Case #2: Making Lean “stick” as a way of life

The Challenge

The CEO of a high tech engineering company was frustrated because his company’s Lean Six Sigma efforts weren’t producing acceptable results, nor were they sustainable.

Many Lean Six Sigma efforts focus on measures, formulas, mechanics, housekeeping and moving machines and work stations around—the hard side of business.  What they often exclude is the people factor and the cultural shifts that are needed to grow the business and sustain improvements, the soft side of business.

The Discovery and Solution

We conducted a two-day assessment in one of the company’s large operations.  The leaders were saddled with 15 key performance indicators, hardly the number that would exhibit a clear set of priorities.  Almost no efforts had been made to listen to and involve employees in the Lean Six Sig effort other than to tell them what to do and when. Other people-related systems were out of sync with Lean Six Sigma. The continuous improvement communication process was disjointed and ineffective.

We helped the leaders reduce the number of key performance indicators from 15 to the four that would most drive the business. We established a disciplined and coordinated scoreboard and huddle process that focused on improving safety, quality, delivery and productivity every day. We taught front line supervisors how to conduct root cause analysis and problem solving session within their 10 minute huddles. And employees designed a recognition effort that celebrated teams and individuals when they hit specific performance goals.

The Result

In about eight months, on-time delivery went up from 70-95 percent, quality improved 40 percent, productivity went up 10 percent and sales increased 30 percent. The operation’s integrated hard-soft approach to Lean Six Sigma became a showcase for the company. We helped the company create a series of learning modules around our work so it could replicate the approach throughout the world.