Monthly Archives: March 2015

3 Questions for Picking a Winning LSS Team

goodbye_teamWinning the game of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is no different than winning at any game – it all starts with your team! Pick the right team players and you’re more likely to win! In this post I’ll share some of my best practices on how to select team members that help you win at LSS.

In a recent post I shared a collection of questions I’ve been using to help my clients succeed with their LSS projects. Three of the questions pertained specifically to selecting your team.

Who are the vital players?

Last week I spoke at the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma conference in Phoenix, AZ and one of the keynote speakers, David Maxfield, discussed the importance of identifying “influencers” as a critical step in organizational change. He shared data on one organization he had worked with who surveyed employees to find out who had the most influence in the organization. The results were somewhat of a Pareto chart showing employees and the number of times they were selected as being a top influencer. The data looked something like the chart below.










Those on the left side (green shaded area) of the chart were classified as an “influencer”; basically people within the organization who others look to for leadership, direction, answers to big problems, etc. The thought David was trying to get across is don’t spend your time trying to convince everyone in the organization to change; instead focus on the vital few who others look to as the leaders in the organization and lead them to change, which will cascade down to the others who follow their lead.

When selecting LSS teams we can use this same approach in identifying who I describe as the “vital” players in the process you are trying to improve. Similar to a football team, not everyone in an organization has the same impact on winning. The reason why quarterbacks make more money than special teams players is because they are more impactful to winning the game. The same can be said in business, specifically LSS teams, in that we don’t all add the same value to the organization. Some of us provide greater value than others, and this first question aims at determining who those people are.

Who matters most to meeting the goal?

A second question I use in helping select team members is identifying who matters most in meeting the specific goal of the project. These are not always those who have the most influence, but instead are those who play a key role in the process you are working to improve.

To help determine who these people are I think about the process as a movie set and view the people in the process as characters in the improvement story we are trying to write. Who are these people? What do they do that makes them critical to meeting the goal? This is often times where I see teams lacking representation when a team is comprised of managers, supervisors, etc. and fail to include those actually doing the work.

You would think this wouldn’t happen in this day-and-age of empowerment and employee involvement, but from my experience leaders want to keep workers “working” instead of “distracting” them with process improvement team meetings. I’m not sure how we fix this mindset until we help leaders see that “working” not only includes getting what needs to be done today done, but also working on how to improve what we do today so that tomorrow we can get a better result…a new day a better way!

What players are needed to create a winning team?

The last question pulls together the first two questions in that now it’s time to make a selection for who should be on your team. Once we know who the key influencers are and those that are most critical in making the goal a reality it’s time to pick your team, but hold on a second before running off to ask them to join your effort.

One challenge I see quite frequently is that when we simply run to those we want on our team and ask for their help most often they are glad to contribute, but unfortunately they don’t get to decide entirely how their time at work is spent. That decision is often in the hands of their direct manager, who, if he / she is not convinced the time of their direct report will be well spent on the project will move it to the bottom, or worse, off their list of priorities, which will leave you as the project leader frustrated when they don’t complete action items, attend meetings, etc.

A better approach is to first meet with the potential team member’s supervisor with your project charter in hand to show them the value of the project, and how their direct report is critical to the success of the project. I find that when you can share the financial impact of a project with a supervisor of a potential team member it helps them prioritize the project in relation to the other objectives that need to be completed.

Pulling it all together.

Linked below is a simple team member selecter tool I created to aid in this process. Start by brainstorming who the influencers are within your organization. Next, identify the vital players within the process you are working to improve. Continue by digging deeper into each individual’s potential contribution to the team. Finally, pull the trigger and meet with the supervisor of the individuals selected as potential team members.

When talking with the potential team member’s supervisor bring a copy of the project charter and focus specifically on how this person is critical to the success of the project and what the financial impact of the project will be to the organization. Don’t rush this process! Picking a winning team just like a LSS project is not a sprint! For every minute you invest in picking a winning team you will save hours down the road that leads to success.

Team Selecter Tool