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How much Lean Six Sigma do Executives and Senior Management need to understand?

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

Lean and Six Sigma tend to be fairly well understood and even practiced across many industries around the world. Whereby Lean focuses on the importance of stability through the elimination of waste and setting standards, Six Sigma tends to focus on pushing capability through data analysis and statistics.

But what role do Executives and Senior Management play in this improvement journey? In many cases, the reality is they occupy a very passive role, not fully understanding the processes and expectations of such improvement efforts. There is a minimum level of understanding that is required in order to make sure one can ask the right questions and encourage the success of these initiatives.

In this post, we’ll define what those minimum “elements” should be to better understand Lean Six Sigma and drive successful improvement initiatives in your company.

What is Lean and Six Sigma?

So how much Lean Six Sigma do Executives and Senior Management need to understand? Essentially, enough to be able to ask the right questions at the start, middle, and end of the initiative. This includes not only the elements of Lean and Six Sigma but also more fundamental management principles to guide the individual initiatives as well as the overall improvement program in your organization.

Why is Lean Six Sigma for Senior Executives and Management Important?

In a nutshell, organizations spend a lot of money training, delivering, and executing improvement initiatives. For instance, it is very common for various forms of Lean and Six Sigma training to take 1-5 weeks, whereby the participant not only learns the theory but puts elements into practice through their first project. In addition, each project can take several weeks to several months depending on the complexity and magnitude of the problem (or opportunity).

It is therefore very important for the senior level of an organization to be able to at least relate to the approach in which their employees will be embarking. But why is it important? Why not just trust the process? The captain of an airline or a ship does not necessarily need to understand how motors function, but definitely needs to understand how everything fits together if the voyage is to be successful and safe!

There is a minimum amount of knowledge that senior executives and management need to have in order to successfully guide their organization through cost-effective and results-oriented improvement initiatives. Obviously, it is not required for this level of an organization to go to the depths of an improvement practioner, but the equivalent of 1-3 days of training is a reasonable level to successfully guide their organization in this journey.

5 Key Components for Senior Executives and Management Training

1. Introduction to Lean: A focus on the key elements of Lean, primarily surrounding the concept of value, waste identification/elimination, 5S, and Kaizen improvement events.

2. Six Sigma: A journey through the 5 key stages of a successful project; Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

3. Management Fundamentals: As part of any successful management system, an understanding of 4 key areas; Deploy, Achieve, Monitor, Stability, Capability.

4. Social Leadership: This section is often referred to as Emotional Intelligence or Soft Skills. Regardless, touches on those key aspects to promote the success of the individual and the initiative. This includes Influence and Communication.

5. Change Management: Although there are many different approaches and theories surrounding Change Management, the idea here is to extract some of the fundamental elements and ensure it is part of any major undertaking.

Tips and Reminders

Whether an organization is considering rolling out a new Improvement Program or is already in the midst of such a program, it is very important that the Senior Executives and Management level of an organization are an important part of the journey. They need to be the cheerleaders, gatekeepers, and conscience of the organization throughout this journey.

And the only way to accomplish that is if they have at least a fundamental understanding of those critical aspects and language to converse and ask the right questions.

Please invest the time and money to make sure your senior-level not only understand but can ask the right questions, show buy-in, and demonstrate that they also have skin in the game!

If you would like to know more about Lean Six Sigma Senior Management and Executive training, please contact A+I team.

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