Introducing Lean Six Sigma to Your Workforce

Introducing, then engaging, a workforce to lean six sigma is never an easy consideration. In the beginning acronyms such as DMAIC, CI, COQ, COPQ and foreign words like muda and kaizen can cause any attempts at implementing the methodology to be rebuffed. Hardline LSS leaders must soften the tone and find ways to create buy-in and a sense of ownership among the internal leaders. A slow introduction of the concepts, tools, and operations of LSS should be used.

Kaizen Blitz events sold as Rapid change, Continuous Improvement, or process evolution events, are a wonderful way to introduce quick, needed change while also familiarizing the workforce to LSS. The first event should be limited to low hanging fruit that has been carefully selected for the purpose.

Spend several weeks gathering data through conversation with the workforce, you will quickly key into the problem areas. Once you have found areas of opportunity collect the standard operating procedures and determine which problem is most likely to be solved, changes, implemented, and controls in place within 3 days.

Collect measurements of the process, what areas are in, out, and nowhere near SOP expectations and use this to determine the scope. Most importantly ensure managers and internal leaders agree and support the action.

Tool selection for this first event is highly important so use friendly names familiar to the local area and tools that are easy to grasp. Rather than Ishikawa diagram call it a fishbone diagram or cause and effect diagram. Use this first event to introduce the 7 or 8 types of waste and 5 whys.

Day 1 – Kick off the event, engage the internal leaders and subject matter experts of that department, have then map out the current state. Seeing the current state will create discussion, hopefully a heated debate. Everyone will have an idea of how to fix the problem/s and each one should be considered equally. Evaluate the current state and use the team knowledge combined with the information prepared before hand to determine the changes that will produce the greatest change.

Day 2 – Draft the future state free from the wasted steps or processes found during day 1. Have the team draft process maps and standard operating procedures to incorporate the changes. Present the new documents to all shareholders to ensure nothing essential to safety or quality has been overlooked. Finalize the documents and prepare them for publishing. Announce and Implement changes across the department.

Day 3 – Control and measure the changes. It is essential that viable, measurable, long lasting changes are captured and reported. Guide the team in creating tasks that ensure the new process is controlled for the following weeks until it has become habit.

Introducing Lean Six Sigma to the work force is introducing a culture of change. During these first few months it is important that you consider each idea presented and work the projects that have the most support. This must be an interactive process that ensures all stakeholders feel as though their voice is heard.

If properly managed this first event will garner interest throughout your workplace grapevine and pave the way for full adoption of LSS methodology. Ensuring your internal leaders understand that Lean is an employee driven system that rewards innovation and intelligent risk taking will encourage them to begin presenting project ideas forward.