In July 12, 1854 George Eastman was born and in 1888 he gave birth to a brand called ‘Kodak’ that went to become a household brand in every part of the world. Yet in the year 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We don’t know how George Eastman would have reacted to this, but many of us regretfully miss the Kodak moments. Many prominent brands such as Nokia, Compaq, Motorola, HP, Xerox, Lucent, GM, IBM, JC Penny are fighting the battle of survival successfully or otherwise. One can associate technological disruptions, shrinking economies, flat world, etc. as the real culprits. On the other hand Apple, Google, Amazon and many others seem to have mastered the trick of survival and, are growing multi-fold.
Today’s reality is that, every institution, immaterial of their scale, be it private sector, government or non-profit is fighting the same battle. They are constantly challenged to evolve and become fit for the future. If they don’t, they perish. It’s like Darwin’s theory of evolution for institutions. Don’t be quick to associate an institution’s strategy to its success. As Peter Drucker put it “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”. Leaders define an institution’s culture and ironically that very same culture creates the leaders!
Let’s set aside culture for a while and examine what does all this mean to us as employees, managers and budding leaders?
If you take a closer look at your job description, you will notice two kinds of goals – First is to ‘Run the Business’ and the next is to ‘Change the Business’. ‘Run the Business’ means mundane stuff that all of us dread, but we don’t have a choice, we need to keep the mill rolling, such as maintaining desired production levels, meeting service levels, quality levels, etc.
On the other hand, ‘Change the Business’, involves achieving a new level of performance by challenging the status-quo, eliminating the bottlenecks, evolving newer ways of doing things, etc., such as taking production, service levels, and quality to new heights.
To drive such changes a new set of skills are needed which are much broader than mere domain/core knowledge you may already posses in Financial Management, Manufacturing, Engineering, Software Development, Technology, etc.
It is also not about learning few creativity & analytical tools, but it’s about acquiring change management & leadership attributes, as best ideas will never solve a problem, until they are widely accepted by all stakeholders.
Organizations hire you for your Qualification and/or past experience, but their will reward, recognize and promote only when you directly contribute to their strategic change priorities and goals.
As institutions constantly fight this battle of survival, they choose reward and recognize employees who can change their business, because by doing so you can make your institution (and yourself) future fit!
The good news is, there are structured methods, tools and techniques of managerial excellence to ‘Change the Business’ and can be acquired with little effort.
Lean Six Sigma is one such proven philosophy & tool which helped institutions like GE, Ford, Bank of America, Amazon, Boeing, Dell, Motorola, 3M, US Army, US Marine Corps, Caterpillar, National Kidney Foundation, etc. to transform and become future fit.
Thus organizations are constantly looking for professionals who understand and know how to apply Lean Six Sigma methods in real life business. It supplements your core strengths and acts like a booster. Further, Lean Six Sigma is an industry antagonistic skill and hence it doubles the opportunity of cross-industry employment.
Institutions that use Lean Six Sigma as a tool to set right their culture have largely benefited in driving the following behaviors of managerial excellence in their employees:
‘When a customer asks for a drill, all he wants is a hole”.
Managers who understand customer’s environment are the ones who unearth and fulfill their needs in the best possible way. Lean Six Sigma methodology introduces you to an array of tools that help in capturing the real needs of customers, prioritizing, designing products/services and, further to align people and processes.
Not only individuals but also organizations are slaves of their paradigm. Lean Six Sigma teaches you tools to mercilessly challenge every practice of your organization. As a manager, you will learn to imbibe the traits that will constantly evolve your processes and make them world-class.
Have you heard of 1-10-100 rule. If a customer receives a defective product or experiences poor service, it costs you Rs.100 on account of returns, service recovery, scrap, legal complications (if customer resorts to legal recourse), increased marketing expenses to cope with brand damage, etc.
On the other hand, when your quality inspector catches this defect before it is shipped to the customer, then it will cost you Rs.10 on account of rework, scrap, and quality inspection.
But if you provide the product/service right the first time, it will just cost you only Re.1!
So, doing things right the first time pays off. Lean Six Sigma provides several techniques to make this happen in your organization.
‘Fire Service saves our lives, but fire-fighting in office kills us’
Most of us are forced to spend sleepless nights to ensure the organization stays afloat and process continues to tick with the clock.
No scientific analysis is needed to prove that most of the fire-fighting is preventable.
Lean Six Sigma drives a culture through structured methods and tools to go to the root of the problems and fix them forever rather than muddling in a heap of corrective actions.
Even the biggest of the organizations in the world, have resource constraints.
In Japanese, ‘Muda’ means waste. The key to effective cost management isn’t efficient cost cutting, rather carefully weed off ‘Muda’ (process wastes) in the system. Organizations such as Toyota, TVS Group, Maruti Suzuki, and Bajaj have been big proponents of Lean methodology in India.
Only when Prince Siddhartha came down from his ivory tower to the streets of his kingdom to find his people starving, ailing and dying did he attain enlightenment.
In Lean Six Sigma, ‘Gemba’ means the real place of work. By learning the structured and methodical way of visiting one’s gemba regularly, leaders can understand the ground reality and take quick actions to drive excellence, which otherwise consumes months of rigorous and tedious data analysis and several board room reviews.
In order to lead & retain great talent, rather than relying on your intuition and gut, you should use data to differentiate good and not so good performers. Six Sigma institutionalizes practices to measure & manage performances of processes and people by monitoring leading indicators instead of lagging business indicators.
Data also directly impacts your ability to communicate crisply, candidly, with greater confidence and conviction.
Presence of data also reduces the time you spend in fixing things, which, in turn can be used to build emotional connect and better relationship with your team.
As Tom Peters puts it “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence instead they believe in constant improvement and constant change”
Embarking on a journey of excellence for an organization and an individual isn’t about envisioning, it’s more about equipping managers with right methods, tools and techniques, thereby fostering the right culture!