David Shaked on “Guiding Principles of Change for Process Improvement”

ShakedIn Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma: Building Positive and Engaging Business Improvement, David Shaked explains how and why one approach to Lean Six Sigma “is more natural to work with and more sustainable in the long run.”

He provides an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that will help almost anyone build positive and engaging business improvement. He organizes his material within five Parts whose titles correctly suggest an on-going process that begins with “Define” and (in terms of the book’s narrative) concludes with “Deliver/Destiny.” Here is what he has to say about what differentiates the strengths-based Lean Six Sigma approach to process improvement:

“Instead of focusing on what is broken and inefficient [e.g. first pass yield, cycle time], it helps management and staff identify what is already working efficiently and generates value in existing processes and systems (this is called ‘strength focus’.) They then define ways to grow and expand those parts and implement good practices elsewhere. This focus on the search for and growth of existing efficiency enables new ideas to emerge and supports implementation of process improvements by raising confidence and energy levels.” This approach “is more natural to work with and more sustainable in the long term. The deficit focus of traditional Lean tends to weaken the system — even when it is successful — because it instills doubt and despair by giving unbalanced attention to waste and by amplifying inefficiencies.”

Here are three of several guiding principles of change for process improvement:

1. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Creating a “platform for change” by engaging everyone involved around a shared definition of what is actually desired, what the situation will be once the problem is solved ort the question is answered, and what the benefits of that will be is the approach to take.

2. Find what works and do more of it. Finding what works requires us to focus our attention: to look for and inquire into what works in the given situation. Not knowing (or assuming) what must be done and remaining curious about finding clues is the easiest way to see the way forward. What is important is not the tools: it’s the mindset.

3. “Make things as simple as possible but not simpler.” (Albert Einstein) Use simple language that describes ideas, situations, and options. Avoid jargon. Einstein also said, If you cannot explain your great idea to a six-year old, you really don’t understand it.” Make best use of resources that you have instead of complaining about what you don’t have. Finding and taking the smallest, simplest step forward can be a great way to create momentum and increase buy-in. Pick all the low-hanging fruit.

Years of involvement with process improvement initiatives have convinced me that the success of Lean Six Sigma programs depends almost entirely on asking and then answering the right questions about the right problems that, in turn, suggest the right opportunities. Hence the critical importance of developing the right mindset that can — and will — “see” what otherwise may not be recognized, a mindset capable of then making correct decisions about what to do as well as what not to do.

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David Shaked is an independent consultant – a positive change leader for individuals, teams and organisations. He is a practitioner and teacher of several strength-based approaches to change (such as Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus Coaching and Positive Deviance), as well as Lean and Six Sigma. David has also been practising Lean Thinking and Six Sigma for over 15 years. He is a certified Master Black Belt.

In Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma, he presents an innovative and unique approach to Lean Six Sigma. An approach that combines the leading approaches to business improvement with the latest developments from the world of organisational change. It blends the rigor of process improvement through Lean Six Sigma with the energy, creativity and commitment released through strength-based change. This blended approach helps build a much more positive, engaging and ultimately more sustainable culture of continuous improvement.

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