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Common Traps

This month’s common traps come from the Direction Setting stage of an LSS/HPO effort. Material is selected from pages 219-220 in Integrating Lean Six Sigma and High-Performance Organizations. The book contains more common traps for this stage, as well as common traps for each of the other stages.

LSS/HPO
Stage
Initiation

Direction
Setting

Design
Implementation
Operation &
Continuous Improvement

Trap #1. Assuming there has been enough communication.
Trap #2. Selecting a bad portfolio of projects for the first wave.
Trap #3. Selecting only Black Belts who have old values and an old results orientation.
Trap #4. Not publicly demonstrating senior management is on board.
Trap #5. Targeting only production operations in the first wave.

Trap #1. Assuming there has been enough communication.
Members of the workforce are busy doing “their real job” and often screen out transformation messages. Research shows that important messages need to be communicated five to eight times before the receiver hears them.

Trap #2. Selecting a bad portfolio of projects for the first wave.
To build LSS/HPO momentum it is critical that the first set of improvement projects yields significant gains in increased profits, decreased cycle time, or improved quality. Some quick results are highly desirable. Top leaders must ensure people aren’t funding their pet project or just selecting projects that are “safe” with low risk and returns. In addition to top managers’ reviewing potential projects, J. F. DeBetz, formerly a Six Sigma leader at StorageTek (a $2 billion manufacturer of storage devices) advises companies starting out to have a finance person involved at the start and all the major evaluation points along the way to assist in cost/benefit analyses.

Trap #3. Selecting only Black Belts who have old values and an old results orientation.
The eyes of the organization are upon this first graduating class of Black Belts. The not-so-subtle message to the organization is “These people are examples of what the organization values going forward.” Non-participative, command and control Black Belts who bully their teams into producing results in short time frames and provide no team recognition or rewards send the absolute wrong message. Leaders need to be cautious about selecting “successful” people from the old environment who may not be able to exhibit the new values and behaviors.

Trap #4. Not publicly demonstrating senior management is on board.
The workforce needs to hear that senior management is 100 percent behind the new initiative. When General Electric sent top executives to the “Green Belt for Champions” program, it sent a strong message that Six Sigma was a new part of the company’s business.

Trap #5. Targeting only production operations in the first wave.
Often significant improvements are possible in non-production work. Johnson & Johnson has been highly successful in targeting marketing, sales, quality, documentation, environmental monitoring, and facilities areas for Lean Six Sigma improvement. Karl Schmidt, Vice President of Process Excellence for Johnson & Johnson, reports that using Lean and Six Sigma methods in pollution prevention yielded $87 million in 2000 and in $55 million 2001. This was achieved through clearly defining metrics, identifying areas of waste, and putting projects in place to improve. These huge sums were not cost avoidance, but hard dollar savings such as lower raw material costs.