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Six Sigma and Change Management – What to Do and What to Avoid

February 23, 2008 | Author: admin | Filed under: Careers,Workplace Communication

Getting people to support Six Sigma can be challenging. However, if you are a leader or consultant trained in Six Sigma, you probably believe in that process. And that excitement may make it difficult to grasp why others might not be so wild about it. In my experience, the people who do the best job building support for Six Sigma understand people – and how they react to change — as well as they understand the technology.

Here are some ideas and access to resources that can help in your planning.

First, you’ve got to understand why people might support – or why they might resist – Six Sigma. I’ve identified three reasons why people resist (or support) change. Level 1: I don’t get it. People simply don’t understand what this Six Sigma stuff is all about. Level 2: I don’t like it. This is based on fear. And cannot be ignored. Level 3: I don’t like you. At this level people don’t have trust or confidence in the people leading them.

Then, ask yourself, where are the stakeholders with regard to the three levels? That exercise alone should start to give you ideas of where you need to focus your attention.

Let’s say you need to show people that it makes sense to measure quality out to the sixth standard deviation. Take a look at the articles that show you how to make a compelling case for change.

Maybe you need some way to get started. You can’t do much better than Kaizen events. However, let’s say you are more inclined to create your own format for getting people moving forward, then you need to think seriously about who you want to involve and how you want to include them in the process? In other words, your planning, can’t be focused just on Level 1 issues. You must attend to the emotional (fear versus excitement) and people’s level of confidence in leaders.

Holding an event – deciding where to focus, setting targets, and so forth – can be exciting. It can make you believe that success is inevitable. Ah, if it were only so simple. You still need to do things to keep the process alive so you get real tangible results for all that effort. Too often, leaders shift their attention to other projects, only to see all the work that went into that Kaizen event go down the drain.

And sometimes, the unexpected happens and the train starts to derail – and you’ve got to do something to get the process back on track. During these times, it is especially important to pay attention to the people. It is too easy to pile on the specs and hope that turns things around. That seldom works. Things derail for a reason. And often understanding resistance is key to getting back on track.

You can access many free articles and tools on applying these ideas on all manner of organizational change including Six Sigma projects. And be sure to read my article, Resistance to change – Why It Matters and What to Do About It.

Good luck with Six Sigma in your organization.

Rick Maurer is an advisor to organizations on ways to lead major changes effectively. His Change without Migraines approach is being applied in organizations as diverse as aerospace, healthcare, chemicals, financial services, and non-profits. His website includes many free resources on leading change: . And his blog is


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