One of the key lessons of Lean Six Sigma is to clarify your problem before you rush in with a solution. However, sometimes the problem is getting Business Improvement methods out of the starting blocks and disseminated into the organisation. And often this is caused by low senior manager buy-in.
In some respects, it may seem odd that the people holding back a business from improving are the very people held responsible for improving it. They want to sell more, make more money, improve customer service or develop new products but either can’t or won’t. Business improvement must be the responsibility of every manager in a business. However experience shows that they are often very difficult to engage in Business Improvement. So why do so many resist the call to action?
For 25 years I have been working with senior managers to try and get them to engage in Business Improvement. My experience has taught me that without senior management support, or enthusiasm, your implementation may fall at the first hurdle so you must identify what is holding them back.
If you are going to influence anyone then you must understand where they are coming from. You must understand their paradigms or maps of the world. You must be able to put yourself in their shoes and view the world from their position. Only then can you tailor your approach, assuage their concerns, and start a successful Business Improvement deployment.
What’s holding them back?
Based on my experience of working closely with senior managers and Business Improvement teams for more than two decades, one or more of these reasons is usually behind a manager’s reticence.
- They do not buy into the principle of wanting to make the business better. They might not agree that going lean or standardising processes is a good thing, especially if they have seen poor results from other companies in the same industry.
- They might not have any awareness of what business improvement is, what it involves and why it is essential.
- They might be so busy with functional pressures that they don’t have time to think about or do anything else.
- They might love fire-fighting as it gives them a buzz, has got them promoted or they like to be seen as the hero who can jump in and solve problems.
- They might not think their people are capable of doing business improvement, either because of skill gaps or existing time pressure.
- They are only measured on functional requirements so have no motivation to invest time outside of that.
- They think they have a better way of doing it so they try to do it themselves.
- They think they don’t have the money or resources available to invest in a Business Improvement programme.
- They believe they are already encouraging business improvement.
- They are concerned about what might be unearthed when people start looking at data, analysing what they and their part of the business are doing. This is especially true in companies with a blame culture.
- They worry about their own abilities to implement Business Improvement, or motivate others.
- They might not want to upset the apple cart as things are good at the moment.
My big tip for engagement
There is no magic bullet for engaging senior managers in Business Improvement, but there is one thing you must always do – find out why they’re not engaged to start with. Once you are armed with that information, you can tailor your solution to fit. It might be as simple as nobody ever explaining to them how important and easy it is to make things better or it may be a series of highly complex personal and business issues
For many, a common sticking point is that there are no funds available to invest in training or to allow people to free up the time they need. However, failing to make the improvements is not a cost avoidance measure. Much like putting off changing the oil in a car, the expense is necessary, and failing to do it in good time could cost even more in the long term. If this is the challenge, pointing out the cost of doing nothing is often an effective eye-opener. Talk to them about the cost of one month’s delay. If you can add figures you can transform an opinion into a powerful argument for your cause.
If you can demonstrate the benefits of implementation both personally and professionally; if you can explain that it will not negatively impact them, then you have started to make an inroad to engage senior managers.
So what is my essential advice? Identify the reason why they are not engaged, then you will then know where you stand. After all, if you don’t know where you are on your journey, then you don’t know where to start.
100% Effective give you the tools you need to introduce Business Improvement on your own terms, get in touch to find out how we can help.