Agile Hacks for Making Lean Six Sigma Sticky

Improvement Insights Blog

Agile Hacks for Making Lean Six Sigma Sticky

Some companies are discovering Agile methods for implementing Lean Six Sigma. Over 50 years of research into how cultures adapt, adopt and reject change can explain why Agile works and why it accelerates Lean Six Sigma adoption.

“I recently did a video about how Christus Health and Novartis and Underwriters Laboratories were all using Agile methods to implement Lean and Six Sigma with one day (sometimes two day) training classes that created Yellow Belts focused on making improvement. I got to thinking about that a little bit, and it turns out that there’s over 50 years of research into how cultures adopt, adapt and reject change.

“This is the book called “Diffusion Of Innovations” by Everett Rogers, and one of their findings was if you can get 4% of the people using whatever the innovation is, whether it’s Quality Improvement, Six Sigma or whatever, guess what? It’ll stick in that organization. Now 4% is just four people out of a hundred, but as you can imagine, when you’re training Green Belts and Black Belts and it takes two to four weeks to train them and maybe a year to get results out of it, that you’re not going to get there, right? When I was in the phone company, we trained hundreds of teams (team leaders) but guess what? We had 70,000 people. I don’t think we got anywhere near… 2,800 people trained to do all this stuff, so I don’t think we ever got to the 4%.

“But with Agile, where you start training people in one day and making improvements, you can very quickly get to that 4% so that the change will stick in that culture. That’s what we want to do, right? Get Quality Improvement to stick, right? We don’t want it to just be a passing fad like it is in most places.

“The other thing that happens with that is when you go [past] four, when you get to 16%, somewhere between 16% and 25% adoption it just takes over and just runs through the whole company. So approaching Lean and Six Sigma with an Agile one-day Yellow Belt kind of a training can get you to that culture change that you want probably faster than all your Green Belts and Black Belts combined.

“Now I know this is hypocrisy to a lot of people, but… Just because we’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done.

“That’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Agile! (You can learn that on our website: I also have a free Agile Trainer Training to teach you how to teach this stuff in one day using QI Macros.

“That’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s go create a hassle-free America and hassle-free healthcare. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”