How to Build the Foundation for Lean and Six Sigma

When building a house, if you want the house to sustain over the long term, the first structure you have to build is a solid, well-engineered foundation. The LSS belts methodologies are no different than a house. With a weak foundation or no foundation, the Lean Six Sigma method won’t stand for long.

We (SSDSI) are called into many organizations that have previously implemented LSS. In these organizations, the methodologies had failed to sustain. Most of the improvements have reverted back to their original unimproved state. In most cases, these methodologies have “left a bad taste” for the operators. In our experience, this happens because the company didn’t build the proper foundation or infrastructure for Lean and Six Sigma to survive.

What makes a good foundation for Lean and Six Sigma?

One word describes the most important element in building a good foundation: Education!

We are innately afraid of what we do not understand. Rolling out an implementation of Lean and Six Sigma method without educating all levels within the scope of the implementation about these methodologies and their purpose will lead to failure.

The first education should be training your organization’s decision-makers. If this level of your organization does not completely buy into the Lean and Six Sigma rollout, the effort will quickly fail.

As cost savings projects roll out, if the Executive Staff are not aligned, the projects will get roadblocked by “turf wars”. The executive team should always go through a Lean and Six Sigma Executive Workshop method along with a Champions Pre-deployment Workshop.

The Executive’s Workshop is normally eight hours (one full business day). The deliverables of this workshop are:

Stacked rocks to symbolize Lean and Six Sigma foundation.
  • Business Targets or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are defined to include key Lean and Six Sigma metrics
  • Champions to be selected (if not already)
  • A rough draft of the Lean and Six Sigma Marketing Plan is developed
  • Initial Belts to be trained are selected
  • Current/Future State Value Stream Map of Key Products/Services
  • Initial (founding) projects are chosen. These must be tied directly to the KPIs developed above.

These workshops are optimally trained at the same time so as to better guarantee alignment. Champions are what we at SSDSI call “the Bulldozers”. They remove roadblocks to the Change Agents.

They are also “Cheerleaders” of the Lean and Six Sigma deployment. Champions are trained for two business days. They attend the first day with the Executive Staff.

On the second day, the Champions learn:

  • Lean and Six Sigma Project Selection Criteria
  • How to Develop a Charter
  • How to Manage the Change Agents

Once we have our leadership trained (executives and champions), then we must educate “the masses”.

If the employees within the scope of the deployment do not know what is happening and why then they will assume the worst. If the purpose of the Lean and Six Sigma Deployment method is not communicated clearly, then the masses will generate their own buzz.

This seldom has a positive outcome.

The training of all the employees within the scope of the deployment is called the “White Belt” training. At SSDSI, this is a 4-hour of training that can either be done virtually through an LSS White Belt Webinar or in a live in-person classroom setting.

SSDSI’s Lean and Six Sigma White Belt seminar/webinar covers the following topics:

  • What is Lean?
  • What is Six Sigma?
  • The Synergy of Lean and Six Sigma
  • Key Principles of Lean
  • The 7+1 Deadly Wastes
  • Basic Lean Methods and Tools

The final piece to the foundation is the training of the Change Agents.

These Change Agents are trained as Lean Agents and Six Sigma Green Belts and Black Belts. These Change Agents are those team members in the organization that use the toolsets to return value to the organization’s bottom line.

Without the foundation for Lean and Six Sigma (Executives, Champions, and White Belts), the Change Agents’ efforts will have little chance of success.