How to Convince Your Boss to Try Lean Six Sigma
You know that Lean Six Sigma can revolutionize your processes, but your boss does not. They don’t know how this practice will improve the company and aren’t sure whether the entire staff is ready for the Six Sigma main principles.
Fortunately, the staff has you as their advocate. Talk to your boss and use these five main benefits to encourage them to try Lean Six Sigma processes. These talking points can help bring the message home and convince them to give it a shot.
Companies Can Reduce Wasted Resources
In our modern economy, companies are often challenged to do more with less. It is not enough to continue spending more each year. This is why Lean Six Sigma is so valuable to manufacturers and other industries. It shows leaders how they can stretch their budgets to grow their profits.
Siera Smith, COO at WebMax, emphasizes the importance of using Lean Six Sigma to reduce waste within organizations, or anything that consumes resources without producing value.
Waste comes in the form of lost materials, spent time, extra employee resources and little processes that clog up the entire system. By reviewing how work is done and improving processes, this management methodology can cut waste and maximize efficiency.
For example, take data shared by David Finkel, coauthor of “Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back.” He points to studies that show most business leaders work about 72 hours per week and 57 percent of small business owners work six days a week. When broken down, some of that time is spent as follows:
- 6.8 hours per week are spent on low-value activities that could be delegated.
- 3.4 hours per week on low-value emails.
- 3.2 hours per week on low-value interruptions.
These hours add up. Plus, these same surveyed leaders spent 3.9 hours taking “mental health breaks” like checking social media because they are overworked. By removing wasted time, leaders would get their work done more efficiently while reducing burnout.
“Eliminating waste” on its own can seem daunting, but if each team is reviewing their processes and expenses, teams can quickly figure out where their resources are going astray.
As a starting point, management consultant Peter Cohan highlights 13 ways companies lose money. These include expenses like services that they never use, outsourced work that could be done in-house and missed savings opportunities like not paying off their credit card balances each month. This is a great list to start thinking about how your team creates waste even when they seem to be operating efficiently.
Decisions Become More Data-Driven
Business leaders are also able to think smarter and plan better through Lean Six Sigma. This process is centered around data, which makes problems and opportunities clearer to everyone involved.
“[The result is] that you have a common language, and that language is ‘show me the data’,” says Lisa Hayes, adjunct faculty at Southern New Hampshire University. “It’s not about opinion, history, or anecdote. Instead, it’s data-driven.”
Interestingly, this dependency on data for decision-making creates a problem for some organizations: Many executives still don’t trust how their organizations use data.
In fact, out of 2,190 senior executives surveyed, only 35 percent reported a high level of trust in how their companies use data and analytics, explains tech writer Bob Violino. The findings from a KPMG International survey are at variance with the fact that data is the new currency, and more executives are expected to make base their decisions on data.
However, despite some trepidation about how companies use data, executives trust it more than their own intuition. According to Salman Mufti, executive director of Queen’s Executive Education at Smith School of Business, 56 percent of executives believe that relying on data (rather than experience and intuition) tends to lead to better results. Only 28 percent of executives say that data analytics make no difference.
While most companies may need to improve their data policies, they are on their way to trusting the data analysis processes — a key part of the Lean Six Sigma process.
Executive Teams Work Better Together
As data is shared across organizations, and each executive suite and leadership team follows the same policies, managers can work better together to reach their goals and further the overall company mission.
“The availability of open, connected data means that plant managers, engineers, and management can now work together to objectively solve production problems,” writes Willem Sundblad, CEO of intelligent automation company, Oden Technologies. “It also results in improved customer satisfaction, increased supply chain transparency, and enhanced employee engagement.”
Plus, it is up to management to give employees a clear reason why they should care about Lean Six Sigma. When addressing the benefits of this process, management consultant Bill Fotsch and John Case, author of “Open-Book Management,” say that one of the biggest hurdles companies experience is employee buy in. Why should employees care if a company is more efficient when their own role doesn’t benefit? Moreso, many workers worry that increased efficiency leads to redundancy.
“Having C-suite involvement in a process improvement project helps to break down departmental silos and can free up valuable data in the hands of process stakeholders,” writes the team at Datamark, a business process outsourcing company.
Lean Six Sigma Can Make Organizational Change Easier
As you pitch your boss on Lean Six Sigma, it’s important to note that the process will have overreaching benefits across the organization outside of simple process improvement. When done well, Lean Six Sigma teams are better able to handle change and uncertainty.
“If change is the only constant, then finding ways to not only keep up with change but also get ahead of the impact of change, should also be a constant,” says Moira Alexander, founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine. “Six Sigma’s approach, tools, and techniques can allow companies of any size, product, service, or industry to do just that.”
Six Sigma consultant Robert Tripp has seen how this process can make teams more adaptable and resilient to change. He worked with one company where some teams used Lean Six Sigma processes, while others used other continuous management strategies. When the company changes its management culture to become more employee-directed, the employees who used Lean Six Sigma were better prepared. They could handle the self-directed work and continued to apply their best practices to the new situation.
Leaders need to push change forward and create a culture where employees will embrace it. This is easier said than done. Mark Murphy, founder of LeadershipIQ, shared data that found employees are less open to change than leaders might realize. While 37 percent of managers say their teams would like to maintain the status quo, 45 percent of frontline employees say they would not want any changes.
Most employees are naturally cautious or adverse to change, so leaders need to use tools (like Lean Six Sigma) to build them up for it.
Employees Can Become More Engaged in Their Work
As your team members become more resilient and more proactive in optimizing their workspace, they will also become more driven and engaged.
“If your employees are involved in the improvement process and see real results from their work, they are more likely to stay interested, bring their best to the workplace and stay with your company over time,” Devra Gartenstein writes at Bizfluent. “They are involved in ongoing learning, which motivates them and contributes to overall morale.”
Effective leaders will use Lean Six Sigma not as a threatening tool to increase productivity, but rather an opportunity for employees to find meaningful work and grow their skills.
“Humans are by nature meaning-makers,” explains Paul Burrin, vice president of management software and services provider Sage. “Work plays a pivotal role in shaping how we define ourselves so it is inevitable that people will look to their jobs as a source of meaningfulness.”
Building professional growth and excitement around Lean Six Sigma can encourage employees to adopt it, and they in turn can reap the benefits of using this process to make their jobs more meaningful.
“You can implement scrum and Six Sigma initiatives with the best intentions, but without true mindset alignment, achievements often falter,” the team at Partners In Leadership write. “In an accountable workforce, achievement is self-perpetuating — when individuals hold themselves accountable for high personal achievement, their teams are likely to take notice and strive to achieve on a higher level as well.”
As Lean Six Sigma practices become common in your workplace, management will have to spend less time teaching it and implementing it, as employees will keep working to continuously improve the workplace. The short-term investment as employees are first introduced to the process can provide long-term drive and results.
Every business has its own unique needs and opportunities. Lean Six Sigma can be used to improve your overall processes, but it has far reaching benefits beyond it. By stressing these benefits to management, you can help them consider this process and encourage them to explore Lean Six Sigma further.