Capability in change management, often referred to as ‘soft tools’ are vital ingredients for the successful deployment of Lean Six Sigma. In many ways, it is the most important.
Let’s start by looking at ‘creating the right environment’. Essentially this is about leaders ‘walking the talk’. They must encourage the application and use of Lean Six Sigma Thinking principles, tools and techniques. And they must be seen to be using them themselves:
But it’s also about providing the right training, coaching, and support to provide the necessary infrastructure for success. To ensure the right programme infrastructure is in place, you need a management sponsor, ideally the Chief Executive, and someone to manage and co-ordinate the overall programme of activities.
Apart from anything else, you need to avoid duplication of effort by making certain that different improvement teams are not trying to improve the same thing. Steering groups or monthly team meetings can help ensure that improvement activity in one area does not cause sub-optimisation elsewhere in the process.
Improvement projects and events need to be appropriately sponsored and supported with leaders taking on the role of ‘champion’ and providing mentoring and coaching for the improvement teams. The people in the process need to feel able and be able to challenge and improve their processes and the way they work; they must feel empowered. And they should be empowered to both come up with, and implement the solutions.
The organisation’s culture needs to encourage and promote teamwork, both within improvement project teams and across the processes and value streams. The people issues and the importance of the ‘soft stuff’ are vital.
So just what do we mean by ‘soft tools’?
In simple terms, it’s about how well we work with the people involved in the processes, and the stakeholders who are touched by the projects and change initiatives. And it’s about their acceptance of what you are trying to do. You may well have developed an ideal solution or approach, but its effectiveness will be dependent on how well you have gained acceptance.
The effectiveness of an improvement project or, indeed, the deployment of Lean Six Sigma Thinking hinges on two broad factors which have been put into context by George Eckes, the Chief Executive Officer of a Colorado-based consulting group and a former psychologist. He came up with a formula to help express the importance of the ‘soft stuff’:
E = Q x A.
E = Effectiveness: This represents the effectiveness of the implementation which depends on the quality of the solution and the level of acceptance
Q = The quality of the solution: An ideal solution may have been identified, but its effectiveness will depend on how well it is accepted
A = The level of acceptance of the solution: The level of acceptance has a multiple effect on the overall success of the implementation
Clearly, communication will be vital throughout, and it will be sensible to develop a Communication Plan as part of your overall Deployment Plan that helps ensure you get the right messages to the right people at the right time, and in an appropriate medium. Try to think about the different audiences both as teams and individuals.
And remember, we all see and hear things differently, as my poem underlines:
What you heard
Is not what I said
And what I wrote
Is not what you read
We see things differently
All of the time
The view you have
May not be mine
Understanding the key elements involved in Managing Change is essential. Our ‘Elements of Change’ model, based on work by John Kotter, will help you in both the deployment of the overall approach, and in local and cross company projects.
At Catalyst, we stress the role and importance of the soft stuff incorporating this model into our Learning Solutions, generally, as well as through our three-day Managing Change programme.