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Rethink The Use Of Change in Lean

Posted by kyle toppazzini on Tue, Nov 20, 2012

Lean Six Sigma, Lean, Sigma, Process, Change Models,Assessment

Confucius, otherwise known as Kong Zi, was an ancient Chinese philosopher who believed that trust or “shin” is a concept that enables people to contribute to society. He believed that, for a leader, earning trust was essential. In addition, according to Confucius, to consider the concerns and interests of another person was necessary for trust to be established between two people.

I believe that one of the reasons that organizations find change management to be so difficult is because they do not address the root cause of why change initiatives fail, a lack of trust.

Many organizations implement change management and change models only when a change initiative is implemented; however, most organizations are constantly evolving and thus, change is always occurring. For this reason, employees may see the change management activity in a change initiative as just another process that an organization must undergo, a formality that has no real value. Employees may not trust that the change management activity will make them feel any better about the changes that are anticipated. 

It is my belief that organizations must make trust a key principle in how they operate every day. Once organizations are able to establish trust, people will embrace change within the company and not fear it. So how do organizations reach a state of harmony in which trust is paramount and consistent throughout the organization?


1. Ensure your organizational values are consistent with the principles of quality management and Lean Six Sigma

Most people would agree that implementing value-stream optimization, reducing process variability, eliminating waste, achieving targets, and continuously improving organizational performance are critical steps to ensuring the success of any organization that is focused on quality management and operational excellence. An organization ought to make these concepts a focus of everything they do and believe in. These concepts should be part of the organization’s value system, and every employee should trust that this way of operating will result in success and personal satisfaction.

Figure 1 highlights an overview of our Enterprise Change Model for Lean Six Sigma, which is one component of our new Lean Six Sigma Framework that is rooted in Chinese values. Trust is at the heart of our change management model. In order to establish trust, all employees must have a shared vision and believe in the same guiding principles for quality management and performance improvement. In our change model, the shared principles of quality management and performance improvement are value-stream optimization, reducing process variability and eliminating waste, achieving its target and continuously improving organizational performance; these principles encompass everything that the organization is. If employees do not believe in these principles or do not have a shared vision,  it will be hard to establish trust, and if trust is not established, change will be difficult to achieve.

Therefore, an organization should take a good, hard look at the values that they believe in and ask themselves if these values are consistent with the guiding principles of quality management and performance improvement. If an organization’s values are inconsistent or in conflict with the quality management goals that have been set, the organization could be viewed as sending a message that quality management is simply a flavor of the month, and employees will start to distrust the messages that the organization is communicating. Furthermore, in this scenario, an organization may risk hiring employees who share similar values but do not actually believe in the principles of quality management; this can eventually lead to mistrust if the organization starts to advocate quality management or lean Six Sigma principles. 

Figure 1: Enterprise Wide Change Management Model For Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma, Change Management, Quality Management


2. Implement strategy in a way that creates trust


I remember having a discussion with a vice president (VP) and one of the executive directors of a company explaining that you are likely to be more successful if three hundred people are focused on implementing your strategy as opposed to six people. The VP looked at me in total agreement and excitement, while the executive director looked at me in total shock and disbelief.  So why was this happening? While the VP agreed with my idea, the executive director had never experienced it, so accomplishing my goal seemed impossible.

In order to establish trust, you need more than a shared vision and shared principles. You need to execute strategy in a way that excites and motivates employees. It must be done in a way that shows genuine interest in the ideas, thoughts, and concerns of employees who will be responsible for executing the strategy.

In our change management model (part of our new Lean Six Sigma framework), employees conduct the assessment and come up with and execute improvement ideas that move the organization closer to its vision. Management selects the improvement projects with the strongest business case, and employees execute their improvement projects and demonstrate how those improvement projects have improved the organization’s key performance indicators (KPI). Because the KPIs are linked to the organization’s strategies, employees can see their contribution to strategy execution and know that their ideas are important to the organization as a whole.


Closing Thoughts

In this article, we have discussed only two methods of establishing trust throughout an organization. Many other methods must be implemented in order for trust to be established. Once an organization is able to establish the value of trust, buy-in is not something that you set to achieve, it is something that just happens. Do you think organizations can reach a state where "Shin/trust" is established throughout the company?


By Kyle Toppazzini


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Topics: Change Management, sigma, lean, Change Models, Lean Six Sigma, Assessment, process