7 Ways to Help Six Sigma Change Take Root

The pull of old habits and engrained ways of doing business is a force more powerful than we acknowledge. However, there are several tools that Six Sigma project teams can use to help ensure that new projects become a permanent part of doing business.

managing changeForce Field Analysis – This analytical tool acknowledges that there are two opposing factors – enabling forces and resisting forces – that determine if a change lasts or perishes.

For example, if the proposed change is purchasing new manufacturing equipment, factors that support the change include: higher productivity, lower product cost and better product quality. These are all the enabling forces. They are opposed by resisting forces which include: cost of new equipment, disruption of production and employee fear of new technology.

When enabling forces and resisting forces are equal nothing will change. Force field analysis helps project teams identify where to focus their energies. The creator of Force Field Analysis, Kurt Lewin, taught that the most elegant way to implement change is to reduce the intensity of restraining forces.

The best way to implement the change of purchasing new manufacturing equipment is not simply by placing more emphasis on the enabling forces of lower product cost and higher productivity. It comes through weakening the resisting forces by providing employee training and reducing new equipment costs.

Making Change Last Checklist

This is another tool to help institutionalize Six Sigma change in the organization. This list has six components to help the project team make change last:

  • Early Successes – When a Six Sigma team builds quick and early progress into the project plan, it creates positive morale and momentum. Connecting early success to larger, more long-term elements of the project helps sustain it over time.
  • Commitment – If a Six Sigma project is going to make it from the white board to the factory floor, it requires commitment: support and energy from project sponsors, time and resources from employees and funding from the company. Winning these commitments helps the new process take hold. An organization best demonstrates its commitment to a new process by burning its bridges and pulling the plug on the old process. This eliminates failure as an option.
  • Excitement – Don’t underrate this important factor in making process change permanent. Excitement is not only for game show audiences; it plays an important role in sustaining a project from implementation to institutionalization. The project team does more than simply make a plan for change. The Six Sigma change team is also responsible for communicating and conveying the exciting benefits of deploying the new process.
  • Resources – Leadership can greatly increase the odds of a change becoming institutionalized by providing resources of time and money to make the project fully operational.
  • Integration – The new process must work and play well with existing processes. Part of the project team’s responsibility is to make sure that new processes dovetail smoothly with existing processes. Open communication between departments helps ensure that new and existing processes can work together harmoniously.
  • Learning from Experience – What the Six Sigma project team learns in creating a new process can be just as valuable as the process itself. The team can record this information and help the change become part of daily operations by creating detailed process documentation.

No matter how beneficial a new change may be, there is always the pull of inertia back to the old way of doing things, even if it didn’t work very well to begin with. Your team must fight to instill change, even changes that everyone agrees on. Follow the seven steps above to help overcome the natural imperative of resisting change.

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