Human and sustainable transformations: rethinking Lean Six Sigma
Incorporating employees into the development of procedures and methods can greatly aid in fostering enduring and people-centric changes amidst organizational transitions. To achieve this, it is preferable to approach this process methodically and systematically, with each member playing an active role, as it involves touching the very essence of the company’s DNA. These transformations go beyond simple technical adjustments; they also aim to cultivate a work environment where individuals feel valued, engaged, and motivated, fostering a culture of collaboration, quality, and continuous improvement within the organization.
The aim of this article is to offer insights and guidance for encouraging innovative thinking and active involvement from employees or managers in organizations during times of substantial change or within Lean Six Sigma and continuous improvement initiatives.
Continuous improvement: putting the customer first
In an organizational context, processes are crucial for delivering products and services. These processes serve as means for organizations to enhance the quality of their services for customers, guiding employees’ tasks and activities. However, in many industries, it is observed that only 25% to 40% of employees’ efforts are dedicated to value-added activities. This reality implies that many employees spend a significant portion of their time on processes that do not add value, for various reasons: legal complexity, misalignment between different departments, working methods disconnected from evolving business contexts, or simply out of habit!
To transform these challenges into real opportunities to increase productivity, improve services, and optimize production, it is essential to place the customer at the heart of process optimization, whether external or internal. Customer satisfaction should be the compass guiding organizational changes. To understand their expectations regarding your products or services, there are several methods. The essential element is to stay attentive, react proactively to adjust existing processes, and foster a customer-oriented culture within the organization. For example, customer service satisfaction results related to processing times, observations regarding product quality, and customer feedback should all be considered as opportunities for improvement. These are genuine catalysts for continuous improvement that organizations need to embrace.
Improved employee experience: building a collaborative culture
In the philosophy of continuous improvement and Lean Six Sigma, team contributors are genuinely empowered to propose, develop, and implement improvements in the company’s processes. They naturally ensure that these improvements align with the company’s strategic objectives. One of the cornerstones of this approach lies in the trust placed in the creativity and expertise of team members.
By actively participating in a Lean Six Sigma initiative, employees can significantly improve their working conditions and daily practices. They can identify pain points, discern what is not working, and pinpoint what is causing them to lose time. By collaborating with their managers, they adopt more efficient working methods, thereby creating value for customers by challenging conventional practices to better meet their needs. This involvement strengthens their sense of belonging to the company.
However, it is essential to emphasize that engaging leadership also plays a significant role. Managers must lead by example, actively encouraging employee participation and recognizing their contributions.
Rather than imposing new processes, managers have every advantage in adopting a coaching approach towards their teams, setting clear and specific goals. This change in posture can be beneficial but requires structured support. This learning can be facilitated through a proven approach for teams and managers to follow: the DMAIC. This Lean Six Sigma transformation approach is structured in 6 logical and value-driven phases, DMAIIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Innovate, Implement, and Control).
Sustainable performance: integrating people-centric concerns throughout the process
For each of the 6 phases, considering the issues related to the human consequences of implementing the continuous improvement process is crucial. The objectives extend beyond the expected financial gains to include goals related to employee capabilities development and well-being at work, contributing to sustainable transformations within the organization.
The measurement and objective quantification of the problem serve to mobilize and raise awareness among teams and the entire organization about the importance of change and the reasons motivating the transformation. We encourage active team participation, where everyone feels involved in problem resolution. It sometimes reveals unexpected aspects of the issue, making the reasons for transformation more concrete and tangible for all involved stakeholders.
Digging into the root causes of identified gaps goes well beyond a simple pragmatic analysis of existing processes. It involves closely examining the impact of these gaps on employees, including their well-being, skills, and professional development. Respecting past work is key, while recognizing the need to bring a realistic and critical perspective to current challenges. Maintaining this mindset, this process of constructive reflection allows for building a better future for the organization.
After analyzing the problems to be solved, the organization has every advantage in harnessing the creativity of team members engaged in these discussions to find consistent solutions. These solutions should be practical and emanate from the team members. These work sessions should be a source of pride for all managers and team members because not only do they create value for the company and its customers, but they also reinforce employee engagement and motivation.
Finally, effective project management and follow-up are essential, along with the implementation of relevant indicators and dashboards. Sometimes, despite all efforts and anticipations, some solutions may prove less effective and not produce the expected results. However, we advise considering them as opportunities for learning and experimentation rather than failures. It is a teamwork opportunity to adjust existing solutions or consider innovative approaches, contributing to maintaining confidence and stimulating the pace of change.
In summary, Lean Six Sigma, a structured and innovative approach, goes beyond effortless process improvements to embody a profound transformation of organizational culture. It facilitates changes at every stage. More than a methodology, it fosters collaboration around the pursuit of sustainable performance.
In this constant quest for excellence, it is essential to remember that every small improvement, every little step forward, however modest, contributes to shaping a deep and lasting transformation of the company, making everyone a craftsman of change and a guardian of customer needs and strategic objectives.