For many, it may seem as though Easter has arrived and hopped by very quickly this year. However, for those practising the tradition of Lent, Easter has been a long time coming. For reasons of religion, health, or just a general test of willpower, around a quarter of Brits will have spent 46 long days resisting a favourite vice. While the 2016 Lent figures of are not officially in, judging by some attempts in the office, we have an inkling that there’s room for improvement.
As experts in Business Improvement, we have helped companies worldwide make positive changes. We have given them the tools, support, and guidance to permanently eradicate problems and achieve financial success, but ask us to give up chocolate for six weeks and we crumble like a cookie.
So what if we were to look at Lent as a business problem to solve? Lean Six Sigma is designed specifically to eliminate problems and generate positive change. It’s five steps, known as DMAIC, in which a problem is defined, measured, analysed, improved and continued, is a tried and tested structure for success. By approaching our vice as a business problem to solve, surely we can create the perfect plan.
We have used our Lean Six Sigma expertise and applied the DMAIC structure to create our 100% Effective five step plan to a successful Lent:
Define – What to give up for lent
Start by identifying what it is you are choosing to give up for Lent. For this example, we have chosen the most popular sacrifice of Lent 2016, chocolate. Next, you must define the scope of the problem. Are you giving up all chocolate? Does chocolate cake count? What about the light sprinkling of chocolate powder on top of your morning cappuccino?
By failing to clearly define what it is you are giving up before you begin Lent, your decisions during the 46 days are likely to be rushed and informed primarily by your craving for cocoa, creating a gateway to failure: If you are allowed a sprinkling of chocolate powder, surely you are allowed hot chocolate, and before you know it you are tumbling down a slippery chocolate-covered slope to failure.
Measure – Understand the problem
Use this phase to gain a clearer understanding of the problem you want to overcome by measuring it in a number of ways. Record such things as how often you eat chocolate bars, what bars you are eating, and when and where this takes place. This will give you the information necessary for the analyse phase in which you will plan how you’re going to avoid chocolate and consider any necessary substitutions.
This phase is also a great opportunity to gain information for you to benchmark the success of your efforts. For example, recording weight lost or money saved by abstaining from chocolate will show you the positive effects in hard numbers. You will see the clear measurable benefits from a successful Lent, which you can then use as motivation when making future changes.
Analyse – What is causing the problem
The measurements recorded in the previous phase are analysed to find the root cause your chocolate habit. By deciphering your trigger, you can tailor your efforts accordingly and create a cocoa proof approach to Lent.
Your measurements may show that you purchase most of your chocolate bars from a particular shop at a certain time. By analysing these results, you identify that the offending shop is situated on your commute route. The recorded time of purchase averages at 5:45pm, and from this you identify that a primary root cause is a hunger-fueled habit developed during journeys home.
Improve – Solve the problem
Having completed the previous phases, you will be well-informed to create a plan of action to ensure you complete Lent. This could include changing your route to and from work to avoid the shop, eating lunch later in the afternoon to avoid hunger while travelling home, or combining the two to form one super-solution.
You will then trial these improvements to see if they are effective before entering the period of Lent. This is the time in which you can tweak your solutions, improve them and then verify that they work. In doing so, you can begin the six weeks confident and armed with an effective approach to avoiding temptation.
Control – Begin Lent
In the control phase, you will enter Lent and immediately implement your researched and tested approach to giving up chocolate. The necessary family members and work colleagues will be aware of your revised commute route and schedule. Your new later lunch break will already be well-established and effective in warding off the hunger during the commute home. Before you know it, you will have arrived comfortably at the Easter weekend free to celebrate your successful Lent by tearing the foil off your chocolate egg.
Whatsmore, the habits you’ve developed during the six weeks may last long after Lent. As your new commute and lunch break have become the norm, you’re no longer faced with the need or temptation to indulge in a daily chunky chocolate bar.
Whether you are forfeiting a favourite food or banishing a bad habit, these simple steps will help you finally achieve your Lent ambition. But don’t wait for Lent to roll around again to start making positive improvements; from bold business improvements to New Year’s resolutions, the adaptability of the DMAIC structure can be used to transform any process.