Six Sigma and Change Management

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Improvement project always lead to some change.  You cannot improve something by maintaining the status quo. People don’t like change, people like status quo. If anything changes people get disturbed. As a Six Sigma project leader, you need to understand how to manage change. Your ability to management change will decide the success or the failure of all the work which you have done.

A. Change Management Models

1. Lewin’s Model

As per Lewin’s model, if you need to change something, you need to unfreeze it, make the change, and then refreeze it.

Unfreeze means accepting the fact that the change is needed and make people ready for the change.

The next step is to actually make the required changes. Make sure that stakeholders are involved in the change.

Once the required changes have been made, you need to re-freeze the process. Re-freezing the process ensures that the changed process becomes the new norm.  You would need to train people if there is any need to train so that people get used to the new way of working.

The last step is to celebrate the change once it has been successfully implemented.

2. Kotter’s Model

Just like Lewin’s model of change, we have another model, which is Kotter’s 8 steps change model. Basically, these steps are similar to the one which we learned earlier in Lewis model, but these are little bit more detail.

Creating a Climate for Change

1. Increasing Urgency: The first step is to increase urgency. Unless there is a reason to change, it becomes difficult to implement the change. Examples of urgency could be the falling market share, the falling profit margin or any situation which creates urgency.

2. Building the Guiding Team: You need to have a team to make that change. In the case of a Six Sigma project, you would have already created a team with the management support.

3. Getting the Right Vision:   In the case of a Six Sigma project, you can provide the vision with the help of facts and data which you have collected. For example, by implementing this change it is going to reduce the defect level by one tenth from the existing level.

Engaging and Enabling the Organization

4. Communicate for Buy-in:  Your stakeholders need to buy your vision. For this, the change team needs to communicate with stakeholders.

5. Empower Action: Remove obstacles in the way of implementing the proposed change.

6. Create Short-term Wins:  You should be looking for the first symptom of winning, which is going to motivate people to move towards your vision.

Implementing and Sustaining Change

7. Don’t Let Up: You need to keep pressing for the change because whatever change you make, there is a tendency in people to go back to the norm, or go back to the previous process. You need to keep on pressing for the new version, or the new process.

8. Make it Stick: Make sure that the change sticks. For this, you might need to change your practices or work processes. You might need to provide training to people. You might need to have communication from the management explaining the importance of the change.

B. Success Factor for the Change

Not all changes are successful, many a time you change something and then later on if you do not really keep on pressing that change, you see the people fall back to their original way of working.

Here are some factors which will ensure that the changes which you’re making as a part of your Six Sigma project are successful.

1. The business case for the change:  You need to have a business case for the change. For example, you need to tell people that if we make this change, the percent defect is going to be reduced to half, the delivery time is to be reduced by 1/10 or the customer satisfaction is going to be two times where we are today.

2. Monitor assumptions and risks: Whatever assumptions you have made in your recommendations when you decided for the change, you need to monitor those. Also, you need to monitor the risks what are associated with the change.

3. Effective communication: There need to be effective communication if a change has to be successful and this is probably one of the key success factors for the change management.

4. Why Change: People need to know why this change is being made.

5. Benefits of successful implementation: This is part of the business case for the change.

6. Details of the change (when? where? Who? how much? etc.):  People need to know these details. Who is going to do this process now? What is going to be changed? Who will be responsible for that? What will the impact of that on a particular individual? These things need to be regularly communicated for the change to be successful.

7. Training and/or skills improvement: You need to provide training to affected persons, to acquire the new set of skills which are needed for the changed process.

8. Counter resistance from the employees: If you still have some sort of a resistance or hesitation from employees, you need to address that. You need to provide an explanation why you believe that this change is going to be good for the organization.

9. Provide personal counseling:  In some cases, you might’ve to provide personal counseling to some key leaders, or key stakeholders in the organization.

10. Monitoring of the implementation: Just by putting something in the work instructions might not lead to success implementation of the change. You need to monitor the implementation to make sure that whatever you planned as a part of your Six Sigma project, are effectively being implemented.

C. Change Management Tools

Let’s look at some of the tools for effectively implementing a change.

1. Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholders are people, who are in some way affected by the organization. Stakeholders can be affected at different levels. Core stakeholders are such as owners and managers.  The next layer of stakeholders could be the suppliers, customers, employees, or partners. Another layer around this could be the local community, associations, media. Another layer around this could be the general public.  These layers depend on how much each of these is affected by the organization.

​As a part of stakeholder analysis, you need to analyze and manage these stakeholders.

Depending upon the level of interest and the power, stakeholders can be classified into four categories: Key Players, Latents, Apethetics, and Defenders.

Based on the level of interest and the power of each of these stakeholders has you need to address the needs of each of the stakeholder.

Stakeholders with a high interest in your Six Sigma project and high-power, need to be managed closely. These are classified as Key Players.

Just going to the opposite quadrant, stakeholders with less power to influence your project and having less interest (for example public) need to be monitored. This group is classified as Apethetics.

Stakeholders with high power and less interest are classified as Latents. These stakeholders need to be kept satisfied.

Stakeholders with low power and high interest are classified as Defenders. These stakeholders need to be kept informed.

You need to address the needs of the specific group of stakeholders, depending upon the level of interest and the power this group has to influence your project.

2. Readiness Assessment

Another tool for change management is the Readiness Assessment. This tool evaluates the level of readiness for the change? You might consider following questions to assess this.

  • Is there a clear vision?
  • Has that vision effectively communicated?
  • Are employees willing to change?
  • Are resources required for the change available?
  • Are employees trained for the change?

3. Communication Plan

The communication plan is the third change management tool we want to discuss here. You would need to have a specific and probably a written down the communication plan when it comes to change management. You list down all the stakeholders affected by your project.  For example employees, families, manager, media etc.

In this specific example, employees are considered as the key stakeholder, as the impact of the proposed change is highest on employees. You need to decide how much each stakeholder will be affected by the project.  For example, the media might be having a very low impact of this new change.  Then you need to decide what key message you want to convey to that specific stakeholder group.

So, let’s say your new process is going to have additional work done by employees or will require your employees to be more careful, then your key message would be to tell your employees the benefits of this change. You might want to tell employees the organization’s economic conditions. Or you might want to tell them that because of the high repair rate your company is losing money. You need to tell them how your project is going to help in reducing that defect rate.

You list down key messages which you need to convey to that specific stakeholder group and the communication approach. For example, in this case, the communication approach you might consider is an open letter from the CEO.  Other communication approaches could be department managers having a meeting with groups or with employees, or having a one to one meeting.

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