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Most of us are clear on what our project is about, how to measure success and who is on the team. But we’re not always clear on why we’re doing it. “We’re going to decrease defects!” sounds great, but why should anyone care? “We’re removing waste!” – again, what’s in it for the people around you? Clarifying the “why” or purpose behind a project will engage people in the best way. Come join this 1-hour Introductory webinar and find process friends you never knew you had.

Webinar Level

  • Introductory


In this 1-hour Introductory webinar, we’ll explore:

  • The definition of “Purpose”
  • Why it matters
  • What happens when it’s unclear
  • How to clarify purpose
  • Tips and tricks to make it easy

Webinar Transcript

Karlo Tanjuakio: Hey, everyone. Welcome to’s webinar. Thanks for spending some quality time with us today. Hundreds of people have registered and we are excited that you’re all here.

Lean and Six Sigma are the go-to improvement methods used by organizations all over the world to delight customers, minimize costs, maximize profits, and develop better teams.

Today’s webinar is titled How to Get Support for Your Project by Clarifying Your Purpose presented by Elisabeth Swan, one of our Managing Partners. My name is Karlo Tanjuakio and I’m also a Managing Partner. And we’re really excited to have you here today.

About Our Presenter

Elisabeth is as I mentioned, a Managing Partner here at She is also the co-host of our Just-In-Time Café Podcast and she is a long-time Lean Six Sigma Consultant and Master Black Belt.

Aside from almost three decades of experience, Elisabeth also performed at the Improv Boston. And since half of process improvement is about improvisation, that’s an amazing combo.

Hey, Elisabeth! How are you doing today?

Elisabeth Swan: I’m good Karlo. Thank you.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Awesome. I’m really excited to hear about how folks can get support for their projects from you today. And if anybody wants to follow Elisabeth on LinkedIn, her URLs are down below. She is also very active on Twitter. So check her out and give her a chat if you’re interested in interacting.

How to Interact

So just some housekeeping rules here. We are going to be very interactive today. We’ve got some polls for you. And if you have any questions, you can type them in, in the right side in the question area. So why don’t we go ahead and start our first interaction? Please share where you’re from in the question area.

Where Are You From?

So Elisabeth, while that’s happening, how is the weather out in Cape Cod today?

Elisabeth Swan: Are you just trying to feel home that you’re in Hawaii and I’m on Cape Cod?

Karlo Tanjuakio: No.

Elisabeth Swan: It’s sunny and I can see mallard ducks on our pond but they are on the ice on top of our pond. So how’s that?

Karlo Tanjuakio: Well, that sounds beautiful. I always love a change of scenery so I do enjoy the cold weather.

So we’ve got folks from Montreal, Angela from Milwaukee. We’ve got Raj from Melbourne, Marian from Romania, Carlos from Brazil, Tiana from Serbia, and we’ve got people from all over the world basically. And so, it looks likes people are staying up pretty late and up very early joining us today. So that’s exciting.

Elisabeth Swan: That is exciting. Wow! Thanks for the warm introduction, Karlo. And I’m sorry I can’t see all of you out there but I am very happy you’ve joined us from wow, near and far.

Who Is

Karlo and I have both been with since its inception. And our mission is to make it easy for you to build your problem-solving muscles. So that means we simplify complex concepts. We’ve made our training extremely practical and I think really enjoyable.

We provide a running case study at the Bahama Bistro, our restaurant team applies all the tools of Lean Six Sigma.

And aside from this webinar series, we put out blogs, podcasts, book reviews, and lots of other information to help you get where you need to go.

We’ve used and taught Lean Six Sigma for decades because it supplies the best toolkit we think for problem-solving. And thankfully, there is a growing list of companies who agree with us.

We’ve Helped People From…

Here are some of the organizations that we’ve helped. We’ve got bricks and mortar, online, there are diverse industries such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, government. And that’s because Lean Six Sigma is about problem-solving and once you have an organization, you got problems. So like all of you, these companies want to be the best at problem-solving so you’re in good company.

Today’s Agenda

More on some of the benefits later but first, let’s review today’s agenda. We’re going to get into the definition of purpose and why it matters. We’re going to talk about what happens when purpose is unclear, how we clarify it, and then finally, some tips and tricks to make it easy.

Now, Martin Luther King Day was a few days ago and a very inspirational person obviously. His speeches still inspire. They’ve been playing them on the radio of late. And I thought I’d start with him because he was very clear on his mission and vision and that had sparked incredible inspiration across this country and probably others.

Now, imagine if he started with this. So instead of, “I have a dream”, “I have a list of measurable objectives.” It sounds a little different.

So when we think about what purpose, we’re not trying to mobilize a nation. But we are trying to mobilize our colleagues.

What Is Purpose?

And what do we mean by purpose? So at an organizational level, the purpose is the mission, right? The mission statement tells you the reason for being of the organization. Why do they exist? Now, at a project level, it’s the reason for being of the improvement effort.

So understanding purpose is essential for teams to be aligned. They have to know why they’re in it. So the purpose maybe to provide a great customer experience or it might be to ensure there’s always a full staff of great people to provide value to customers, it might be to create a better working conditions for employees.

It’s higher level than a goal. And if people don’t understand it, they’re not swayed. What’s the point? Why am I doing this?

It’s higher level than a goal. And if people don’t understand it, they’re not swayed. What’s the point? Why am I doing this?

What Purpose Is Not

The purpose is not the goal. That’s the measure of your success. If you reached the goal, that helps you to serve your purpose. So if we cut time to hire from 60 days down to 30 days, well that’s great cycle time reduction. But what purpose does it serve? Well, it helps us ensure that there’s always a full staff of great people that are ready to provide value to our customers.

So, I’m sure Martin Luther King had goals. He was looking at the number of states he wanted to reach. He might have been looking at the number of volunteers, the amount donated. But that’s not where he started.

Focus on Goal Statement

So relying only on the goal and relaying that to people, it can be a little deflating, right? If you’re trying to reduce defects, you’re basically saying this, “Our vision is a future where we mess up less.” All right? So that’s not inspiring.

Or removing waste, a big word in the Lean vocabulary is, “Let’s remove waste. Get the waste out of your process. We have the 8 wastes. Let’s get rid of them.” But that’s not inspiring either. Or we could focus on decreasing costs, right? Well, you don’t shrink yourself to greatness. So again, it’s not moving people.

When Purpose Is Unclear

So when purpose is unclear, people don’t understand the purpose behind the goal. They come up with their own ideas of what it’s about. And although we never conducted improvement efforts to get rid of employees, they might think that, right? Or they might feel no connection to the project. If it’s a process like hiring, they might think, “Well, that’s just HR’s business. Why should I care about that project?”

But if you clarified how hiring better faster could impact their job, they might become engaged. And change is disruptive. Why should they help you change the process? Clarifying the purpose, clarifying the outcomes and the impact of an improvement project, that helps people understand the why behind what you’re trying to do. So we’re trying to clarify the why.

Clarifying the purpose, clarifying the outcomes and the impact of an improvement project, that helps people understand the why behind what you’re trying to do.

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever started a project and you felt great? You had a really good, strong charter. You knew exactly what you’re going to measure. Everybody agreed on what this project should be about. You were clearly focused on removing the waste in the process, your goals to improve the process. That’s a good thing.

But nobody is excited. Nobody signed up to help. No one seemed to care. That’s incredibly frustrating when that happens.

Poll #1

So let me just get a little poll and get a sense of your experience, the group of you on this call. So what reaction have you seen most often to improvement efforts? Fear, annoyance, indifference, engagement, or total support?

So go ahead and take a moment and fill in that poll because I think that it’s – the range is huge on this that you really see different reactions. You might get – if people see Lean Six Sigma as a way to reduce employees then you’re going to see fear or you’re going to sense fear. But it maybe just that they don’t get it. They don’t why you’re doing something or they don’t know why these projects are going on and you may just see indifference. So I’ve seen those in particular.

So let me close. And so you guys – yeah, you’re right in there. The biggest issue for you is indifference, 37% and next down it’s annoyance, and then there’s a smaller group but it’s substantial around fear. So really, it circles around indifference, annoyance, and fear. Not the reactions, not what we want, and that is what we’re going to focus on here is what do we do?

Alignment Model

So one tool we’ve got is something called an Alignment Model. And we use this to help diagnose when things are not going well with the team and I’ll tell you how it works.

So the first level is purpose. We start with purpose. That’s the foundation of this, whether this is a pyramid or an iceberg. We’re starting down here. So this answers the question, why does this team exist? It’s the foundation for team success. It drives all the team’s effort and activities. Members have to develop it and own it, not just accept it.

Next stop is goals. This answers the question, what does this team supposed to accomplish? What’s the measurable target? And if they hit that target, they’ve succeeded. So what is the team meant to accomplish?

Next question is roles. The question is, who is going to do what on this team? Who is the leader? Who are the team members? Who is the champion? Who is the sponsor? So we need people to play their roles on a team.

Next stop is procedures, and that answers the question, how are we going to operate on this team?

The next thing is a project planning, meeting management, decision-making. How do we communicate with each other? How do we problem solve? What do we do about conflict management? So those are all procedures that the team has to be agreed on.

And then the very tip of the Alignment Model is IPR, which stands for Interpersonal Relationships. And this is the tip of the Alignment Model because if you are completely in alignment from purpose through to procedures then you have – interpersonal relationships are good. You have people getting along and the team is good, a well-functioning machine. If they’re not getting along, you look one layer down.

So the first thing you if people aren’t getting along is, are we following procedures properly? Are we in the right – are we making decisions the way we agreed to make decisions? Are people following DMAIC? That’s our problem-solving model. Are they jumping to solution and we haven’t even gotten to root cause yet?

So you start with procedures. If procedures are all being use the way we agreed, the next step down is roles. Are we all performing the roles we agreed to? Is the champion really championing this project or are they too busy to even meet with us and we’re kind of been left on our own? So, are people following their roles?

Purpose & Alignment

If they are, you look a level down, goals. Are we still in alignment on the measurable goal? Are we going after cycle time where people started to stray and they are working on defects reduction? But foundationally, it’s about purpose. The alignment starts there. So if we miss that and we are misaligned then you got a team that is basically wasting energy.

So the people are not aligned. They are not going after the same purpose. They are not chasing the same goal then people may even be working really hard but doesn’t translate to team effort and progress. Having a shared purpose helps align the team.

Having a shared purpose helps align the team.

This one might be familiar to you. If you’ve ever flown in a Southwest Airline plane, their mission is dedication to the highest quality of customer service, delivering with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. They say, “We are committed to provide our employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

Now, if you’ve been on a Southwest Airline, nobody is wearing “we’re aligned” buttons but they could tell you why everyone hustles to get their aircraft loaded and fueled and into the air. Their average turnaround time is 15 minutes. That’s the third of the industry average even though the turnaround crews are half the size of their competitors. Employees are ingenuous at finding ways to do their jobs more easily and productively.

Luggage handlers load bags with the handles out. It’s a subtle thing but it makes a big difference. They can grab them faster.

Ticket agents don’t check passenger list when the flights are less than half full. They don’t need to, right? This is not going to be an issue so let’s stop doing it.

Little things like that cut down on the cycle time because they’re aligned around that mission. And you can tell because they are fun. They are warm. If you’ve ever been on one of their planes, they’ll sing. They’ll tell jokes. You can feel that spirit. They really embody that mission. So purpose and alignment make that kind of a difference, that alignment.

Wasted Energy: Failed Efforts

And if you don’t have it, like I said, you’ve got wasted energy. So without a shared purpose, projects don’t achieve results, right? They get cancelled. Companies are spending money on cancelled, delayed, over budget projects. Nobody is happy. It’s really hard to build a good problem-solving culture if you don’t have that alignment. So it matters at a grand level, the mission of the organization, and it matters at a micro level. The purpose of each project, all right?

And there’s a great quote here from Coppola. If you don’t have alignment, you’re not making the same movie. So are we in it to make the same movie?

If you don’t have alignment, you’re not making the same movie. So are we in it to make the same movie?

Bahama Bistro Efforts

Now, here is a great way to connect goals to the purpose. And a way to do this is by asking the question, for the sake of what? And think of it as steps that are cascading up toward the organizational mission.

So this is back to our Bahama Bistro buddies. So let’s start at the bottom. We’ve got an effort. They want to train the wait staff in Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques. OK. That’s great. And we’re going to measure our success by measuring Lean Six Sigma classes taught. How many classes have we taught? That’s where we’ve succeeded. But for the sake of what? Why are we doing that?

All right. Let’s go up one level. So employees are able to improve the Bahama Bistro processes. That’s why we want to train people so they are able to improve their processes. And we can measure our success at improving Bahama Bistro processes by looking at the number of employees on Lean Six Sigma projects, right? The more people on projects, the more we’re in a position to improve Bahama Bistro processes. That’s great.

OK. Well, let’s ask that question again, for the sake of what? Why are we making sure that employees are able to improve the processes? Well, so that customers can enjoy their food without waiting. And we can measure that. We can measure the number of minutes from the lead time of the order to the delivery of their food, of their meal. So we’ve got to measure and customers are not waiting. Or again, for the sake of what?

Now, we’re going to tie it right up to the mission statement of the Bahama Bistro. They exist to provide their customers with a tasty food, thoughtful service, and a joyful place of island life.

So, one of the methods is to do this kind of a cascade because projects can be at any level of organization. It can be down in the lowest level of operations. It could be on the frontlines where people really are face to face with customers. It could be anywhere in a process. It could be inside of a workflow. But we want to be able to tie it all the way up to the mission if we can.

For the Sake of What?

Here’s another one. I heard this at Results Washington Conference. This is – a whole state is doing Lean Six Sigma. It’s incredibly inspiring. And they’ve had amazing results. This one came from the Corrections Department. And let’s go through this one.

So one of their projects, one of their efforts was to train offenders in skills, and they measured their success by looking at the number of classes taught. All right? So the more classes taught, the more offenders were trained in skills. Great. But they asked that question, for the sake of what?

Why are we training offenders in skills? Well, offenders have marketable skills, right? So if we train them, they’ll have marketable skills. And how do we measure our success at them having marketing skills? Well, the number of offenders with GEDs, that’s an equivalent to a high school education or other certifications. Those are measures. We can count those. And that will tell us how many offenders have marketable skills.

Well again, let’s ask that question, for the sake of what? Why do we want to make sure offenders have marketable skills? Well, offenders with marketable skills choose legitimate employment. And we can measure that too, the percent of offenders that got jobs. Great. So now, we can look at the percentage that were released and of those how many got job and we know how many offenders are choosing legitimate employment.

But we’re asking again, why are we counting and why are we making sure offenders choose legitimate employment? Well, the more of them that are employed, the less repeat crime we have and we can measure that. That’s percent recidivism, which just means how many prisoners committed more crimes upon release? And we take that right up to the mission at the Corrections Department, which is to keep our people safe.

So really looking at that cascade, they started off way down in just, how many classes are we teaching? It doesn’t sound very inspiring. How many classes did you teach?

But when you get on, we have to keep people safe, well now, I can get behind that. If I know that I’m teaching those classes because ultimately that is keeping our people safe, now I’m aligned with that. I get behind that. I can feel that. That touches me emotionally now. I care about it.

So “for the sake of what?” is a really good question when you’re trying to understand why you’re doing this project.


And this one is, it’s more of a fable but I like it because it gets that. Often, these are making a point with more of a grandiose theme. But this story goes, if there are three stone masons working on St. Paul’s Cathedral and a passerby asked each one of them, “What’s your job?” And the first one said, “Laying bricks. I’m Laying bricks.”

And the passerby moved to the second stone mason and he asked, “What’s your job?” And the second stone mason said, “I’m building a wall.” All right? So now, not just laying bricks, this guy is building a wall. OK. So we’ve got a bigger sense purpose here.

And then he walked to the next stone mason and he asked, “What’s your job?” And he said, “I’m building a structure to the Almighty.” Wow! Now, that’s beyond laying bricks and building a wall. That is a purpose.

I bet you that third mason probably worked harder. Maybe he helped get the Cathedral built faster. And the difference with knowing the purpose is it affects how you feel. If you tell us the measurable of goal, we understand. But it’s not motivational.

If you tell us the measurable of goal, we understand.

Consider the Focus

So consider the focus. This is about not assuming that people are only motivated by self-interest, right? One of the most effective ways for hospitals to keep down infections is to make sure doctors and nurses regularly wash their hands. And in this particular institution, research showed that the frequency was surprisingly low.

So this facility conducted an experiment. They tried two different signs above the soap dispensers in the bathrooms for two weeks and then they measured how much soap was used. So literally, their data was, is soap being used or not? That’s how they could tell how much hand washing was going on.

So here’s the first sign. All right. The experiment was this sign is posted in the lavatory. They said, “Hand hygiene prevents you from catching disease.”

And the second sign, they tried another experiment, and this is the second sign, “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching disease.” And they did not expect these results. The second sign resulted in significantly more hand washing whereas the first sign made no difference.

So we often assumed that people are motivated by self-interest but research shows that people are more motivated when they’re serving others. So consider your efforts and think about the impact on the greater community. Think about your project. Raise the focus of your efforts. Find that more powerful message.

I had this experience on my own with my family. We had a work day. We were inviting everybody, friends and family, to come help my parents. They were aging. They needed some help with maintenance, patching the roof, patching their deck, cleaning up the yard. And I treated it as a checklist.

So I wrote all the jobs that had to get done and I relayed this to my four sisters, my four brother-in-laws and I got a rather tapered response. My brother-on-law saw this as just another day of work, another honey do list. They weren’t excited about it.

And I got this sort of grumbling response and I thought, “Wow! This is about – this is for our folks. This is about keeping them safe and we don’t want the roof to leak. We don’t want the boiler to fail in the middle of the winter.” And I thought, “But I’m not expressing that?” I’m giving them a checklist to things they have to get done.

So I changed my approach. We’ve been doing this – we had done it a year before. So for the second year, I changed the label on the email to everyone and I wrote, “Shelter from the storm.” And I talked about we’re going to make this effort and we’re going to keep our parents safe for another year and what did they think we should do.

Well then I had everybody chiming in with projects and things to do and work because I was focusing on the purpose of what we were doing as opposed to the target of how many jobs we got done. So think about that. How can you raise-up from your goal to the outcome?

Focus on Outcomes

And here’s a real example. This was a recent example from a nonprofit I’ve been working with. The team lead had a target. Her project goal was reducing the cost of supply purchasing process from $2,500 a month to $2,000 a month. So she had a target.

And she got a lot of pushbacks. She was trying to institute a process that went through her that people couldn’t just sort of impulse buy or buy as much as they wanted or buy different brands. She was trying to find the right – the best price, the best suppliers, and trying to control the process. And she basically got a lot of response people wanted what they want when they want it.

And they started to go around her and they complained. She replaced some of their standard supplies and they said, “Hey, these new soaps are an irritant. I don’t want to use this new soap.” They start to go around and she got really demoralized and she actually reached out to leadership saying, “Can you help me? Can you stop these people from going around me?” and looking for that support and she wasn’t getting it so she really was having a hard time there.

Until she focused on what the impact was. She figured out that the amount she had saved already, this is mid-project, was going to help them afford a mortgage on a new child care center, and that was part of what this organization, this is a Cape Cod Child Care Development. They were looking to support families. That was their mission.

So now, she tied it to the mission and all of the resistance melted away. And then by the end of the project, the savings allowed their raises for the employees for the first time in their 50-year history. It was amazing. But she had to step away from that goal and relay the purpose to her colleagues. It made all the difference.

…she tied it to the mission and all of the resistance melted away.

Poll #2

So let me do another poll with you guys. So this one is, does success in your project depend upon stakeholder buy-in? And the options here are not really, a little, a fair amount, or completely. So let me come back here and let’s go to the next poll.

Karlo Tanjuakio: And while the poll is live, Elisabeth. I’d like to invite anyone who has any questions to input them in the question area. We’ll be answering Q&A at the end of the session but you can go ahead and ask any questions that you might have anytime.

Elisabeth Swan: Thanks for that. Thanks for that, Karlo. Yeah. And I’ve actually got a specific question for you guys coming up soon. But there is an open session at the end so we’ll have time for that.

And this next one, just asking everybody to reflect on what do you really need from other people because some of you may have an enviable position of not needing stakeholder buy-in, so let’s see what you guys came up with.

OK. So really, it’s a fair amount or completely. And that’s – wow! I did not expect that, 74% said completely. So it’s a big deal. You really need this. And I think this is an absolutely key to getting support. Great. Thank you, guys. That was really helpful.

Working With Others

Just do a little reflection for a second. What you want to do is consider the impact of your work. If you hit that goal, what happens? Focus on the outcomes, the impact on others. Answer the question for the sake of what? How do your efforts impact the organization? How will they impact employees? How will they impact your customers?

So remember that hand washing study. People care. How does this impact others? People care about other human beings so think about all the different impacts. And being clear on the purpose, the outcomes, and the impact of your work also helps you articulate it to others. So that’s when you are able to engage others. People need to know why.

Use the Project Charter

So let’s look at an easy technique. And that is to use your project charter. All right. So use the tools you have to clarify purpose. Put it right there on your project charter, which everyone can see. So the first question there is asking you, why is this project worth doing? So ask those questions, for the sake of what?

Go ahead and review your organizational mission statement. Sometimes when you join organizations and maybe we look at the mission statement one time and maybe we never saw it. But it’s time to review that and really try to see, “Can I cascade up to that mission? Can I connect to what this organization is all about?” And if you’re lucky enough to have team members, make this a team activity. Engage everyone at the start. Have everyone think about that. What is the impact? What is the outcome if we do this project?

So there is a tool for you. You’ve had it all along. But it’s really helpful to start right here.

Question for You

So now, I have a question for you. You guys have been involved in process improvement on some level, maybe even before you were – maybe you’ve had some training, maybe not. You may have been asked to help with other projects throughout your careers. So I want you to think about what kinds of purpose statements have you seen or heard that really helped an improvement effort that you saw people buy into, that you bought into?

So I want to hear some of those examples because it’s nice for people to hear from other people, what works, what kinds of statements make the difference? And usually these are getting at a mission that people have emotional reactions to.

So Karlo, let me know if you’re seeing any questions there.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Sure.

Elisabeth Swan: I mean any answers to this question. Sorry.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Sure. Sounds good. And we may want to revisit this at the end of the session in case people made some additional time. We haven’t – we don’t have any responses yet.

Elisabeth Swan: OK. So think about that and think about what has worked, what’s the purpose or what’s a statement around the mission of the team where you felt like that made the difference, that that helped the improvement effort, that people got lined around it and how that made the project more successful.

Karlo Tanjuakio: So we have a couple in – Tracy shared, to improve TAT on corrected reports by 50%. And Syrell shared, “Statements with a direct tie to customer benefits to externalize the effort.”

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. So that one – I think that was Syrell. That’s a great one. If you can tie it to external customer efforts, that makes a huge difference and people see the impact of what they are doing on how customers are treated or how they experience our company, how they feel about us as a company, those are great. If you can get to that external customer, that makes a big difference.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. And I’ll share one more. We do have a few others. So Laura shares, “Wearing safety glasses in a service shop. It was asked, ‘Do you like to go home and see your wife and kids with that piece of metal that just flew your head? If it hits you in your eye, you would not be able to see them. This statement made it personal for employees to own safety.” That one is great.

Elisabeth Swan: Wow! Who was that again? Who submitted that one?

Karlo Tanjuakio: Laura Holt.

Elisabeth Swan: Laura, thank you so much. That’s incredible because it both – it really touched on a couple of things that you really feel emotionally. Now, one of them is it involves your family, right? Seeing your family, they really – that really drives that home which is incredible. Not to mention sort of that fear of like that could hit you right in the eye like you personally would lose your sight. But they tied it right to the connection of you to your family. So real emotional response to that I can see. That’s incredible.

You remind me of a sign that was in the neighborhood and it was, instead of saying, “Slow down children playing.” Instead, “Drive as if your children lived here.” And that I think, again, it tied that emotional response to how that impacts the other people in your life or you and your relationship to them. So that’s an incredible one. Thank you for that.

Any other, Karlo?

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. None others. I’ll share any of that when they come in.

Elisabeth Swan: OK, great. Thank you for that. Those are great. Thank you, folks.

Tips and Tricks

So thinking about tips and tricks, always be clear on purpose. Make this clear right up front and ask that question, for the sake of what?

I’ve got another colleague and she is sort of funny about it. She said, “And why do I care? It’s getting at the same thing but it’s making more personal like what do I care? Why do I care about your project?” So answer that for people who are your stakeholders, your champions, anyone in the process, process participants. And a great way to do that is to think about those outcomes and impact.

That example we just had, like what happens to your family? What happens to our customers? What happens to you? So consider the outcomes and impact. Review your organization mission statement. What is it that they are trying to do? And these are interesting. I mean even if you think about financial services that well, we’re just trying to make money. And their mission statements are often not about that. It’s about helping people achieve their dreams or feel secure in their lives.

So it can really be a step beyond especially when you hit something around cost-savings or making money. It’s like, well, for the sake of what? What is that about? And there’s another more emotional component beyond that.

So review your organization mission statements. See if you can do that cascading and write that purpose right in the business case. If we succeed in this, we will be able to afford another mortgage, another – it might even be just, we free up people’s time. We don’t tie them up doing tasks that aren’t adding any value. And who wants to be stuck doing task, double checking, triple checking, correcting. They’re not adding any value. Those aren’t value-adding. Those aren’t sort of things that you can get behind.

So taking those things out of people’s daily lives means they can spend more time on adding value, what they were hired to do using their considerable skills. So, those are some of them.

And also, I want to point out that it can drive – it drives behavior. So once people know and they are connected to that purpose then you see things start to change. And an interesting one is back to an organizational mission statement, CVS. It’s a retail store connected to pharmacies. I think most people don’t even know what the C, the V or the S ever stood for. It was Customer Value Stores. But literally, it’s just an acronym that people can repeat. And they change their mission not too long ago and they said they said they want to help people on their path to better health. So they really altered their focus and their mission and their purpose.

And very soon after, most of you probably had heard that they stopped selling cigarettes. So now, cigarettes, that was probably a big source of income and profit but it didn’t align with their mission so they stopped. And actually did better because of it. So some of these might be counterintuitive but if your mission is so strong that it’s going to drive completely different behavior and that’s interesting too.

So think about the impact on others. Once they know, hey, this cost-savings is about affording another child care center. This is about getting – helping our employees do better in their lives, being able to provide them bonuses. So think about that and think about the difference it makes there.

…helping our employees do better in their lives, being able to provide them bonuses. So think about that and think about the difference it makes there.

Today We Covered

So, we talked about the definition. What is purpose? Why does it matter? Why do we care about it? What happens when it’s unclear and how we clarify the purpose for our projects? And then some tips and tricks to make it easy.


So let’s come back to questions. Karlo, do you have some?

Karlo Tanjuakio: Right. So, if anybody has any questions, please enter them into the question area.

Elisabeth Swan: So let me go over some other pieces before we come back to those.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great.

Upcoming Webinar: Feb. 22, 11 AM PST

And then another webinar, the next webinar in this series is coming up February 22nd so sign up for that. This is a great one. Tracy is going to talk about better ways to teach such that people retain and recall their knowledge and it’s something called Flipping the Conventional Classroom. And this is really instituting more practice and less lectures. So great tips here around how to have better training.

Just-In-Time Café Podcast

Another great thing you guys should check out is this month’s podcast. The interviewee is Sally Toister. I had a great conversation with Sally. She just transitioned Starwood’s incredibly successful 17-year Lean Six Sigma program over to Marriott. Marriott just bought Starwood. And she has great techniques where she takes her students to the gemba, which is the workplace. And in this case, it’s a hotel. So people going right into the hotel to learn Lean Six Sigma by checking out the workplaces right there. And that is a really fun one.

There’s also a great story about a professor in Indiana and she and her students use Lean Six Sigma to help local schools divert food waste from landfills to soup kitchen. So that one also back to the idea of purpose, great purpose there and really nice story in terms of big institution, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology making a difference in their local community. So that one is coming up.

Getting Started

Another one, we have a series on Success Webinars. These are stories from people who have done real projects, implemented them. They talk about the trouble they run into, obstacles, how they overcame them. You can see real projects. You can hear them. They are recorded. These are a series of webinars.

This next one is someone who – Lisa Donovan did work on increasing services to the homeless. And this woman is fascinating. It hinged on a form. She had a hunch about a form not being helpful and she tested it and she was right. And that’s a great one. So don’t miss that Success Story Webinar.

OK, Karlo. Back to you.


Karlo Tanjuakio: Awesome. So before we start with the Q&A, I did want to just mention to everyone that this month’s podcast episode was really, really exciting. We also have a new format that we’re excited to share with you where we make it a lot more interactive and fun and we have a poll in there too, an opportunity for you to win your Green Belt for free. So if anybody wants to check that out, please go on to our website até to check out the latest episode with Elisabeth, Tracy, and Sally Toister.

So the first question that we have is from Jeff. And he asks, “Whose responsibility is it to show the purpose of a project to the team members, belts, sponsors, or champions?”

Elisabeth Swan: To show the purpose? I would say it’s a group effort to develop it and that it would be the team, team lead and the team members would develop that together. So use that technique of trying to cascade, ask those questions for the sake of what, and then pass that by the sponsor. So you always want to check in with the sponsor, another name for the champion, to make sure you have alignment all the way through the leadership.

So I think it starts with the team and then the team shares it with the sponsor. The sponsors will include sharing that with the rest of leadership. And it should be something that you can rattle off, right? So if you’re stopped in an elevator or in the middle of a hallway, you can say without thinking exactly what the purpose of the project is. So, good question. Thank you.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. Thanks for that, Elisabeth. So Raj asks, “How do we keep the purpose front and center throughout the program?”

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a great question. And it’s almost a goal, is that your goal is to keep the purpose front and center throughout the life of the project. And that might be just – when I write emails and sometimes I’m in the weeds, I’m sending someone, “I need some data. Give me this data.” And then I remember, “Oh, I’m not really giving them an introduction to why I’m asking this question.”

So I always check my emails. I go back, before I send them just say, “Have I said why I’m doing this? Have I reminded that person like, “Hey, I’m on this project. If you remember, this is the goal, it’s for this reason and I was looking for this particular data. Can you help me with that?”

Or even include on agendas with the title of the project underneath, I’d say purpose and put a parentheses. So just keep in your communications. Keep it front and center. Keep it alive so people don’t – because if the instinct is to then sort of drive back to, “Well, we’ve got to hit our goal. We got to hit our goal.” So keeping that front and center is a great topic. Thank you for that.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. So if anyone has any more questions, please feel free to enter them in the question area. We have a few minutes left.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, Karlo, if you don’t see any more questions, then people, feel free to ask them after the webinar. We have our Q&A section on our website and we answer questions from everybody all the time. So all the questions that were asked here and the answers to those are all going to be posted on our site. And if you have more after this session, we’ll absolutely answer those as well.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Great. So it looks like there are no more questions. And any other questions will be responded to directly on our website where this webinar video will be posted as well. If you’re interested in watching or sharing the recording, you can check it out within the next few days. We’ll also send you an email with the information on the video, the slides, and any other information that we mentioned on the webinar.

Thank You for Joining Us!

Elisabeth Swan: Thanks for joining us.

Karlo Tanjuakio: Thanks everyone. Take care.

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Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.