Monthly Archives: March 2014

Creating Behavior-Based Lean Six Sigma Goals

goalIn the previous three posts I discussed the first of four key elements to Lean Six Sigma (LSS) project success that include:

  1. Writing a “great” problem statement.
  2. Identifying a primary metric that best measures the problem.
  3. Establishing a business case for why a LSS team should be used to fix the problem.

This final post will focus on setting goals for your LSS project.  A lot has been written about setting goals such as creating S.M.A.R.T. goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic or Relevant, and Time-bound, but what I would argue is more critical to success is identifying and reinforcing the behaviors that lead to achieving these goals.

Part of my argument for setting what I call behavior-based goals is that from my decade of LSS experience project success is 90% behavior-based and only 10% tool, technique, etc. based.  LSS success is NOT about how a project is done, but is more about identifying and rewarding the behaviors of those doing the work-in others words it’s not so much about the process; it’s the people performing the process!

Creating Behavior-Based Goals

Visualizing this process begins with creating “big picture” goals or what can be referred to as the vision of success.  This is typically what is stated on the project charter and is usually determined by the sponsor and / or champion.

The problem with the vision is that it’s usually an end of project type goal, and rewarding and celebrating success is a long way off from the start of most projects (4 – 6 months).  This may not seem like a big issue, but research in applied behavior analysis suggests that rewarding positive behavior (i.e. achieving goals) should be a frequent activity that takes place routinely throughout a project and not just at the end.

Think of it this way, how likely are you to be motivated to push through a tough project if the only praise, reward, recognition, etc. you receive comes 6 months after starting the project?

The analogy is similar to that of the argument for the typical annual appraisal many of you receive from your supervisor each year.  How likely are you to continue to perform a behavior that gets rewarded a year after you’ve performed it?

To put this into a sporting perspective think about a football player scoring a winning touchdown and then receiving high-fives by his teammates at the next game!

Applied behavior analysis research suggests that positive reinforcement should be as close to real-time as the desired behavior is taking place if you want more of it in the future.

The good news is to combat this issue takes little effort and only a bit of planning by your team and organizational leadership.  The figure below illustrates the concept by starting with the end in mind-the vision of success, then identifying the goals that will be required to achieve the vision,  and finally the specific behaviors individuals will need to perform in order to achieve the goals.goal setting macroBy focusing on behaviors and rewarding those who perform we will naturally achieve the project goals, and ultimately, the overall vision of success.

Another benefit to taking a behavior-based approach to goal setting is that the probability of success rises significantly because consistent recognition fuels the motivation of team members throughout the project life cycle, unlike the traditional approach that only recognizes performance at the end of the project.

A flow-down approach can be used to determine specific goals and behaviors as illustrated below.  I like to start with the vision of success and then ask the question, what is necessary to achieve the vision?  From this you can start to determine what specific behaviors will be necessary to achieve the goals.


Building a Success Plan

A final component to setting project goals is establishing a documented plan-something I like to call a “success plan”.  Part of the plan also involves determining who is going to be responsible, when the goal will be achieved, and how to reward the performer demonstrating the necessary behavior required to achieve the goal and the vision.

Everyone is different in that what motivates us and / or what we find positively reinforcing is not always the same.  Some people love to be praised in front of others while some loathe this type of recognition so it’s important to understand what each team member prefers.  Discovering what reinforces others is as simple as asking them what they prefer.  You’ll know you got it right when after the desired behavior you give them the preferred reinforcement and they continue to demonstrate more of the desired behavior.

The image below illustrates an example reinforcement plan for specific team members.  The plan also incorporates when to deliver the reinforcement and who will do it.

reinforcement planThe reinforcement plan should be developed in parallel with the success plan.  Some additional considerations also include setting goals for each of the DMAIC phases to allow ample opportunity to provide positive reinforcement throughout the life of the project.  There’s no better way to keep a team motivated than to consistently provide positive reinforcement at frequent intervals; ideally several times in each phase.  Illustrated below is an example success plan for the measure phase of a cycle time reduction project.

success planClick here to download Success Plan Template in Excel format.

By taking a behavior-based approach to goal setting for your next LSS project you will have a much greater chance of successfully achieving your vision of success.  Frequent positive reinforcement of the team member’s behaviors identified as critical to success will not only feed their motivational engine to continue to perform it will also feel great to those providing the recognition, which will lead to more recognition, and ultimately, project success.