Operational Excellence programs like Lean Six Sigma have been around for many years and have proven themselves time and time again to be invaluable in identifying areas where business process improvement is necessary. Lean Six Sigma, in particular, focuses on improving performance by removing waste. The five steps in the Lean Six Sigma process are designed to optimize and stabilize business process and design and are abbreviated by the initials DMAIC:
But, we have a question. Once the solutions have been identified, how are they going to be implemented? One of the most significant stumbling blocks to a continuous improvement solution is when a powerful new process has been developed, but the people who are supposed to use it…don’t. The truth of the matter is there is no process improvement unless people change their behavior and use the new process, as intended, on a sustained basis. No behavior change, no improvement! It’s just that simple.
Measures of Success
Business process re-engineering projects will only be successful if the improvements are fully implemented and achieve long term adoption. Every continuous improvement project’s success needs to be measured by the following five metrics:
- On Time
- On Budget
- Technical Objectives Met
- Business Objectives Met
- Human Objectives Met
Ensuring all five of these metrics are achieved, including the human objectives, is the difference between installing and implementing a change. You must reach implementation in order to deem a project successful and, thus, obtain full value realization for the project.
But, the missing piece from most operational excellence initiatives is a standard deployment approach that addresses the critical “human side” of solution implementation. As one Master Black Belt suggested, “Implementation is the missing, additional “I” in DMAIC.”
Rigor and Structure on the Human Side
The application of a structured change management process such as the Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) dramatically improves the likelihood of success for operational excellence initiatives. AIM offers a robust set of tools and measurement diagnostics, along with a structured framework for managing the human elements of continuous improvement efforts. This is supplemented by organizational learning to provide practical tactics and strategies that will increase internal capacity to implement more quickly.
AIM’s structured approach and tools can be overlaid on top of Lean Six Sigma to increase the likelihood of successful deployment. In adopting both Lean Six Sigma and AIM, organizations benefit from the application of not one, but two proven approaches to improve process performance. The first is working to identify problem areas, the second to ensure a successful implementation.
Implementation Needs to be Blended from the Start
While it would seem logical to apply Lean Six Sigma first to identify the issues and then AIM as a bolt on at the end to address implementation, we know from our experience that work on building Readiness begins as early as the "Define" step in both processes. Thus, it is much better to integrate the two approaches very early on in order for business processes to be changed and adopted at speed.
To improve your organization’s Lean Six Sigma results, we recommend the following specific actions become part of your business process re-engineering protocols:
- Apply the same data based approach to the human elements through use of diagnostics such as AIM’s Implementation History Assessment, Implementation Risk Forecast, Sponsor Assessment, and Change Agent Assessment that identify implementation barriers.
- Define the desired behaviors (who will need to do what differently, and how well will they need to do it) up front so they can be measured and reinforced on the back end. These are the human objectives for the change.
- Develop implementation plans that blend technology and business process improvements with structured, hard deliverables for the human elements, including key role maps, impact mapping, a Sponsorship Strategy and a Reinforcement Strategy that can be seamlessly managed as part of the technical project plan.
- Redefine the role of the Sponsor from providing high level “support” based on organizational position to providing three specific behavioral actions: Expressing, Modeling, and Reinforcing the desired behaviors for those impacted by the change.
- Develop a Readiness Strategy that specifically includes actions for sourcing and managing resistance to changes resulting from Lean Six Sigma solutions.
As powerful and technically sound as Lean Six Sigma and other operational excellence methods are, the truth of the matter is they are weak when it comes to implementation. Solutions are rigorously designed, but less rigorously implemented, resulting in sub-optimized projects. By integrating a structured change management process (like AIM) with your continuous improvement program, you will undeniably increase the chance of Return on Investment with a great solution, that is also well implemented.