Engaging Senior Management: Deployment Champion
Author: Russ Aikman
Posted: January 2017
TMAC hosted a LSS Deployment Champion Symposium for our customers on November 16-17, 2016. Champions and senior managers from nine different companies participated in the symposium, representing industries ranging from food & beverage and logistics to jewelry-making, retail, building products, aerospace, energy, and healthcare. Despite the variety – or perhaps because of it – participants freely shared both successes achieved and barriers ahead for their Lean Six Sigma Programs.
We explored several key challenges which all Deployment Champions face. Regardless of industry or size of the deployment one over-arching challenge for many Champions is: How to engage senior management? Before answering that question let me be clear on three things: Champions are the individuals in charge of coordinating a LSS Program. Their responsibilities include: scheduling training, selecting projects, identifying GB & BB candidates, tracking results, etc. In general, senior management refers to anyone who is a senior vice president level or above. This typically includes the president, CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, etc. and is sometimes referred to as the ELT – Executive Leadership Team. For smaller firms it would include the business owner.
What is meant by engagement? First, it is not limited to such high-level tasks as setting policy, reviewing annual plans and approving program funding. These are important activities but real engagement requires a more active role and includes:
- Lead by example with a clear, consistent message
- Communicate the ‘burning platform’ (Why do we need to change?)
- Establish how LSS will become ‘business as usual’
- Hold the organization – and themselves – accountable
- Participation in steering committee activities, including project selection & prioritization
- Participation in team activities such as kaizen events and gate reviews
- Participation in rewards and recognition activities
- Selecting the best and brightest individuals for key roles in the LSS Program
- Promoting LSS, especially how it will help achieve strategic objectives
Engaging with senior leaders can be addressed at the project level – through Green Belts or Black Belts, or even better, the Project Sponsor. But in general the best practice is to leverage the LSS Deployment Champion to engage the ELT. In some ways, this responsibility is the single most important one for champions because it sets up all other activities they perform.
As part of the symposium in November we had champions from two of the programs discuss their process for engaging senior leadership. Here is a summary of their presentations:
- Interstate Batteries – Will McDade: Although the LSS Program at IBSA is somewhat new (started in 2015) Will previously led the program at Dr Pepper for several years.
- Set breakthrough goals – Choose an area where success is likely, make sure senior management participates so they experience it firsthand; Will is a big proponent of the kaizen approach, and emphasized such experiential activities as key to success. He also stressed the importance of setting stretch goals.
- Identify key influencers to informally drive change – Not necessarily ELT members, but those individuals who are respected; Examples include: Plant managers, department managers, sales managers, senior engineers, etc.
- Communicate early wins – Track results and use both formal & informal channels to communicate outcomes; ‘bang the drum’ for LSS often
- Win over or remove blockers over time – Most ‘doubters’ will support the LSS program once success occurs. For others, get them involved in projects directly OR through the incentive program; As a last resort, remove those blockers from the process
- USG Corporation – Deb Maki : The LSS Program at USG started in 2010 and Deb serves as one of their champions who oversees LSS in Distribution. Other champions include Scott Feste (Corporate) and Tim Blubaugh (Operations).
- Align corporate goals with plant and individual goals – Flow down the goals using the hoshin kanri model (AKA Goal Deployment), including goals for GBs & BBs
- Track projects carefully – Establish a dashboard for champions and senior management to review projects using a consistent, standard process
- Set up regular communication sessions at each level – Establish meeting cadence :
- MBBs – Weekly meetings with belts, monthly meetings with plant managers
- Champions – Weekly meetings with MBBs, identify projects/areas of need
- Senior Managers – Monthly meetings with Champions, communicate needs
- Establish and share key reports – Document project status, use visual management for projects, belts, and facilities (red/yellow/green); Make sure finance validates results
Each firm is different, and it is important to develop your own approach to engagement. But active, hands-on involvement was mentioned by multiple champions as a key to success.
Interested in learning more about the Deployment Champion Symposium or our LSS Sponsor & Champions Workshop? Please contact us for details.
More about Russ Aikman:
Russ is the LSS Program Manager at TMAC, and started the program in 2003. He is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 30 years of experience working in a wide variety of industries, and with small firms up to Fortune 500 companies. He has taught dozens of LSS classes from Yellow Belt up to Master Black Belt. He has also coached hundreds of LSS practitioners on their projects and advised managers on their LSS program. Before joining TMAC he worked at George Group, the first firm to integrate Lean and Six Sigma.