Management Understanding of Lean and Six Sigma is Key to Their Successful Implementation – How Much is Enough?

Design of Experiments

Embarking on a Lean Six Sigma or Six Sigma initiative? If the answer is “yes,” you’ve likely had a debate with other team members about what management needs to know, if anything at all. The task of turning management in Six Sigma experts is certainly overwhelming, and truth be told, it’s not truly necessary.

As we discuss ways to involve management and gain their support, focus on how you can deliver quality rather than quantity. The knowledge management has about the methodologies matters; the quality of what they know and understand should be rooted in comprehending the strategies and methods in such a way that they can ask top-notch questions about implementation to encourage its effective application.

Why Management Support & Understanding Matters

Six Sigma and business goals do not and should not exist at opposite ends of the spectrum. Instead, for the success of the company and its strategic objectives, the two should be as integrated as possible. To achieve this goal, upper management support is required. Six Sigma Belts can drive the implementation and analysis of Six Sigma but it is the upper management who helps to translate and connect those results to the business itself.

The level of commitment required by an organization to implement and achieve success with Six Sigma is of consequence. It’s not something that can be contained to a specific employee, team, or department. By that same token, the frustrations that come along with implementing any new methodology will also go beyond a single employee, team, or department. Thus, it’s vital to frame Six Sigma to upper management as a methodology for overall quality and business improvement, rather than a means to a quick end.

A Shift in Leadership Roles for Management

The idea of a leader will have to shift some for management to aid in the success of Six Sigma. As Six Sigma is designed for complete quality improvement, rather than individual project improvement, each individual involved in the methodology will need to serve as both a contributor and facilitator.

Management in particular will need to embrace the facilitator role, being present to drive (instead of solely direct) change. Their role will be to encourage participation, offer support, foster a desire for success, and spur on decision making. In many ways, the knowledge about how to support their employees will be more important for management than deep knowledge of Six Sigma. However, to encourage participation, managers will educate themselves in the strategies and methodologies sufficiently to be able ask questions about those methods, enough to recognize opportunities to apply them and enough to be able to challenge a Six Sigma project manager’s conclusions and rationale for solutions.  Managers Successful management will know how to draw the very best out of their employees collectively and individually to ensure the success of Six Sigma alongside business goals. This same knowledge will help management support Six Sigma leaders and the decisions they make. If you are using external support to implement Six Sigma, ask you provider to design a component of the training to specifically prepare managers to support the effort. Ask the provider to coach you during the critical start-up phase.

Ready to be one a Six Sigma leader in your organization? Sign up for the NWCPE program today.

The Focus of Education and Training

Your management team are assuredly experts and leaders in your industry and in their own roles. Many of their skills and areas of expertise may overlap with Six Sigma, but they may not all have a rich background in Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, and the associated methodologies and tools. While the goal is not to make Six Sigma Black Belts out of each manager, it is important to provide training and education in the fundamentals.

This training and education should be delivered in a way that assists management in developing Six Sigma projects that support core business objectives. It may also be beneficial to provide both departmental and company-wide training sessions. In particular, the finance team should have a solid understanding of Six Sigma’s methodology and tools for improvement.

Once the management has a firm hold on Six Sigma, they’ll be better equipped to support Six Sigma Belts at the organization and encourage by-in by all team members. This capacity, after all, is what leads to continual improvement.

To learn more about continual improvement, register for NWCPE’s Lean Six Sigma Program.