Wayne Fisher talks to Martin Brenig-Jones about his time at Aegon and getting Lean Six Sigma started – Walking us through the process and requirements of the programme with the objective of reducing the cost of hiring external project resources to complete problem solving projects.
Former Head of Process Excellence, Aegon
Wayne – I started our LSS Programme due to a business need. There was a requirement to help the Operation to become more self-sufficient when it came to conducting their own incremental change and continuous improvement. Change resource was being fully utilised on the larger Transformational Change at time and the organisation was spending over £20M in Change, contracting consultants and other resources to assist in projects.
Wayne – at the start of our journey we had some strong sponsorship in place both from the CEO and Change Director, so I had confidence that I had good backing for the programme. At this stage, I had experience within the process improvement arena, but had never performed the role of a Deployment Champion and set up a company-wide programme of this size.
I was also aware that the skills and knowledge that I had in my process excellence team was mixed and many were not necessarily experienced change professionals or indeed the right people to perform the role. I had inherited the team shortly before the decision to start up the Lean Six Sigma Deployment programme. This made me nervous because my team would be deemed the experts when many were quite new to this themselves.
Expectations were also very high to ensure that we delivered benefits from the programme very early on. The organisation was going through a massive transformational change on the back of the financial crisis and employees were nervous about the reason that our team was in place.
Wayne – the first area for me was to ensure that I had the right sponsorship in place to support the programme. Luckily I had the support of the CEO and Change Director and my advice would be to establish a senior executive to endorse the programme for you.
I realised that I needed some support to help set up a deployment programme of this size and magnitude and sought consultancy support. I assessed the current capability of the Process Improvement Team, we had currently only aligned the Customer Services division and were then due to face off to the entire Organisation. Key activities at this stage was to understand our key stakeholders across the organisation and understand their level of engagement.
I also had to review the current capability of the process improvement team that I had inherited. Many of my team had not been trained in Lean Six Sigma and were going to be viewed as the experts when in fact they were just learning too. For me, we had to make some difficult decisions and move some people who did not necessarily possess the softer skills such as good communication, relationship building and effective stakeholder management. The team went on the Green Belt training first and each were given a project to help them achieve their own accreditation. A coaching framework was put in place and regular surgeries with our consultants were put in place to provide additional support to the team.
We also built in a solid communication plan and framework to help us promote the programme and the team. Regular updates were cascaded via the CEO, we took a thermometer / pulse check at the start of the programme to assess the organisation’s awareness and if they had heard of Lean Six Sigma. Figures were initially low, but 6 months later awareness had moved up to over 80%.
I also linked in with HR to look at ways in which we could incorporate the Lean Six Sigma principles into the behavioural framework of the organisation and started to add Lean Six Sigma experience to all jobs advertised moving forward within the company.
Wayne – Our main aim was to cut out the annual £20M cost of hiring external project resource to complete problem solving projects. It was also key to equip people across the business with the skills and knowledge to manage their own small change agenda and make process improvement a way of working.
Wayne – we faced a number of barriers which included:-
Wayne – the successes included:-
Wayne – I believe that the deployment model used in Aegon was an ideal approach that I would replicate elsewhere again. The early stages of the deployment were key and that included individual face to face meet and greets with the Executive team to help gauge their level of support. Having the CEO as the programme sponsor gave us the best platform of support and helped to overcome barriers. Allowing the Executive team to volunteer their areas to go through the training and start working on areas of improvement worked well. We used the pull effect.
Two key areas that we engaged with early on were both HR and Finance. These areas were key in the development of our deployment. Finance from a benefits perspective who helped to put a structure in place for the confirmation and sign off of benefits and HR from a People perspective. HR helped by helping to feed some of the key LSS principles into the DNA and behavioural framework of the organisation.
One area that I would consider doing differently is to ensure that anyone attending the Green Belt training had a project identified with a supportive sponsor in place and commitment that the individual would get time to work on delivering their initiative. Often the projects where a sponsor wasn’t engaged or in place were the ones that fell by the wayside.
Wayne – Some advice I would give includes:-
Wayne – To recognise the pressure that my team were under to pass their Green Belt exam and gain full accreditation status rapidly, I also opted to complete my own training and accreditation at LSS Champions level. This sent out a supportive message to the team and also demonstrated the intent of the programme.
“Over the past 18 months we have developed a strong, positive working relationship with Catalyst with a huge emphasis on transferring Lean Six Sigma skills and knowledge into the business. Catalyst’s friendly and flexible approach makes them easy to work with.”
Wayne Fischer, Former Head of Process Excellence, Aegon