When organizations are implementing a Operational Excellence program, it is common for everyone to be excited and want to be involved in project selection – and while there is no bad way to use Lean Six Sigma and Lean – there are approaches that are good, better and best.

A good approach is to ask Senior Leadership to identify problem areas within the business and choose the resources (people) they would like working on them. This is often the way newly founded Lean Six Sigma programs work because these are big decisions that should come from the top, right?

  • The challenge with this approach is generally Senior Leaders are too high level and they are too far removed from where the problems in the business lie to identify good projects. While they may hear sound bites on issues, they typically do not have enough context to understand where the value can be drawn from.

A better approach to project selection is to ask Senior Leadership to identify their top resources, which are often their high performers, and begin by asking them to be part of the Operational Excellence program (for example become a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Lean Professional). Then based on the work that these high performers are doing, have them identify opportunities to improve because they have first-hand knowledge of the organizational processes.

  • This approach is better because the Lean Six Sigma project teams have a greater sense of ownership because they are the ones selecting projects. It also preserves the role of Senior Leadership because they select candidates and potential projects still need to be approved by this group. It also allows them to judge if potential projects align strategically with what the organization is trying to accomplish.

If you want to challenge your organization to evolve, try the best approach to project selection. This is where people within the organization can self-select into Lean Six Sigma roles, essentially requesting to take training and certification at the levels that best suit their availability and interest. This approach also continues the process of allowing these Operational Excellence candidates to identify potential projects.

  • Adopting this approach provides the right level of incentives for people to take on Lean Six Sigma projects with enthusiasm. By removing Senior Leadership from the process, it prevents the bottleneck at the top where often people at the highest level in the organization may not be able to identify the best candidates or adequately judge their interest and availability. Freeing this group from these responsibilities allows them to focus on being Champions and objectively evaluating the potential of projects to help the organization achieve its goals and fosters a culture of Operational Excellence at all levels.

For organizations implementing Operational Excellence, ask yourself what type of culture you want within the company? Remember, good isn’t bad – any effort at utilizing Operational Excellence techniques is something to be championed and rewarded. So regardless of where you are now, challenge your organization to try a more progressive approach and help your Senior Leaders to step out of the project selection process and place more focus on providing the tools and resources the company needs to be successful at problem solving.