By DR. ARUL ARULESWARAN
What is Lean Six Sigma?
The Lean and Six Sigma combination is the new Six Sigma generation. This new methodology is the offspring of two very essential components of business process improvement that complement and reinforce one another.
Lean aims to create value through the elimination of waste and non value-added activities. Six Sigma on the other hand, is the measure of quality and meeting the customer’s needs. Lean on its own cannot bring a process under statistical control to achieve quality targets, whilst Six Sigma alone cannot significantly improve process speed or reduce waste that can improve operational cost and capital.
Lean Six Sigma is a methodology driven by the need to change, to continuously improve and eliminate complexities, and to meet the goals of the business and shareholders through a single crucial element – the Voice of the Employee, or simply put, organisational effectiveness.
E3 Your Career with Lean Six Sigma
“Six Sigma is better than a trip to the dentist” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric
Dynamic business environments require an organisation to develop the ability to adopt change and continuously improve. The inability to change exposes the organisation to risks associated with failing to know and understand the Voice of Customer, the Voice of Business and the Voice of Employee.
To change, an organisation requires a clearly defined and articulated “burning platform”. The “burning platform” creates an internal drive to focus on results which becomes the foundation of a continuous improvement culture. Organisations that embark on change by identifying the “burning platform” and integrating it into its vision, strategy and execution, can then seek enterprise wide leadership engagement. This has been demonstrated by successful Lean Six Sigma organisations like GE Capital, Xerox and Alcan.
Changing a business into a performance oriented organisation is a challenge and the transition for change requires perseverance. As management envisions its corporate goals, it will realise that a unified strategy and execution are vital prerequisites. The business then begins to experience its ability to meet objectives and critical business needs. Hence the E3 of continuous improvement.
The question now is, how do you – maybe a fresh graduate, an executive or an engineer with a few years of experience or even a senior manager decide if a career in Lean Six Sigma is the right choice for you and where it could lead you to in an organisation?
A typical question that one seems to ask at this juncture is “What’s in it for me and what’s in it for the organisation that I work for?”
What’s In It For You
Firstly it is a development program that begins with you undergoing anywhere from a 1 day awareness workshop up to a specialised 6 month training program. In other words, from being exposed to the basics of change management and process excellence to a skills development course that teaches you on the use and applications of various logical and statistical toolsets such as Value Analysis, Value Stream Mapping, Analysis of Variance, Design of Experiments, Control Charts and Dashboards to name a few.
One will be exposed to initiate problem solving at various levels of the organisation, be it the Sales Department, the Printing Department, the Finance Department or even from a strategic perspective that looks at organisation wide continuous improvements initiative to improve business performance, quality and customer satisfaction. Excitingly, all these efforts are structured under a sound and robust framework known as DMIAC – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.
The real question that one should ask prior to embarking into the world of Lean Six Sigma is – “Can you effectively and consistently eliminate the problems that form the daily and routine issues that affect business performance?”
The first step of a career in Lean Six Sigma in fact begins with one’s desire to achieve and drive business performance. Personally, from that point onwards one begins an exciting journey in uncharted waters.
The DMAIC methodology brings a rigour to the organisation and individual that embarks on Lean Six Sigma. It provides the roadmap on how to resolve problems that affect quality and productivity. The methodology encourages empowerment and furnishes a Lean Six Sigma talent with a vast array of toolsets. Through this, one is able to generate results that would be consistent in terms of output.
Thus, the individual will begin to contribute to an organisation in a consistent method while addressing the Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Business and Voice of the Employee – the elements that drive business results. This makes Lean Six Sigma an enabler that drives a continuous improvement culture.
Every employee in an organisation becomes a driver of results. Organisations that adopt Lean Six Sigma will have companywide drivers of results aligned to its vision and strategy.
What’s in it for you? With Lean Six Sigma and the DMAIC framework and tools you become the DNA of your organisation and the future leader that aligns employee mindset to business strategy and customer needs.
As Anne Mulcahy, CEO and Chairman of Xerox Corp noted:
“Lean Six Sigma is not tools…it’s the infrastructure and discipline in place to make business improvement an imperative. It will be painful, we will select and train our best people, those we can least afford to reassign, our future leaders, to enable a cultural change.”
Your career in Lean Six Sigma will begin with you envisioning a career path of driving change through continuous improvement and process excellence. Your development will take you through structured programs that include training, coaching and mentoring to enable you to execute the continuous improvement efforts and apply the toolsets for problem solving and process excellence. The knowledge gained from these efforts and your ability to work through improvements at all levels of the organisation finally gives you the insight and the experience that will propel you towards leadership in an organisation.
“It’s all about finding best practices, adapting them, and continually improving them. When you do that right, new product and service ideas, new processes, and opportunities for growth start to pop out everywhere and actually become the norm,” says a Lean Six Sigma executive champion.
This is exactly what happened at General Electric under Jack Welch’s leadership. Companies successfully adopting Lean Six Sigma continuously look at ways to keep it alive and evolving. New ways, tools and techniques are developed and integrated into the organisation.
Knowledge worker’s personality traits:
• Problem Recognition – ability to notice abnormal performance and processes
• Intolerance – having the nature to identify root causes and eliminate them and not to live with them
• Responsibility – able to take charge to solve problems and continuously improve
• Curiosity – having the desire to investigate
• Persistence – the drive to find a solution and eliminate a problem
• Open mindedness – ability to move away from the comfort zone to the courage zone
• Practicality – finding simple solutions that are easily accepted and implemented
• Optimism – knows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.