David Shaked: An interview by Bob Morris

ShakedDavid Shaked is an independent consultant—a positive change leader for individuals, teams, and organizations. He has been practicing Lean Thinking and Six Sigma for 15 years as a certified Master Black Belt. David is also a practitioner and teacher of several strength-based approaches to change (such as Appreciative Inquiry, Solution-Focus coaching and Positive Deviance) bringing together a range of tools and change approaches for the benefit of his clients.

David has over fifteen years of hands-on experience with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Intel, 3M, IBM, NHS UK, Southern Rail, Shelter, Deloitte, Carmignac, Lyle & Scott, and many others. He has worked all across Europe, the USA, the Middle East, and India.

In his book, Strength-based Lean Six Sigma: Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement, he presents an innovative and unique approach to Lean Six Sigma. An approach that uses the great creativity, engagement, and energy for change the strength-based approaches generate together with the rigor and focus on results from Lean and Six Sigma. This blended approach helps build a much more positive, engaging, and ultimately more sustainable culture of continuous improvement. David is very passionate about introducing, training, and speaking about Strength-based Lean Six Sigma.

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Morris: Before discussing Strength-based Lean Six Sigma, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Shaked: Many leaders and colleagues have influenced my personal growth over the years. It is always a challenge to name just one, but as we are speaking about the topic of Strength-based Lean Six Sigma, I would like to recognize Jane Magruder Watkins, who together with Mette Jacobsgaard, was the first to introduce me to Appreciative Inquiry. I will always remember how, at the end of their workshop, I asked Jane whether she knew anyone else who was combining Lean Six Sigma with Appreciative Inquiry. Her response was simple yet powerful: “No David, I don’t—I’d like you to start it!” That encouragement and her on-going support helped start the journey that resulted in many learning and growth experiences, and ultimately in publishing my book on the topic.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Shaked: After several years of working on process and business-improvement projects as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt at Johnson & Johnson, I had reached an “inflection point” in my career. While I was getting great results from the projects, programs, and Kaizen events I supported or led as well as very positive feedback from the people I worked with, something seemed to be missing. I could see how many of the problems I was trying to solve kept appearing in different parts of the organization. It was as if, by solving the problem in one part or function of the business, a new problem was created or identified elsewhere. My efforts felt repetitive and I was becoming more and more frustrated by the limits of the Lean Six Sigma processes and tools. Again, the feedback from others was great (and I was even offered a lucrative opportunity in another part of the business) but deep inside, the work wasn’t as satisfying as it had initially been and taking the next role or assignment wasn’t attractive anymore.

In 2006, I chose to hire a career coach to identify the best career path for me, and over a period of three months we held coaching sessions over the phone. These conversations explored many topics and I also completed several exercises in between. It was a very deep and profound self-discovery process to go through! At the end of the coaching I discovered what has been a key ingredient of my career to date and something that always kept me energized: More than anything, I loved being a positive change catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations.

While there were plenty of opportunities to be a change catalyst in my role as a Master Black Belt, not all were positively framed. I also realized that being a positive change catalyst could mean a lot more than the process improvement role I held at the time. Over the next 12 months I started exploring and learning the topic of change and what it meant to be a catalyst of change from a positive frame of mind and, through a series of (sometimes seemingly random) discoveries, came across the practice of Appreciative Inquiry which is a well-established, strength-based approach to individual and organizational change. The discovery of AI and my learning journey have shaped everything I have done since.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Shaked: I completed an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Economics as well as an M.B.A. in Information Management and Entrepreneurship. I would say that, while I never specifically practiced accounting or worked in an IT-focused role, I gained a lot from the learning and skills I acquired in those programs. The M.B.A. in particular has given me many practical experiences of working on projects with teams of other talented people on a myriad of topics. My ability to understand the “language” of different functions in organizations was a direct result of those projects. In addition, my undergraduate degree has given me many skills in truly understanding how the “numbers” work and flow in any organization. This is true to overall important numbers such as revenue and profitability, as well as understanding the impact each of my activities made to the overall results.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Shaked: What I now know is that the success of any organization (for-profit as well as not-for-profit) truly depends on the people in it more than on anything else. Solid financial performance, access to sufficient funding, innovative products, competitive IP, great customers, and reliable supply chains are all great outcomes of highly motivated groups of people who are focused on achieving an inspiring shared vision.

M.B.A. programs and other leadership/management skills courses can sometimes mislead us into believing that stellar Excel spreadsheets, deep analysis (using the best, most up-to-date models and “scientific approaches”), well-designed presentations, and a good sales pitch are the key ingredients for success. Yes, all of these “key ingredients” are important, but they too are only great outcomes of the thinking and action the right people aligned around a vision they are inspired by.

Because I now know this, I realize that in order to drive positive change with individuals, groups and organizations, I need to focus less on bringing in the “right” tools, analysis or insights, and more on helping them discover a vision that inspires them and the strengths they already have that can help them progress toward that vision—the rest always follows from there.

Knowing this is truly liberating. I no longer feel like I need to know the “right” solution or tool to use!

Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tse’s Tao Te Chin:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Shaked: I totally believe in this important quote, and since switching my approach to driving change to the strength-based approach, I have always tried to include people to discover, dream, and plan with them, and then set them free to achieve great results.

For me personally, gone are the days when leaders were expected to have the right answers (often with the help of “experts”) for the rest of the organization. The people inside each organization are the best experts and always hold useful knowledge, energy, and a hope for a better future—the best thing a leader can do is to tap into and free that knowledge and energy.

Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

Shaked: Well, I stopped worrying about people stealing my ideas! In fact, in my book I am sharing the best of them! I believe and have certainly experienced the benefit of sharing my ideas with other smart people—their questions, comments, and insights always enrich my thinking and allow me to grow as a result.

As for the second part of the quote… well, I certainly hope that my ideas are attractive enough and that I will not have to ram them down anyone’s throat! I would like people to “pull” my ideas rather than for me to have to “push” them.

Morris: From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) But ‘That’s odd….’”

Shaked: I personally experienced a powerful moment of discovery exactly by realizing something was odd about the way I and everyone I knew were practicing Lean Thinking and Six Sigma. It was when I realized that although the stated objective of Lean is to increase value to the customer, my actual practice of it was totally focused on studying, understanding, and shrinking the waste. The same goes for Six Sigma—its objective is to increase quality yet we focused all of our attention in studying the defects. That moment came after years of practicing Lean Six Sigma in this way! At that point, I thought to myself “That’s odd… why are we doing this? If we want to increase value shouldn’t we focus on the value-generating parts/moments?”

Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Shaked: I agree and would emphasize that as part of being ourselves, we should also gain awareness of our strengths and the things we like doing as well as find energizing. Otherwise, we spend too much time overcoming our own perceived weaknesses and struggling to express our true uniqueness.

Morris: From Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Shaked: In a way, this quote highlights one of the foundations of the strengths-based approach to Lean and Six Sigma. By understanding our problems and their root causes, we cannot solve them! Once we gain the understanding of what doesn’t work well and why, we still have to speculate and guess about what would work better instead. Because of that, it is much quicker and more efficient to study what happens when our processes and people produce excellent results!

Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s directs control.” What do you think?

Shaked: Appreciative Inquiry (which is one of the key practices in Strength-based Lean Six Sigma) strongly emphasizes through one of its guiding principles the value of involving everyone in an organization in the process of change and decision making. By involving the whole system, we open the door to possibilities and ideas that are far better than what one leader can produce, even if he or she is very experienced and wise.

Morris: Here’s a brief excerpt from Paul Shoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?‘ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?'” Your response?

Shaked: I haven’t read the book but I certainly like the quote. You know, we are always experimenting with different things. What makes one experiment a success and one a mistake is only the label we and others put on it. In my view, every experiment is a process of discovery and learning, and as such can’t be a mistake—even if we conclude we do not wish to repeat or expand the experiment. The evaluation of the experiment and the judgment we make based on it is what can potentially make it seem like a mistake. Can we learn to lighten up as well as slow down our quick judgment of the experiment—we always learn what DID work in the experiment even if it didn’t deliver the hoped-for result. Changing how we evaluate our experiments would give us many useful insights as a result and thus help move us forward!

Morris: In your opinion, why do so many C-level executives seem to have such a difficult time delegating work to others?

Shaked: From my experience, I’d say the successful leaders I have met have always been very good at delegating. I suppose difficulty in delegating stems from two reasons:

o A belief that may (or may not be) false that others will not be able to complete the task as well as the leader can.

o A second belief that keeping something to oneself means having full control over it, and that delegation means loss of that control.

With regard to the first, I think that, in general, we are far more aware of other people’s weaknesses and shortcomings, rather than their strengths. Because of that awareness we believe they will not be able to complete the tasks we delegate as well as we would like them to be completed. However, what if we knew the strengths of the people around us as well as we know their weaknesses, or even better? Could we delegate the work that needs to be done to the person with the best matching strengths? Wouldn’t it ensure the task is completed even better than if we did it? It would free us to use our strengths on other tasks that are better aligned with them.

And as for the second belief, I think that control is generally an illusion…if not a delusion. We tell ourselves that we have control, but if we operate in the rapidly changing world of today, we have little control anyway. Things change all the time!

Morris: The greatest leaders throughout history (with rare exception) were great storytellers. What do you make of that?

Shaked: Stories form our understanding of the reality around us and the risks or possibilities in the future. Stories engage and motivate more than anything else. Stories, both formal and informal, influence the conversations everyone in the organization is holding, and that alone can influence the results we achieve!

And by the way, even attractive presentations or carefully constructed spreadsheets, which are commonly used in defining and agreeing ways forward, also represent a story more than anything else!

Morris: Most change initiatives either fail or fall far short of original (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. More often than not, resistance is cultural in nature, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

Here’s my question: How best to avoid or overcome such resistance?

Shaked: One of Meg Wheatley’s principles for healthy communities comes to mind—People support what they create! Resistance is often a result of not being involved in the formation of the selected way forward. When someone else (the leadership, an expert, an external consultant) has thought through and decided what “should be done” without involving others who might be affected or required to implement it, they are likely to resist the ideas regardless of whether they are good or not.

Morris: In recent years, there has been criticism, sometimes severe criticism of M.B.A. programs, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Any suggestions?

Shaked: I myself graduated from one of the top M.B.A. programs in the US (the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin). I have huge appreciation and a deep sense of gratitude to the program, the knowledge, and experiences it gave me, the teaching staff, and those who completed it with me. I had several life- and career-enhancing experiences throughout my time in the program. I do think there is a value in M.B.A. education, but perhaps it is not for everyone in organizations—and it is certainly not a pre-requisite for success in business.

A few years, ago after practicing strength-based approaches to learning and change for several years, I went through my old M.B.A. books and materials, and realized that almost 95% of the tools, models and thinking frameworks we covered as well as the lectures, conversations, and analysis we completed were focused on the deficits and the problems in the business situations we studied. In each business case, we focused our attentions on the “weaknesses,” the “threats”, the “competitors advances,” the “decline in market shares/margins,” “inefficiencies” etc. We studied and discussed them with great detail and tried to identify their root causes as well as potential solutions. We allocated so little of our time, attention, and energy to discovering, studying, and building upon the stronger sides (however few they might have been) in each situation!

I am now convinced, based on years of experience, that the best and fastest way forward for individuals, teams, and organizations is in inquiring into their strengths, their best achievements, what they value most, and what possibilities lie ahead. These inquiries bring up rich and extremely useful data that can be used to build a quicker, more creative, engaging, and certainly more confident way forward.

Morris: Looking ahead (let’s say) 3-5 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge that CEOs will face? Any Advice?

Shaked: In my view, one of the greatest challenges will definitely be the need to shift from a culture that focuses on solving problems through methodical analysis and carefully planned implementations by a few “experts” or leaders to the enabling of a culture of rapid co-creation. This culture is when communities within organizations self-organize as much as possible on a regular basis to create the next steps of improvement and change for the organization and engage in rapid processes of innovation and agile execution using everyone’s strengths. This would mean we see many more employees fully engaged with their jobs and experiencing the state of mind of “flow” as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Morris: Now please shift your attention to Strength-based Lean Six Sigma. When and why did you decide to write it?

Shaked: In 2007, when I first learned about Appreciative Inquiry, I found myself torn between two seemingly different worlds. While I knew how to solve problems methodically by the traditional approaches of Lean and Six Sigma, I could also see how the positive approach of AI unleashed an enormous potential within organizations. My big question at that stage was how to integrate this fantastic new approach with everything I had been doing before. At that stage, I felt that my work with Six Sigma and Lean thinking was “bad” and that AI was “good.” I felt I had to throw away everything I had learned and experienced until then and re-start a new learning journey. All my experience to date seemed to fundamentally clash in style, language, process, and logic with AI.

It took about a year (as well as learning another strength-based approach to change called Solution-Focus coaching) for me to gain some breakthroughs in thinking and in practice. I experimented with the strength-based approaches to process improvement, inventing tools, processes, and principles as a result and discovering what worked and what didn’t.

I was at an AI conference in 2009 and for the first time noticed the keen interest in the topic by others. It promoted me to start a LinkedIn community for it called “strength-based lean six sigma”. I used it to share what I was experimenting with and to ask for ideas, advice, and suggestions. After a while I realized that I was learning a lot and that there was definitely an interest in this new approach, and in early 2011, I started contacting publishers to explore the possibility of publishing a book on this topic.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Shaked: Actually it followed the flow I had envisioned for it from the beginning. In a brilliant moment of inspiration, I had decided to follow the 5D framework from Appreciative Inquiry as the guide for my writing. The 5D’s are: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, and Deliver. When I thought about using this framework as a guide, I wasn’t sure if I would have chapters to write under each one of them but slowly and surely, I was able to complete all the writing for each part and these 5D’s formed the structure of the book.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as [begin italics] the most important point [end italics] or [begin italics] key take-away [end italics] in each of several passages.

First, The single greatest benefit of the strengths-based approach (Pages 4-5)

Shaked: There are many benefits from the strengths-based approach but if I had to pick one, it would definitely be the sustainable engagement we can achieve. This is particularly challenging to achieve with the classic approach to Lean or Six Sigma.

Morris: The greatest barrier to coordinating Six Sigma with Lean Thinking (17-20)

Shaked: I personally didn’t experience any barriers when I coordinated my own use of Lean and Six Sigma but it is possible to overwhelm people with the many tools that are available in the combined tool box—so much so that they can forget the actual purpose of using Lean and Six Sigma, which is to drive greater efficiency and quality.

Morris: How to determine which of the three strengths-based approaches to take (24-31)

Shaked: Each one of the three strengths-based approaches mentioned in the pages of my book is useful in different situations. They are all worth learning about, for sure!

My own experience is that Appreciative Inquiry is particularly useful as a way to involve the whole system in creating an attractive shared vision for the situation we wish to improve, while Solution-Focus coaching and Positive Deviance are more useful to help us move forward. However, different practitioners may feel more comfortable with one approach or another so my best suggestion is to follow the approach that seems more attractive to you in the moment.

Morris: Why it is so important to appreciate all of one’s skills and building bridges between [and among] them (41-45)

Shaked: The process of discovering all of one’s strengths, skills, best experiences, and existing knowledge and of building bridges between them is called the discovery of the “positive core”. When we recognize this positive core and use it as the key building block toward a better future, we have a far greater chance of innovating and delivering outstanding results. When we use this process with a group or a whole organization we can truly surprise ourselves!

Morris: The strategic objective of Appreciative Inquiry (47-51)

Shaked: Appreciative Inquiry (or AI) is based on the classic action–research framework which is at the heart of most of the change frameworks which will be familiar to many readers. However, the distinct difference is in focusing the inquiry on strengths, best moments of success, what is valued by everyone, and what is generative and helps us move forward. This different focus of inquiry enables us to create newness out of a stronger platform and to transition toward it much more easily.

Morris: The defining characteristics of Solution Focus coaching (51-55)

Shaked: There are three defining principles to Solution-Focus coaching. They are mentioned in my book as well as in many other excellent books about SF. For me personally, the second principle, “Find what works and do more of it,” is most important. How often do we focus our attention and energy on finding what isn’t working well and in understanding it thoroughly? When do we actually stop to notice what works well even in the most challenging situations?? The clues to success and to better results are normally right there in front of us, but we need to train ourselves to notice them.

Morris: Major do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when introducing the Appreciative Inquiry principles (64-66)

Shaked: It is well proven that adults learn best through experience rather than through presentations or lecture. Therefore, when I introduce the principles, I do so through experiences and stories rather than by simply “explaining” them. Also, I prefer to do so after people have had an experience of the AI process or unique questions.

Morris: Of all the other principles to consider from Solution Focus and Positive Deviance, and their meaning to Six Sigma, which seem(s) to be most effective? (69-70)

Shaked: From my point of view, principle #3 is most effective. It states that “Detailed understanding of the ‘problem’ is usually of little help in arriving at the solution. The direct route to problem solving lies in identifying what is going on when the problem does not happen.”

This is almost the exact opposite of what the classic practice of Six Sigma has taught us for years and best of all, I can say from experience that it works! And it works quickly!!

Morris: Exploring the best of Six Sigma (74-78)

Shaked: I wrote this section to help readers who are well familiar and comfortable with Lean Six Sigma discover their own unique “positive core” (which I spoke about earlier). By doing so, they can identify what is working well for them in their current practice of Lean or Six Sigma and use that as a building block together with what they discover (and like) about strengths-based approaches to change.

Morris: What to keep in mind when exploring the best of Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus and Positive Deviance (78-81)

Shaked: In my view, the best of Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus and Positive Deviance is in how they shift our attention completely from the weaker parts of our reality to the stronger parts and then help us understand those parts better and make a greater use of them. AI, SF and PD are different approaches: each has its unique processes and tools, but they all help us shift our attention. This shift creates possibilities, and possibilities help us think more calmly. It also helps generate the energy we need in order to change ourselves as much as our systems and processes.

Morris: How best to define Strengths-based Lean Six Sigma (91-93)

Shaked: In my book, I deliberately chose not to provide a “water-tight” definition. Instead, I provided several characteristics of Strength-based Lean Six Sigma. This is because I believe this approach is still emerging and shaping itself. It is also because I believe in Social Construction (one of the principles behind AI) which means that we continuously shape our reality and understanding of everything around us based on the conversations we have. Therefore, the characteristics I provided are intended to stoke a conversation in the readers’ minds and between readers.

Saying that, to me personally, the easiest way to define Strength-based Lean Six Sigma is “process improvement through building on what works in our processes rather than on shrinking what doesn’t.”

Morris: Key assumptions to reconsider shifting to a new paradigm (100-103)

Shaked: One of the key assumptions that has guided the practice of business improvement for many years, and is also at the heart of the classic practice of Lean and Six Sigma, is the assumption that organizations and their processes are full of problems to be identified and solved. I certainly operated under this assumption for many years, but through the experiences I gained with the strength-based practices I started shifting to a different assumption! I now believe that organizations and their processes are full of interesting (often well-hidden) and surprising insights, accumulated knowledge and possibilities for endless learning and growth. When I approach a new client organization with their processes, I bring with me this new mindset—it makes my work with them a lot more engaging, easier and fulfilling!

Morris: How to apply strengths-based thinking to scorecards — a few pointers (108-112)

Shaked: I have had years of experience driving the use of scorecards and performance metrics in various organizations. I wish I had known then what I know now. It is so easy to introduce a strengths-based approach to the conversations we hold when we select the key metrics, create our dashboards and review them. They can instantly shift everyone’s attention to more constructive conversation rather than beat someone up for poor results or lose energy because we see too many “red” performance metrics. For example, how well do you understand what is happening with your green metrics? What enabled the good performance? What can you learn that would be useful elsewhere? Also, with regard to low performance and red metrics, are there situations where the problem does not exist (or is less severe?) What happens there? Who is involved? What are they doing that is different??

Morris: Which of the Strengths-based Lean Six Sigma Tools seems to be most difficult to master? Why (127-140)

Shaked: Actually, in the book I deliberately selected some of the easiest tools to use and master as I knew they are widely used and well-recognized by many. Those who are used to these tools in their classic (deficit-focused) version might be challenged by the complete shift in the direction of inquiry and the type of questions I use in the strengths-based version. It requires a bit of practice but I am sure they will notice the usefulness of these fresh questions. I also hope they will not feel tempted to add some of the classic deficit-based questions, as this immediately kills the energy and creative thinking that was enabled by using the new questions.

Remember—the strengths-based approach does not advocate ignoring problems but rather approaching them from a different angle.

Morris: You assert that the Strengths-based Lean Six Sigma Process is a classic frameworks with a fresh twist. Please explain the reference to “fresh twist.” (141-153)

Shaked: In this chapter I wanted to demonstrate that many of the processes we are familiar with from Lean and Six Sigma (such as DMAIC and PDCA) can still be used, provided we shift the focus of inquiry and learning onto the healthier parts of our processes and operations. This shift is the twist I am talking about. On the one hand we continue to use the tools and processes we and others are comfortable with, but the different strengths-based focus makes the whole experience more engaging, creative, and lighter!

Morris: By what process can “strengths-focused eyes” best be developed? (167-171)

Shaked: If we are able to accept that every situation we face as process- and business-improvement practitioners is different, and are willing to adopt a stand of “not knowing,” we open the possibility to notice new things rather than automatically apply what worked before. In this new space, we can train ourselves to notice what is working well, in addition to, noticing the weaknesses. Once we’ve noticed what is working well (or not as bad!), we can start a completely new and much more strengths-based dialog, which on its own has the ability to start the change we wish to see.

How best to define the topic of inquiry (185-191)

Shaked: Make sure that the topics you choose to focus on describe by as many people in the organization as possible what is wanted rather than what isn’t wanted. So for example, rather than focus on reducing service problems, focus on expanding great service!

Often the conversations I hold with clients start with them describing, in detail, the problems they wish to solve. After all, they have probably spent great time and effort in identifying the problem and understanding it before approaching me. However, the problem description often focuses on everything that isn’t wanted! As I listen, I try to identify cues as to what they want to have. And if I don’t notice any cues, I acknowledge everything I heard as being the problem, and then ask what do they want in place of what they have.

Morris: Let’s say that a CEO has read and then (hopefully) re-read Strength-based Lean Six Sigma and is now determined to establish or strengthen a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. How can strength-based Six Sigma help to achieve that? Where to begin?

I would be delighted and honored to know that CEOs have read and re-read my book, and as a result are inspired to enable a culture of personal growth and professional development.

The best place for the CEO to begin is to understand that what he or she chooses to focus on grows, and therefore start by asking his leadership team and everyone they interact with across the organization about their best moments and highest performance. The more we focus our inquiry on great moments of performance, the more everyone’s attention shifts to creating even greater performance!

Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in Strength-based Lean Six Sigma, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Please explain.

Shaked: My experience of working with both large and small companies has shown me that the small companies often seek to learn from practices, process, systems, and tools that were developed elsewhere (often by larger corporations or external experts). Sometimes it is because they feel that the answer to their current challenges and the gaps they are facing can be found elsewhere. But actually, the best source for useful ideas lies in understanding and tapping onto the knowledge that already exists in their companies. Every day, some of the people in the organization produce outstanding and surprising results! Often they do so despite having very little in the way of resources or sophisticated systems and equipment. Rather than sourcing expensive “knowledge from elsewhere”, the owners and CEOs of smaller companies can learn how to inquire into the strengths lying within their own organizations.

Morris: Which question had you hoped to be asked during this interview—but weren’t—and what is your response to it?

Shaked: Bob, I think you have done a great job in spotting the key topics in the book, and in your choice of questions. I enjoyed reflecting on and responding to them. I hope that your blog followers enjoy reading the interview and that it inspires them to think differently about their Lean and Six Sigma work so far. If they are curious and tempted to check out the book or get in touch with me that would be great!

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David cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

My website

My Strength-based Lean Six Sigma LinkedIn group I established for this topic is called “Strength-based Lean Six Sigma”

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