Want A Successful Lean Six Sigma Deployment? Follow These 12 Steps!

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, Uncategorized | 0 comments


Having been involved in Lean Six Sigma for over 20 years, I’ve seen many organizations struggle with deploying Lean Six Sigma.  Some start off with great intentions but then seem to falter as they move forward.

I am proud of the fact that I was part of a very successful Lean Six Sigma deployment at Delphi (now Aptiv).  Not that we did everything right, but we were were able to implement and sustain a very successful program.  Here is a list of the factors that I think made us successful:

  1. Designate a Deployment Champion.  This is the person that heads up the program and is responsible for maintaining the metrics, working with upper management and champions to  identify projects, Black Belt (BB) candidates and Master Black Belt (MBB) candidates.  This person also heads up the Steering Committee and oversees the success of the program.  They work with MBB’s to develop training plans, training material and the infrastructure to support the program.
  2. Form a Steering Committee.  This committee meets monthly to review the status of the program.  They review program metrics, i.e., number of people trained, financial savings, average time to complete projects, etc.  This group should consists of management directors or managers that report directly to the CEO.  Each member is responsible for the deployment in their own area, i.e., number of MBB’s, BB’s, Green Belts (GB), number of projects, and savings.
  3. Develop Project Selection Criteria.  Project selection must be a defined process and not left up to individual BB’s and GB’s.  It should be based on the organizational objectives and the wants of needs of customers.
  4. Develop Candidate Selection.  BB’s and MBB’s should be selected based on their ability to lead teams, follow the Six Sigma DMAIC process, and complete projects in a timely manner.  At Delphi, every salary employee was required to be a GB and complete at least one project each year to maintain certification.  BB’s and MBB’s were chosen from the best of this pool.  The CEO of our division became a BB and required everyone on his staff to be a BB.  Many BB’s and MBB’s after a few years were promoted to upper management positions.  MBB’s were for the most at Delphi part full-time positions, whereas BB’s and GB were part-time team leaders or members.
  5. Establish Program Metrics.  These metrics are developed by the Deployment Champion and Steering Committee and indicate the status and health of the program.  We kept it pretty simple at Delphi, looking at average project savings, number of people certified and re-certified, and the average time to complete a project.  Our goal was the three 100’s, i.e., 100% certification/re-certification, $100K average project savings (lots of low hanging fruit) and 100 days to complete a project.  After a few years, the 100 days to complete a project was reduced to 70 days.
  6. Utilize Statistical Software for Analysis.  Following the DMAIC process, leading teams, and preparing for tollgate reviews at the end of each DMAIC phase puts a lot of demand on teams.  With that in mind, everyone in our division had access to Minitab to do the statistical analysis and prepare the charts and graphs.  It’s almost impossible to do DOE and regression analysis without statistical software.  We had a site license in each operational region which allowed everyone access.  During training, tollgate reviews and the certification of belts, MBB’s made sure everyone knew how to interpret the Minitab results.
  7. Train Top Management First.  This is probably one of the most important steps and not usually done by most organizations.  Our leadership team, the CEO and his direct reports were the very first to be trained, complete a project and become certified as GB’s and eventually BB’s.  These leaders understood the process, the tools, tollgate reviews and the questions to ask in order to drive the program and make it successful.
  8. Establish and Maintain Project Tollgate Reviews With Champions and Sponsors.  The DMAIC process is very prescriptive and at every phase requires certain deliverables.  When project champions and sponsors understand the process it drives the organization and the success of your Lean Six Sigma program.  Many organizations stress the use of advanced tools, but it is the process an organization uses that drives the success of the program!  An effective method I saw utilized at Delphi was where a plant manager had a weekly meeting where he had all his project teams give a ten minute update to his plant personnel.  By doing this he kept a steady flow of progress on projects and drove them to completion.
  9. Involve Finance.  Very important to get finance on board so that criteria is established for how the organization looks at project savings and how they define hard dollar vs soft dollar savings.  As an MBB for the projects I coached, I got with my financial person for every project to calculate and verify savings.  That way, when a project was near completion and I said the project was worth $100K, everyone knew that was a real number and finance agreed with it!
  10. Sustain and Leverage Improvements.  It’s important that control plans be put in place so that project owners or sponsors are able to maintain the gains of the improvement.  Nothing is worse than implementing an effective solution and finding out months later that the project has slid back to its original state.  When I had a process related project, I’d often alert our internal auditors that procedures and work instructions had changed and to audit those specifically.  It’s also a good idea to think about where a good solution can be leveraged to other parts of the organization.  All projects globally at Delphi were archived on a server and we could search what other teams had done in certain areas such as finance, HR, IT, injection molding, cable and terminal make, etc.
  11. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!  Over the years I’ve learned that you cannot over-communicate any continuous improvement effort.  People want to know and understand what’s going on in their functional area, how it’s going to impact them, and how’ll they need to change.  Directors, managers, champions, and project sponsors must always know the status of what’s going on in their areas.  I always tell my GB and BB candidates that as project leaders they must communicate the status of their projects to the project sponsor on a daily basis.
  12. Celebrate Success!  There are many ways to do this and you can use whatever approach works best for your organization.  I’ve seen organizations provide T-shirts, gift cards, pizza parties, etc. to teams that accomplished significant improvement in projects.  Some organizations congratulate teams by including articles in newsletters or at yearly award ceremonies.  Whatever you decide to do, be consistent.

So there you have it. These are steps we took at Delphi to ensure success and I’m sure there are probably many other things we could have done and maybe other things you’re doing that make you successful.  Whatever steps you decide to take, it’s extremely important that your organization be committed, disciplined, and consistent.  Implementing and sustaining Lean Six Sigma not easy and takes a lot of hard work, but I can say that my participation in the implementation of this program at Delphi was the highlight of my career!

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