Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma
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Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma

Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement

David Shaked

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eBook - ePub

Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma

Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement

David Shaked

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About This Book

Strength-based Lean Six Sigma is a new way of approaching process improvement that combines the best practices of two established methodologies to generate a new approach in order to help you develop and deliver increased high performance in any organization. It is the first book to use approaches in business improvement as well as organizational change for optimum organizational performance and improved agility.Combining the energy and motivation released through a strengths-based approach with the focus on quality and efficiency generated by lean six sigma, it offers practitioners from all disciplines the opportunity to understand each other and work successfully together to drive effective and powerful change programmes.

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Kogan Page
This part will explore what is widely known in Lean Thinking and Six Sigma, and what is widely known in strength-based change. By doing so, we will uncover the potential of a combined approach to process improvement – Strength-based Lean Six Sigma – with roots in both operational efficiency and the approaches to strength-based change.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of the quality and effi ciency movements and their current leading methodologies, Lean Thinking and Six Sigma, while Chapter 2 covers the leading approaches to strength-based change, Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus and Positive Deviance. Can these two very different worlds of practice and thinking merge to form a powerful combination?
Approaches to organizational change and process improvement
The journey towards improved organizational performance and process productivity has a long history and many notable milestones. In this chapter I will quickly review the key developments along this journey as well as provide an overview of Six Sigma and Lean Thinking, which are specifically relevant to the topic of this book.

Process improvement – historical context

One can say that the journey towards greater efficiency started in the early 1900s with Frederick Taylor, who is widely considered as the originator of management consulting. Taylor’s work around scientific management, which defined the role of management and employees, as well as his famous time studies, which were later combined with Frank and Lillian Gilbreth’s motion studies, continue to influence the drive towards efficiency to this day. Although modern management and improvement approaches tend to shy away from Taylor’s work, some of his discoveries and ideas are still the bases of current practices.
The next obvious milestone in this journey can be linked with Henry Ford’s efforts to mass-produce cars in the 1920s. Ford introduced the concepts of task specialization, standardization and mass-­production. The 1930s brought us the focus on measurements, data analysis (through statistics) and quality control.
Following the end of the Second World War, the next wave of innovation in the area of organizational improvement emerged. In Japan, Toyota started its journey of development of the Toyota Production System (which later formed the basis and core of Lean Thinking). Some of the most prominent tools and approaches we regularly use or refer to in Lean Six Sigma emerged from Toyota. They include problem solving through the ‘five whys’, continuous improvement (Kaizen), ‘Just In Time’ production and waste elimination. From 1950 and onwards, William Deming, also in Japan, was busy developing the drive to quality using statistical analysis, root cause analysis, variation reduction and process control.
The late 1970s and early 1980s brought the concepts of TQM (Total Quality Management) and the Japanese Management Systems (with their unique focus on flexibility and quick response to external changes). Many firms around the world, in particular the Western world, attempted (with varying degrees of success) to adopt these operational systems.
The 1980s also brought us an increasing focus on automation and the power of IT. Automation created a new wave of operational change when organizations found more efficient ways of performing many tasks by using information systems and automated processing.
Two more key developments in the 1980s are worth a mention here. First, the science of complexity started getting attention as did the Theory of Constraints (TOC) developed by Goldrat.
Second, the late 1980s brought the introduction by Motorola of its set of quality improvement tools named Six Sigma. It was only when GE adopted Six Sigma as one of its key strategies that the approach started gaining wider attention.
The 1990s continued to build on the trends of the 1980s by introducing Lean Thinking (based on Toyota’s Production System and further work on the principles and tools by Womack and Jones). In parallel, we see the Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) movement developing and a growing appetite for outsourcing or offshoring work deemed as ‘non-essential’ or ‘too costly to perform’ in the West. Another great development from the 1990s is the introduction of the term ‘balanced scorecard’, which aims to provide a well-balanced view of the state of an organization. This was done by providing key performance metrics representing the financial, operational, human and environmental aspects of the organization.
The early years of the 21st century saw a huge expansion in the practice of Six Sigma and Lean Thinking across the world. This expansion included for-profit organizations around the world as well as public sector and even some not-for-profit/social organizations. Both Lean Thinking and Six Sigma were no longer limited to applications in manufacturing or supply-chain environments, but rather covered the whole of the organization, impacting HR just as much as IT, finance and sales. The lines of distinction between Lean and Six Sigma have blurred, and many leaders and practitioners now use the combined term Lean Six Sigma, containing the principles and tools of both practices.

Developments in organizational change and change management

While all this great development on the efficiency and effectiveness/quality side was happening, equally impressive developments occurred in the area of organizational change.
At the time of great post-war development in Japan, the completely new area of practice called OD was being thought of and created in the United States. The science of organizational development focuses on helping people, teams and whole organizations cope with, drive and thrive through change in order to keep their organizations and systems alive and competitive. The initial work started in the mid-1940s with Kurt Lewin in the United States and in parallel by the Tavistock Institute (founded in 1946; in the UK. New concepts such as ‘action research’ (coined by Lewin in 1944) and ‘group dynamics’ surfaced. These were further developed in the 1960s by Tuckman’s work (1965) on group processes and psychology. The 1970s and 1980s brought the ‘change management’ approach with clear models and tools on driving organizational change. In parallel, another management process was being developed – ‘project management’. Both these approaches shared many aspects commonly seen in the world of organizational efficiency – the belief that change is linear, mechanistic and can therefore be ‘managed’ tightly. Both change management and project management tend to start with a given problem, a leader’s vision or a ‘burning platform’, and drive the change journey by solving or overcoming obstacles, gaps and problems.
The late 1980s and onwards brought us the Appreciative Inquiry approach to change, which unlike its predecessors claimed that change is best driven by recognizing the best of what is, developing a shared vision of the ‘best that can be’ and driving forward ‘what should be’. Appreciative Inquiry is based on the action research model developed by Lewin, but has a distinctively different focus (or ‘lens’). In Chapter 2 I will cover the topic of Appreciative Inquiry in more detail.
To close this overview of organizational change, the 1990s and 2000s brought a huge development in organizational development (OD) including many different models and tools at multiple levels (the individual level, the group level and the whole organization level). In addition, new dialogue-based methods of intervention and problem solving emerged, and performance coaching became widely known and used. Finally, the science of complexity and the practice of large-scale change saw great advances.
At this stage, you may ask why are the developments in OD relevant in this conversation (beyond the reference to Appreciative Inquiry)? OD primarily focuses on the human and systemic side of change. As we now know and widely accept, operational change requires the engagement, support and wide involvement of the people within organizations and teams working on improvement objectives. It is always useful to consider the human factors when considering operational change.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. This is done by employing a set of quality management tools, including statistical methods. The term ‘Six Sigma’ comes from a field of statistics known as ‘process capability studies’. Originally, it referred to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within defined specification (as derived from customers’ requirements). Processes that operate with ‘Six Sigma quality’ produce long-term defect levels below 3.4 defects pe...

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