Using Lean Six Sigma to get frontline employees focused on strategy
As a CEO, I understand one of the toughest challenges is getting all employees, particularly frontline staff, to be focused on strategy; can lean six sigma provide the answer. The importance of having all employees engaged in strategy execution is further emphasized in a Harvard Business Review Blog at http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2010/06/making-your-strategy-work-on-t.html .
There are a lot of theories about providing incentives via compensation, career opportunities, development, etc. However, I believe showing how employees contribute to the success of the organization is an effective (but rarely utilized) method. This method can relate to a relatively simple Lean concept developed by Toyota for which a scorecard is used to produce the kind of alignment that every organization desires to have.
In the summer 2009 edition of the MIT Management Review, author Jonathon Shook discussed Toyota’s Secret A3 Report, which can be found at http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/2009-summer/50408/toyota%E2%80%99s-secret-the-a3-report/. The A3 Report is a tool used by Toyota frontline employees to solve problems in a way that teaches these employees to learn how to learn. The A3 report is a simple concept with seven steps:
1. Describes a problem both visually and descriptively
2. Identifies root causes to the process problem
3. Provides baseline measures quantifying the magnitude of the problem and the impact on key performance measures
4. Identifies corrective action to eliminate the defects, the cost of implementing the actions and the action plans
5. Identifies quantitative targets that would dictate if the corrective actions were successful
6. Identifies the impact of the corrective actions
7. Next Steps
As part of my recent transformation engagement, I worked with frontline employees to develop their own A3 reporting tool. We then linked the results of the A3 report to a balanced scorecard that we developed for the executives. The balanced scorecard was also tied to the results of the A3 report to show how the corrective measures impact strategic measures. The process we developed was quite simple: if a key performance indicator on the executive scorecard failed to meet a target by more than 10%, then a Process Excellence team would determine if the issue could be corrected through a technological enhancement or an operational fix. If it was determined that an operational fix was required, then a team of frontline employees would execute the continuous improvement process that included the development of the A3 report.
Although this was only one small part of our solution, it provided tremendous benefits to the organization. For one, it aligns employees at all levels to be focused on what matters most, and it gives frontline employees feedback and opportunities to learn about what works and what does not, and it motivates employees.
What are you doing in your organization to help employees to be more strategically focused? What do you think would happen if you had this process implemented in your organization?
Toppazzini and Lee Consulting helps organizations reduce costs, improve performance and quality of their products and services through the use of lean six sigma and process improvement techniques. Email us at Kyle. Toppazzini@tleecorp.com or call us at 613-680-4333 to learn how we can help you.