Monthly Archives: April 2016

Quit wasting your time helping people who don’t want your help!

crying at workOne of the greatest frustrations when leading a lean Six Sigma (LSS) project team is working with people who just don’t care much about the problem.  I see this challenge with my clients all the time.

They setup a meeting with a potential champion to discuss a problem that could be an impactful LSS project only to have the meeting request denied, rescheduled, or with no response at all.  Weeks go by as they try to find time on the champion’s calendar, but nothing happens.  They wonder, “Why won’t this person I’m trying to help take my offer to help them?!?!”

Then, after multiple attempts, they finally “push” the champion into starting the project.  This only leads to a frustrating number of months working the DMAIC process and finding the champion does little to sustain the effort.  In the end the process goes right back where it started!  Ugh!

In this post I’d like to share some advice on how to make sure you don’t end up in this situation on your next project.  Determining the potential success of a project comes down to three P’s that include:

  1. The “right” People…
  2. with a Passion…
  3. to solve a Problem worth fixing.

After close to two decades working in various organizations I’ve never found long term success where any of the 3P’s was missing.  You need all three to be successful over the long term.

Lean Six Sigma would be easy if it didn’t require people!

Let’s start with the first P – People.  This is somewhat of a no-brainer in that it takes people to make a project successful, but what / who are the right people?  There are the obvious people you need, for example, the subject matter experts in the area you are working and those with the technical skills that will be required to use the LSS process, but more importantly you need people with the second P – Passion!

These people, from my experience, are rare jewels in most organizations.  The employee engagement numbers Gallup reports are evidence that most people don’t care much about their jobs.  They tend to have an attitude of doing the minimum and simply work for the weekend.  However, there are those few individuals that always seem to have a positive attitude and are always looking for a better way; a way to provide greater value to the organization.

This can be a challenge in some organizations, but I’d suggest instead of starting with a problem and then finding people to work with you to solve the problem, focus on finding people with passion for improvement and they will have plenty of problems to work on.

You’ll know you’ve found them because they won’t refer to their problems as “problems”, but instead they’ll call them opportunities.  You’ll also recognize them because they will be smiling when they talk about the opportunities, and they’ll likely reach out to you to get started instead of you pushing them to do so.

Finding a problem worth messing with.

What is a problem that’s worth fixing?  The simple answer is that a business case can be made if we fix the problem it will lead to a positive financial impact (i.e. revenue increase, cost reduction, etc.).  I would argue when answering this question we need to dig a little deeper than simply ensuring the problem will have a financial impact, but will also have a positive effect on achieving the goals of the business (i.e. strategic plan, tactical plan, departmental goals, gaps in KPI’s, etc.).

Not every problem is worth messing with.  Ask the question, “How will fixing this problem help the organization take one step forward in achieving the key goals identified by our leadership team?”  Your answer will determine if the problem is worth fixing.

I often tell my clients the most important aspect of a successful LSS initiative in any organization starts with working on the right stuff; the stuff leadership cares about; the stuff leadership gets measured on; the stuff leadership gets rewarded on.  Work on that stuff and succeed, and your leadership team will be asking for more!

There’s no question this process is a huge challenge, and from my experience most don’t succeed at it.  They start the process, usually with the wrong elements like training everyone.  Training is important, but has almost nothing to do with LSS success.  What is important is what you’re working on and the people doing the work.  Pick the right people with a passion to get better, and the problems worth messing with will come to the surface.

The simple infographic below is a great checklist to get started with any LSS project.  You’ll notice that people are the “bookends” that hold your project together in the middle.  Nail down these six things BEFORE you start your next project and you’re more likely to succeed!

This type of work is one of the things I’m most passionate about helping clients with.  Could you use some help?  I’m here for you along with 30+ VRI lean Six Sigma experts located all around the world.  Contact us to help you succeed!