Our research shows that more than two-thirds of organisations are currently using some form of business improvement methodology, and many more are beginning to realise the benefits . Lean Six Sigma is one of the most common business improvement methodologies, but a report by Aberdeen Group found that even among those who understand the benefits of continuous improvement, there can be significant discrepancies in their rate of success.

Business improvementIt found that organisations that adopted the DMAIC methodology, required Black Belts to complete a project to certify and had outcomes validated by finance achieved 65% higher project savings than other Six Sigma companies. They also achieved 40% more savings overall compared to those with less robust programmes.

However, to introduce Lean Six Sigma to a business in such a robust way, the whole culture of an organisation needs to change. Every employee within the company needs to be excited about making their workplace better and empowered to identify areas for change. But how do you get an entire workforce engaged? How do you change the culture for the better?

Convince the key influencers

In every company there are a few key people who can influence the attitudes of the rest of the workforce. They’re often managers, although not always, but getting them on side from the start is absolutely crucial to success.

These key influencers will convince the neutrals and dampen any negativity if they are excited about and championing your new business improvement implementation. Identifying who they are, and ensuring they understand exactly how powerful Lean Six Sigma can be is the first step to your company-wide engagement.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is often highlighted as an essential part of implementations, and for good reason. It’s importance cannot be overstated. People are naturally suspicious of change and especially wary if they don’t understand the point or purpose of it. Effective Lean Six Sigma implementations will impact on every single member of staff, so it’s important to let them know exactly why it will make their life easier.

Yes processes will be changing, but the Black Belt will be listening to you to find out how they should be improved. Yes departments will be expected to be more productive, but that does not mean extra work.

Listening to the concerns and addressing them head on, rather than ignoring them, is the only way to convince employees that a change to continuous improvement is for their benefit.

Continuous improvement

Shoot for success

Your first Lean Six Sigma project is your pilot. Your showcase. At this point engagement is on a knife-edge and a failure to meet expectations can be disastrous. Picking the right first project is, therefore, very important, but so is managing expectations.

First projects can be liable to a number of challenges that more experienced Belts would breeze through. For all sorts of reasons they can be delayed and the outcomes not as great as we expected. Newly-minted Belts should manage people’s expectations – including their own – and pick a first project that is appropriate for their experience.

A relatively simple fix will give you a greater chance of success, boost your confidence and give people internally the win they need ready for you to take on more complex projects.

Shout it from the rooftops

Once you’ve completed your first project, you need to let everyone know it was a success. Pull together all the data that shows why things were bad before, and tangibly how much they have improved. Use figures for real impact. Have you saved £250,000 a year in wasted resources? £300,000 in wasted time? £1 million in defective products? Those figures are the result of your hard work so tell them to everyone.

If you fail to properly promote the success of your showcase project, no matter how successful, people will assume it didn’t go as plan and you’ll lose momentum and support.

Lean Six Sigma will make the business better for everyone by improving processes, increasing communication and raising quality so there’s a lot for staff to get excited about. It takes time and care, but a carefully managed implementation is the keystone to a continuous improvement culture.