“We have a problem with several significant projects and we need your input,” said a senior executive in Supply Chain at one of our large clients. He had called the meeting with his HR Director and Quest to get to the bottom line on what was keeping their teams from accomplishing their assignments.
“Nothing happens,” they stated. “Every time one of our managers assigns a project, to a team of people, they can’t seem to get anything done. These are all long-time employees, all (Six Sigma) green belt certified, yet they aren’t able to use the Six Sigma tools. ”
In discussing the situation further, we learned that the team members were great at “executing” (getting the product out the door), but typically had never been involved in process improvement, problem-solving, and making decisions.
Basically, now that they were being asked for new ideas, to move ahead without someone telling them what to do, how to do it and when, they were at a loss. It was apparent we needed to teach some additional skills to augment their Six Sigma learning. And in a hurry, if they were to complete their projects in the four months allotted. Because of the urgency of the projects, the client insisted we start immediately!
The challenge was:
- getting these employees focused and involved in these projects;
- teaching them the necessary teamwork and problem-solving skills;
- providing coaching on their projects and progress; and
- finding them the time to work on these projects, without negatively impacting their operations!
Our approach was to appropriately involve all the Stakeholders in a three month “educational intervention.”
The senior leaders prepared a Scope for each project, assigned each of the 80 employees to a project team, and served as Coaches to the project teams, agreeing to meet with each team at certain milestones.
The company’s Black Belt Instructors presented an 8-hour, green belt refresher course to include the Six Sigma process and the key tools and served as consultants to the teams.
The employees were divided into 16 teams of from three to six members and participated in a 40-hour, action-learning program where they learned the skills they needed and applied them directly to their “live” assigned project.
The Quest Consultants organized the effort and provided instruction to the teams in teamwork, problem-solving in teams, innovation, planning and implementing change, and presentation skills. They also reviewed the critical skills of “coaching teams” with the leaders.
The results spoke volumes for this approach and the need to provide these project leadership skills for Six Sigma teams. At the end of 10 weeks, each team presented their analysis and recommendations to their peers and the company leaders. A number of the solutions are already being implemented and numerous money saving and process improvement efforts are underway.
The leaders agreed that more progress had been made, and more great ideas surfaced, then they imagined possible in such a short time.
In conclusion the training in Six Sigma alone does not provide the full range of skills and experiences required for teams to handle the complexities of leading projects. An action learning approach, using significant projects, with leaders serving as Coaches, enables all Stakeholders to be successful in a Six Sigma environment.