While international organisations have a lot of strengths, they can also face unique challenges when rolling out Business Improvement initiatives to all offices or branches.
Simply by having an office or business in a different country, an organisation can face problems with a mix of languages and cultures. Looking more closely, there can also be differing degrees of maturity in each business, challenges specific to the country base and a unique running history. Customer demands and employee expectations can also vary dramatically from country to country.
Considering these challenges, implementing any change across the whole business becomes significantly more complicated. It is essential to take an adaptable attitude to rollouts to ensure the right decisions are made about how to overcome these issues before they become a hindrance.
What’s in a name?
One of the first things to consider is how to market your global Lean Six Sigma implementation to employees. Lean and Six Sigma can have different meanings and connotations in different industries and countries, so you must consider the impact of using these terms in your global deployment.
If some employees have previously seen Lean used as a byword for redundancies in an organisation that failed to correctly deploy the methodology, any use of this term will create immediate resistance. Similarly, if you are aware that the commonly held perception of Six Sigma in your company is that it is highly stats driven you may want to avoid introducing new measures under that banner.
Ultimately, the name of a process improvement implementation is unimportant, what are important are the key principles and aims of increased quality and improved satisfaction. So select a name that makes sense for your business; a name that people can easily engage with and get behind.
Going global with a Business Improvement implementation does not involve using a cookie cutter approach in every single office no matter the location. That is the easiest way to run into difficulties (see above). You must allow each country or business a level of autonomy to mould the approach so it best suits their culture, history and needs. As long as the deployment is moving in the right direction and is aligned with overall strategy, it doesn’t really matter whether one office starts implementing 5S while another is more excited by Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).
This holds true for measuring too. As each country will have a slightly different way of working it’s essential they measure what is necessary, rather than what they have been told to measure. A company we worked with recently made this mistake. As a small batch manufacturing company that was part of a large global mass production group, every month they were asked to report on meaningless data when they would have been better off looking at them through a different lens.
Global language and the right training partner
To make things easy for everyone, it is often necessary to train senior managers from all global offices in one go. Often this means that a single language is used, most often English. However, if you choose to train in English, ensure your provider has experience working with multicultural and multiple language groups as their needs are different to those who are English natives. Asking someone to work for 12 hours a day in a second language is often a big ask on its own, without asking them to also take on sometimes challenging concepts. People must have the opportunity to discuss and think about things in their own language to ensure there have been no miscommunications.
Similarly, ensure you use examples and materials that are relevant to the industry or country involved. Don’t make people learn something new, and then try to figure out how to apply it at the same time. Make this step easier by showing real examples and giving them real people to talk to.
Leadership is essential to any roll out. At head office it is easy for the CEO to attend training, motivate staff and review projects, giving the programme high visibility. But how do you obtain the same leadership halfway round the world? You can video the CEO to show at the start of events, but it’s not quite the same, so the use of office-specific ambassadors is essential. Ambassadors give employees a point of contact that they really rely on; they will enable delegates and belts to be motivated and feel part of the global community.
Internal PR about the programme will also forge a community spirit and make people feel like they are part of a bigger initiative, giving it drive.
Once you’ve set the ball rolling, ensure it maintains momentum and continues on the right track by putting a clear structure in place. Structure, rewards and recognition are what take your Business Improvement deployment from an idea to a company culture, so ensure you have the right approach tailored to each office.
Provide the necessary support to each country in terms of advice, training and coaching, but ensure that the deployment champion is qualified to lead and is not just a manager who once ran a project. It is essential they understand the principles, can identify a project and are able to generate enthusiasm. It is vital that they understand what their teams are going through, and provide the necessary help and motivation to drive the change in your business. Selecting the deployment champion is a key step for global success
Finally, ensure that you continue to communicate across your entire global brand. Publish regular internal communications to let the whole group know about successes and build enthusiasm. Communicate your vision of how Business Improvement or Lean Six Sigma will help the company, the individual offices and your employees to ensure they understand why these changes are being made.
More than anything, you need to appreciate that customs and culture can have a huge impact on how people react to change. If you are prepared, you’re starting on the right path to a successful deployment. Remember there is not a one solution fits all, you must develop the programme to suit your needs.
100% Effective have vast experience of helping companies with global deployments, we can provide the training and support you will need anywhere on the globe. Get in touch to find out how we can help.