Charles Shillingburg – Chapter One

Charles Shillingburg

Peeling the Onion for Higher Performance


Organizations of all types and sizes would like to become High Performance Enterprises – organizations that are more predictable, controllable, innovative, flexible and able to grow profitably and sustainably in both good and bad times; organizations that are totally aligned to beat their competition. But, how do you do this? And, in today’s market, how can you do it now?

Most leaders and managers are operating based on what they have observed or been taught. They have not challenged the underlying assumptions behind these methods or the results on customer and organizational outcomes. Many work under the assumptions that “things
just have to be this way,” “what others are doing doesn’t affect me,” “my actions (or department) don’t affect anyone else,” and “there are no
alternatives to the methods we are using, so what else can I do?” In this chapter, you will learn to peel your organization’s onion back to reveal
the answers to these questions.

This chapter will help you to:

  • Recognize the breadth of organizational issues that need to be addressed and the consequences of not resolving them.
  • Uncover underlying causes inhibiting your organization’s performance.
  • Challenge yourself to change many underlying assumptions.
  • Reveal proven and effective methods and practices.

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

An umbrella for a host of best practices, Lean Six Sigma has been successfully used for many years by large enterprises on the factory floor, for supply chain management, and/or cost saving projects. But the Lean Six Sigma discipline is a comprehensive, enterprise-wide system that can be used every day by organizations of every size and type and in every functional area. Lean Six Sigma is being adopted everywhere because it not only identifies problems, but provides comprehensive, proven ways to solve them. It is just good common sense, and best of all, it works!

The more you understand Lean Six Sigma and its advantages and benefits, the more you will want to embrace it. You will want to use these methods to identify your organizational weaknesses, get down to the root causes, initiate needed changes and adopt continuous
improvement methods and practices to make your organization more successful and productive. In today’s demanding world, you can’t wait
until you are in crisis. The sooner you adopt Lean Six Sigma’s high performance methods, the easier it will be to manage your future, and the
more adaptable, innovative and competitive your organization will be – not just to survive, but to thrive.

So what is Lean Six Sigma? What’s in it for you, your organization, your customers and employees? Most generally, LSS is defined as creating customer value by eliminating waste to increase flow and reduce variability. But, Lean Six Sigma embodies much more than this. It is a way of thinking and operating on a daily basis. While you can think of it as a cultural mindset, Lean thinking is really an action mindset; it is one that engages everyone in your organization in new, scientific, systematic thinking that is customer centric and solutions based. It is a philosophy and action set that engages all employees, functional areas and suppliers in the end goal of better satisfying your customers. It emphasizes delivering more value in a way that is more predictable, efficient, and effective. Embracing Lean thinking and Lean Six Sigma methodologies produces an organization that is more innovative, responsive and adaptable to change, yet more under control at the same time. Employees are more satisfied because there is transparency, and they feel more empowered and more engaged. They know what they are doing, why
they are doing it, and how their actions connect to their organization’s success. Moreover, employees actively contribute to improving their
organization’s performance.

Get Out the Peeler

At the heart of your success or failure is your ability to align everybody and every system and process to a common, customer-centric purpose. You must identify and effectively deal with difficult issues. To become a High Performance Enterprise, you will need to ask and answer some hard questions and then make the changes necessary to effectively align your organization’s operations and methodologies.

Aligning your company’s vision, mission, sales and processes requires you to peel through your company culture and operations to find out [14] Driving Operational Excellence what lies at the heart. Too many times we simply assume we know the answers and find it difficult to take a good, hard look at what lies beneath the surface. Following are a set of questions you will need to answer and
address if you want to peel away waste, constraints and ineffective processes to become a High Performance Enterprise.


Do you know who your customers are? What do they want and need? If you don’t know the answers to these two important questions, it will be difficult for you to outline your company mission, goals and strategies. Without customers, you have no business. Ultimately, your entire enterprise revolves around your customers – how to get them, how to keep them, and how to anticipate their ever-changing needs. Find out what your company is doing right and what it is doing wrong. A constant, customer-centric focus is the heart and soul of becoming a High Performance Enterprise.


How do your business methods relate to meeting your customer’s requirements? What is the relationship in your organization between employees, management and senior executives, from department to department, between your organization and its suppliers, and even accounting? What are your measurement and reward systems and your training programs, and how do they move you further toward delivering
on your customers’ requirements?

You need to view your organization’s performance from a systems perspective. This approach views the business as a group of independent but interrelated elements comprising a unified whole. Many organizations aren’t even cognizant of their underlying systems and processes (or lack thereof), let alone the effect they have on organizational outcomes. High Performance Enterprises see and understand and control systemic symptoms that limit quality, value, product flow, and customer satisfaction. The rest of the pack perceives events as randomly caused by individuals or outside events beyond their control. They treat symptoms by applying Band-Aids and firefighting techniques instead of digging down and solving the root causes.

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