Whether you’re just starting your Lean Six Sigma journey, or you’re in the middle of improving a process, guidance from Experts can help make your efforts easier – and more successful! In this Expert Excerpt, we interview Expert Kirsty Dykes, who shares key insights to being successful with Lean Six Sigma in Government.
Kirsty Dykes is a passionate and dedicated Lean and Six Sigma coach, having worked in a plethora of industries and sectors coaching continuous improvement for the last 12 years. She’s increased sales in one of the world’s oldest telecommunications companies, optimized the flow of work in a network of garages, and has coached and mentored over 100 people through various levels of Lean and Six Sigma qualifications, both in the US and abroad.
What advice do you have for someone who is getting started with applying Lean Six Sigma in Government?
Government and public service is incredibly interesting from an improvement point of view because everyone in the State, in the country, is a customer. Unlike in the private sector, we’re not fighting for a monopoly over a particular customer group; we’re striving for brilliance for all our citizens. Never before have I worked with a bunch of people that care so deeply about the work that they do and the service they provide. So to honor that when starting out, the best piece of advice is to follow the core principles, and understand the value stream. Go to the gemba, and watch the work get done.
The best piece of advice is to follow the core principles, and understand the value stream. Go to the gemba, and watch the work get done.
What are some common mistakes you see people making when applying Lean Six Sigma in Government?
Not genuinely taking stock of current maturity levels. It’s pretty easy to get caught up that a department isn’t performing at a ’10/10′ in efficiency even after multiple interventions, but if some teams are starting at, say, a 6/10 in efficiency, and you can take them to an 8/10, that’s incredible! That’s huge! I meet a lot of change agents who get hung up on something not being perfect, so we delay until the conditions are better without making incremental improvements. Getting better is better than awaiting perfection.
Getting better is better than awaiting perfection.
Is there anyone that has significantly influenced you over the years?
I’m fortunate enough to have a few brilliant mentors, none of whom I’d be who I am today without their influence. One I speak to on a monthly basis, despite not working for him for over a year. Others I haven’t spoken to in a couple years, but that I know I could reach out to at any point for help. From afar, the works of Ken Miller (author of Extreme Government Makeover and We Don’t Make Widgets), Angela Duckworth (author of Grit) and Andy Dope/Andy Whittaker (author of Be Brilliant Everyday) have hugely influenced my thinking and practice.
Why do you do what you do? (What motivates you?)
I think my motivation is twofold. The ability to ride the line between improving customer satisfaction, efficiency and effectiveness while engaging the employees – I genuinely see as a form of art. Teaching people about this art, the subtlety of improvement, the ability to understand systems and processes and problem solving, giving them that light-bulb moment where it just clicks for them is incredibly motivating. To use a dated reference, it’s a bit like opening someone’s eyes to the Matrix!
Teaching people about this art, the subtlety of improvement, the ability to understand systems and processes and problem solving, giving them that light-bulb moment where it just clicks for them is incredibly motivating.
My secondary motivation is my belief that my doing my job well means that an organization doesn’t need me in the long run. My success is when I’m no longer needed. That means I’ve successfully changed a culture enough that teams can solve problems and strive for excellence without the need of an expert. The thought keeps me honest, and constantly striving to improve and push those around me.
What’s something exciting that you’re currently working on?
There’s so much exciting stuff going on! My network of change agents have over 400 initiatives we’re prioritizing and working through. I’m currently involved in 3 different Hoshin planning sessions, and I’m about to propose my 3 year vision for improving cultural maturity. Being in Government also means the work varies at least once a year when the legislative season is in session – there is genuinely never is a dull moment.
What’s your favorite application of Lean Six Sigma in your personal life (away from work)?
The PDCA problem solving me and the family did around our increasing odd sock problem. We’d wear matching socks every day to school and work respectively, and as if by magic, after the laundry was done on Sunday, we’d have a pile of odd socks. We did problem solving as a family. We established there were three core issues:
- Our odd socks weren’t visible – They’d get washed, when a pair couldn’t be made, they’d be added back to the laundry basket to hopefully find its partner by the next wash (SPOILER: They never did).
- No standard ‘pre-sock-wash-storage’ – My husband (Travis) dirty socks would be by the bed, the kiddo (Alex)’s socks would be by his shoes near the front door and mine would generally be in the bathroom.
- Finally, when I’d do the washing on a Sunday, socks were individually put into the washer, meaning we were often just washing single socks and exacerbating the problem.
So the following Sunday, we opened the ‘Clean Sock Adoption Center’, upon which all of our clean-but-unmatched-socks were hung. We created a single place for (dirty, but already matched) socks to be put before washing, and we created a wash for our matching socks to be cleaned. Sure enough, our odd sock population decreased by 68%!
Alex, the 6 year old, still has the largest odd-sock problem, but when we asked him about it – he told us not to worry – “I quite like wearing odd socks.” There was a serious lesson in there about stakeholder management (unless your stakeholders care about your problem, it’ll never get completely solved!) and in personal perfectionism (if it really doesn’t bother him, it shouldn’t bother me, either).