If you examine all the companies who have successfully implemented any initiative of any kind into an organisation you discover one simple truth; they all have a common understanding and commitment to the initiative which has been chosen at the very top of the organisation. Think of Jack Welsh at GE or Bill Smith at Motorola, they and their board agreed that they would use Six Sigma as their improvement initiative and everyone agreed; the rest is history.
This is why you always hear the phrase ‘Top Down commitment is essential for successful deployment’. The problem is that you don’t always have all your managers with common understanding and therefore commitment to an initiative. Top managers also constantly change their ideas and launch a new initiative which gives the organisation all kinds of problems.
The fact is that most senior managers don’t understand the methodology they have selected to implement, don’t understand their own business and its culture and certainly don’t understand the work required to make it a success. They then get frustrated as they don’t get the results they expect, so they pick another idea and run with that. The result is that when we go into organisations to help them you hear things like – we tried that before and it didn’t work; don’t mention xxx around hear as it was a disaster; we are different, that kind of thing never works for us.
Why do senior managers not understand the initiatives they are trying to implement?
When we start to spend time with an organisation which is looking to change, they ask us what we can do to solve their problems. They want a quick fix and rapid changes to the organisation as they are in trouble, which is why they have asked us to come and see them in the first place. As a result they don’t have in their view point the time to spend understanding where they are, then working out how to turn things around and lastly understanding themselves how to change things.
If you ask a senior manager what they do with their time you get some interesting answers. Ask them to split their time in the last few weeks as an average into the following categories:
o Strategy, Leadership and Motivation for the workforce
o Tactical day to day chasing of orders, checking things have been done and answering issues
o Financial elements of the business
The answer is normally staggering. Most senior managers spend 80% of there time doing tactical day to day issues and virtually no time doing strategy and motivation. Guess what successful senior managers spend more time on strategy and motivation than anything else. This explains why when we say lets get the senior managers together even for 1 day so few can make the time to start to understand what Lean Six Sigma is and how to deploy it. How then do you think that they can get enough of an understanding to motivate and drive the methodology through the organisation? The answer is they can’t?
Toyota took 30 – 40 years to change the culture of their organisation with Ohno and Sengo providing the thoughts and drive for lean to be implemented. It took GE and Motorola decades to implement Six Sigma fully into their organisations. Yet today’s senior managers expect instant results. I think a good analogy would be football teams in the UK who switch and change managers looking for instant success where as successful team – Manchester United and Arsenal have giving there managers time to get it right.
To ensure success, it is vital that the senior management team take some time to understand the following essential elements of any Lean Six Sigma deployment.
o What is Lean Six Sigma
o How can Lean Six Sigma help your business
o How to deploy a successful program
o How to structure your organisation to ensure success
o What is the role of Lean Six Sigma Champion and sponsor
o How to select projects
o How to support and motivate your people
If a top team can spend the time understanding and planning the above then they can start to implement Lean Six Sigma and there might be success.
o It means that when they stand up to talk about the subject they know what it is about enabling them to talk with credibility.
o They understand how much time each Green or Black Belt needs in order to be successful and can be given the right kind of support.
o When they run gate reviews they ask the right questions and ask for the right behaviours from Green and Black Belts. Meaning a greater chance of projects being a success.
o They know how to structure the organisation and to choose the right people and projects.
o They know how to link the strategy of the company to the Lean Six Sigma deployment.
How to obtain top management buy in?
If you are in the situation where you know that Lean Six Sigma is the best thing for your organisation and you need to convince your management, you must consider a few things to convince them. You must also have the skills to influence people throughout the organisation that Lean Six Sigma is the best thing for the benefit of the organisation. Influencing skills are being recognised as essential in business if you wish to be successful.
The items below will help you influence and convince senior managers.
If you can demonstrate how the approach will help the organisation and the kind of benefits you can obtain, then you will catch the attention of your Senior Managers. To do this, Deployment Champions run a few improvement projects under no name in particular. They can then calculate the benefits using the finance community to validate them. Some benchmarking can also be done, showing what has been achieved in other similar organisations. Lastly you can highlight where your current problems are and then explain how Lean Six Sigma will help to address these issues.
Explain the concept and how to ensure success
If you understand the concepts, then you have the knowledge to explain how Lean Six Sigma can benefit a company and how to set up for success. If you don’t, then you could ask an expert to come and talk to your Senior Management group. 100% Effective Training have enjoyed the challenge of talking to management groups in many different industries and answering the questions of the Senior Management group.
Understand where it can help
Identifying where to run your projects is vital in any deployment and even more so in the early stages. You must pick projects which are not so easy that any attention would have solved them, or projects which are so big it would be like solving world hunger. If you pick a meaningful project which brings great results both monitory and other wise then you can usually gain the attention of Senior Management and then move to a full deployment in your organisation. Another problem we have been encountering is that businesses don’t really know where there real problems are. They work on solving symptoms and putting out fires, they don’t actually know where the root causes are. In this instance then, we would suggest obtaining a diagnostic of your business which would then tell you where to start in your program deployment.
Understand what motivates your Managers
If you understand the motivations of your management team then you will know what buttons to press to get the concepts accepted. This might require some work and research and would include things like how they are measured, how their bonuses are made up, where they wish to take the company, what they believe the current issues are, what they know about the concepts and what they have tried in the past. If you work on these areas, your pitch to your Managers will be considered, have the right detail and will have a chance of working.
Can you deploy without top management buy in?
The simple answer is yes you can. It is however a lot harder; you must ensure that you get quick wins to demonstrate the benefits of the approach. You must also start to use the skills of influencing with Senior Management to convince them that Lean Six Sigma is the way forward.