Starting Off Right: Help Ensure Operational Excellence

Monday morning quarterbacking

20/20 hindsight

Turning back time

There are many phrases to describe the analysis of a failed endeavor. But whatever you call it, this postmortem process teaches valuable lessons about how to better implement operational improvement changes in the future.

We’ve seen a wide range of reasons why a change in process or strategy has failed, including:

  • Those affected did not understand the change or why it was necessary.
  • Personnel were suspicious of ulterior motives of the company. (“Are they cutting jobs to save money?”)
  • Relevant/affected team members were not included in process improvement or strategic planning sessions (lack of solicited input).
  • The change didn’t reflect the overall culture of the organization.
  • There was no plan to measure progress or take feedback for improvement.
  • Participants assumed that the methodology was a short-term trend that would ultimately fall out of fashion.

We have used these lessons learned to hone our approach and increase the chances of success. The first step is to explain not only what operational excellence through Lean Six Sigma is, but also what it isn’t. Lean Six Sigma is not about head count reduction, housecleaning, etc., but rather about reallocating resources so people are freed up for tasks that truly add value. This reassures participants that they are not being cast aside for the sake of cost reduction or efficiency. By explaining this and demonstrating why an organization is undergoing this process, participants see the big picture and are more motivated to participate and embrace change.

It’s also important to note that Lean Six Sigma is not some new fad; it has actually been around for decades and is a proven methodology with documented results. Properly training your team on LSS concepts, including hands-on demonstrations and case studies of LSS in action, is often helpful in showing the effectiveness of process improvement.

Finally, create opportunities for cross-functional groups to brainstorm, discuss and collaborate. Ask the question, “Where do you see waste in your processes?” and you might be surprised at what you hear. When staff members can speak freely, concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed are brought to the surface and can be addressed constructively. Be sure to include not only those whose work will be directly changed, but also personnel who will be affected indirectly by a shift in processes.

By addressing these concerns at the beginning of your journey to operational excellence, you’re more likely to get an enthusiastic response from everyone involved—which in turn means a greater likelihood of success.