patterns for post-project CI activities will maintain results and also improve for ongoing success.