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This is a great question. Unfortunately, there isn’t a cut and dry answer. In my experience, it isn’t so much the size of the company as where and when you put continuous improvement skills into play. Of course, organizational leadership determines the desired outcomes so that’s going to drive a lot of this.

Smaller companies might start on a more limited scale in terms of implementation – and while a few projects may be successful, that may not drive cultural change. On the other hand, I have seen large companies jump into lots of projects with complicated training while still failing to sustain the effort or drive cultural change.

A good, simple way to start is by documenting key processes, especially those where you may have obvious problems. It’s amazing what jumps off the page once you document the “as-is” process. I recommend starting with the high-level block diagram – SIPOC – and then moving to a more detailed process map like the Swimlane. It’s surprising the kinds of improvements that are made by identifying ways to standardize and streamline a process (use of Lean). When a problem persists, it may be that root cause analysis is required and in that case, it’s important the keep the organization from jumping to solution. This is a good time for teams to apply their Green Belt skills. The more critical or complicated the issue and the more data or specifics available, the more statistical analysis is going to be required. These more complicated process issues entail applying Black Belt level tools.

In the end, every organization should ensure their people understand the dynamics of processes and data, and are able apply their continuous improvement skills.

Carolyn Talasek

Carolyn is a Senior Consultant at GoLeanSixSigma.com and a Master Black Belt with over 25 years of success working with companies like General Electric, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Cisco Systems and Clorox. In addition, Carolyn has worked with many K12 school districts and other educational organizations.  She’s an expert at helping people learn and apply Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.