Delivering Lean Six Sigma projects can be a daunting task in organisations where the status quo has been the norm for years. In some organisations mentioning “change” will often already set the hares running and cause so much disruption that you go backwards. Other organisations might actually have taken steps towards building an improvement culture.


What I often see is that although people acknowledge that certain change needs to happen very little improves on the shop floor. There are two reasons for this.

Ability: Are we able to make improvements?

Knowing how to do something is probably the easiest gap to fill. Send people on a training and some of that knowledge will stick. A lot of organisations send their employees on Six Sigma, Lean or Business improvement training. Very often employees come back overwhelmed with what they have learned. When they look at their organization they can see so many things wrong that they don’t even know where to start and, even worse, how to start.

This is where ability comes in. Being capable of delivering improvements is one of the biggest challenges. Getting experts in to coach your team through this is an effective way of instilling capability and a very good way to get a return on investment on all the training you have provided.

Willingness: Does your business want to improve?

This is the biggest challenge to date. Having the ability to improve, does your organization really want to? You will find that when you ask the direct question you will get a hesitant yes (no one wants to disappoint the boss) but when you look at the body language you may get a big NO

This is the stage where you need someone who can help you nudge the turkeys towards Christmas and help you to show your staff that improvements can be a good thing for the organization as a whole including themselves. Yes, some might get the chop (we have to celebrate Christmas anyway) but they can learn a lot on the road and they might even improve their careers and lives as a result.

How to improve willingness

There are various ways to help your business prepare for change. The most effective way is to have change driven from the bottom up. If you can get the shop floor to want to improve it will be easy for the cooks to make a great Christmas dinner.

As a consultant:

what you should not do

– Use jargon and make the people feel dumb.
– Ignore the ideas of those who speak up.
– Bully the teams into your ideas.
– Stick to methodologies they don’t understand.

what you can do:

– Spend time on the shop floor to understand what is happening.
– Gain trust by being involved and become a member of the team.
– Ask questions and increase the level of challenge in your questions depending on the trust levels.
– Let them come up with the required changes.
– Challenge them with data.
– Adapt your language to theirs.
– Pick the best initiatives and ideas and let the idea initiator run with it.
– Support the idea initiator and make them as successful as possible.
– Reward Success.
– Identify who else wants to be part of success and have a great Christmas.

Being confronted with organisations that are reluctant to change you need to take the client on a journey so they gain an understanding of what needs to be done and acquire confidence they can do it. This needs to happen on all levels from shop floor to senior management and because only if everyone wants Christmas you are going to have a real party!



Effective MeetingsYes, there we go, another invite to go to a meeting. I love meetings, they are a great way to spend the day and not have to be responsible or held accountable for anything. I am sure you love to go to meetings. Just in case you don’t, here are some reasons why you actually hate meetings.

Timing issues

1. People arrive late: great, you and 7 other people just lost 10 minutes and the business lost almost an hour and a half of productivity (assuming you have productive meetings but you are reading this, so, …)
2. Over-running: I am pretty sure that most meetings you go to over-run. Those who don’t over-run probably got cancelled because of the above reason.
3. People leave early, what??? You are only here for 25 minutes, why do you even bother I hear people thinking. But yes, often at some random time someone stands up and runs off. (Very often they need to go to a more important meeting)
4. Late day starts: it’s 4:40PM and John’s meeting is about to start. Not sure you can stomach another coffee so you show up at yawning o’clock
5. Early starts: you live in London and your boss books a meeting at 9:30 on location in Manchester. After several coffees, you show up at yawning o’clock.
6. Postponed: you just arrive at the meeting room (running from another meeting “obviously”), only to find out the meeting has been postponed.

People issues

7. Uninvited guests: I have been there many times: “Hey I brought Gary from IT, Gary can you introduce yourself” whilst Gary has nothing to do with making financial decisions. He just loots after the SAP database,…
8. People are just not prepared. “John can you, …. Ehm, hold on not sure where I put my report and I seem to not find the presentation on my laptop “ These are some “serious” excuses that delay great meetings
9. Decision makers. So you got your point across, everybody is supporting your proposal but the decision maker is making decisions somewhere else. Guess it will be for next time then, ….

Communication style

10. Loooooong winded people. Yes there is always one, or two, or three or, well, you know what I mean, some people can’t get to the point and dance (not literally or that would make you love the meeting) around the issues.
11. Side conversations. Don’t you love it when it’s your turn to present and your two colleagues are having a discussion about a past agenda item.
12. The hidden agenda. When the purpose is to remove barriers the lead is actually adding barriers so the project that was forced upon him gets replaced with the one he wants.
13. Intimidation and bullying by the chairperson.

Your meeting room

14. Noise. Why oh why did someone choose the room closest to the building site next door.
15. It’s too warm. When you start smelling the guy’s armpits from across the room it’s probably too hot.
16. Too cold. I have indeed been in meetings where people had their coats on.
17. Poor seats. Most rooms have great chairs but some don’t.
18. Arrangements. It is really helpful when the presentation you want to follow is behind you or you can’t make eye contact with other participants.
19. Window cleaners or other distractions outside can really take the wind out of your presentation.
20. No drinks. Most rooms these days will have water and if they don’t just hope you don’t get a coughing fit.

Meeting conduct

21. No purpose. Have you ever been invited to a meeting and you were not sure what it was about? You are not alone but at least it will be good if you like surprises.
22. No Agenda. Ehm, what’s next? Not sure but lets talk about, …
23. No timekeeping. We still have 4 agenda points to cover with 5 minutes left, there goes all your preparation because your point will be discussed next time.
24. No introductions. Who is that guy?
25. No actions. So you have sat in a meeting for 2 hours and what’s the result? No one has to do anything. It happens.
26. No minutes taken. Sure we all have elephant memories. I do ;-)

27. I am off to a meeting so please leave a comment and let me know what your 27th would be.

Meetings cause frustration. Lots can go wrong and we often have to many of them. Addressing some of the highlighted reasons can help you to become more productive and cut your meeting times.

Like the mug? Get it here. Want more productive meetings? Contact me here.

All the best!


Customer Service Performance Management Approach:

March 4, 2014

Performance management and continuous improvement are, hot potatoes these days. Most businesses understand they need to step up a gear to deliver excellent customer service in order to retain and grow their business. What is important? Understanding the customer and business objectives. Talk to any of your friends or colleagues and you will hear horror […]

Read the full article →

FMEA: Failure mode and effects analysis

January 25, 2014

In IT, failure analysis is vital and an FMEA is an essential tool in this process. As a central tenet of Six Sigma methodology, failure mode and effects analysis – FMEA – can help businesses eliminate problems early in the development of a process. FMEA is a proactive method for finding out what could and […]

Read the full article →

Business process due diligence: fixing problems before they happen

September 1, 2013

There have been some pretty major flops in the world of corporate acquisitions, from News Corp’s play for MySpace to Microsoft’s takeover of aQuantive. The reasons for these are varied and sometimes not the fault of the companies involved. Market conditions play their own part. News Corp was looking at the right race (social media), […]

Read the full article →

Voice of the Customer (VOC)

August 9, 2013

Voice of the Customer (VOC) What does voice of the customer mean? In essence it’s the expectations, desires and dislikes of the customer. But it is more than just a set of wants and needs. In business and IT, when we talk about voice of the customer we are also talking about the process of […]

Read the full article →

What is a SIPOC?

June 10, 2013

What is a SIPOC? To understand SIPOC, let’s start by explaining DMAIC. Two acronyms already, but you need to learn how they fit together to really grasp the concepts. They both form a core part of what we call Six Sigma, a set of tools and strategies for process improvement. DMAIC is a project methodology […]

Read the full article →

Expanding Your Sales Channels to Boost Profits

April 20, 2012

Expanding your sales channels can greatly boost the profitability of your company. If you want your business to prosper, you have to look for innovative ways how to utilize the different channels that are suitable for your products or services. There are two general types of sales channels that you can use — direct and […]

Read the full article →

A Guide to Expanding Your Sales Channels to Boost Profits

April 14, 2012

Expanding your sales channels can greatly boost the profitability of your company. If you want your business to prosper, you have to look for innovative ways how to utilize the different channels that are suitable for your products or services. There are two general types of sales channels that you can use — direct and […]

Read the full article →

Tips on networking to find clients

April 12, 2012

The importance of networking cannot be overemphasized especially in today’s competitive business world. Networking is not just essential for large cooperates and multinationals, but it also has the potential to boost sales for small companies and entrepreneurs. Networking to find clients is a vital marketing tool that should not be downplayed. Basically, networking can be […]

Read the full article →