Five Lean Six Sigma Change Management Secrets You Must Know

Five Lean Six Sigma Change Management Secrets You Must Know

Whether you’re new to Lean Six Sigma or a seasoned veteran, being able to manage the human side of a process change is vital. Some say it’s 80% of the battle in DMAIC. You can create the best process in the world, but unfortunately, there’s no button inside Minitab® or Excel® to click that gets the workforce to engage in your new process. If the human beings who need to follow your new process don’t do so, you’ve lost your investment. The body of knowledge available on change management rivals that of six sigma in both breadth and depth. In the new book, Driving Operational Excellence, I detail a number of street smart techniques for implementing change. Here are five high-level, must-know tips to help you start weaving change management into your next project.

Recognize the need. Think of the need for change management as a spectrum ranging from 0% (no need) to 100% (definite need). Any project that impacts human beings has some need for change management – the question becomes, “How much?” As part of your project risk assessment, consider the extent to which your process change potentially impacts others.   If you’re conducting a small-scope Green Belt project on a process you personally own, and you’re the only person impacted, you likely don’t need the full arsenal of change tools. If, however, your project potentially impacts a number of other people, recognize that the need to formally address the human side of change increases.

Start early. Some link change management with the Control stage of DMAIC – assuming it’s something done at the end to ensure a rollout goes smoothly.  Don’t wait until that point to start addressing change! Change management begins during the Define stage and should be integrated into all steps. Early on you can start by identifying who may be impacted and understanding what their concerns or issues may be. Ask questions such as:

  • What are the best ways to communicate with those impacted?
  • How can we establish two-way communication?
  • What should be our messages?
  • From whom should they come?
  • How often and in what format?
  • How will we involve those impacted in the project so they feel a sense of ownership?

Don’t make human change a separate “to-do” item. Integrate your efforts in managing the human side of the change into your plans for managing the technical side. Try to weave change management into the very fabric of your DMAIC efforts rather than bolting it on top. Apply your existing six sigma tools to the human side as well as the technical.

Select a method. When you enter the world of six sigma, it’s hard to avoid running into methods like DMAIC. It’s nice to enjoy standard, proven ways of fixing broken processes. When you read the books on change management however, there is no single industry-standard method. There are many methods. If you’re just starting out, read several books and then choose a method and get good at it.

Culture eats process for lunch. An organization’s culture is a powerful invisible force.  Launch a process moving in the opposite direction of your culture and you’ll experience “cultural blowback.”  You’ll be scraping your attempted change off the walls for weeks! It is imperative that you understand the shared beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions of your existing culture.  Compare those to the cultural attributes required to make the change work. Do they match? If not, change the process, change the culture or take cover!

Jeff Cole is a recognized consultant, author, and speaker specializing in improvement strategies. He has helped clients across multiple industries improve their operational efficiencies and bottom lines.


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