Chapter 16. Reenergizing a Legacy Program

With Mitali Sharma, Jeff Howard, and Michael Mueller

About two years into its Lean Six Sigma deployment, a major national retailer was concerned because it was no longer seeing the big gains that were routine in the early days of the deployment. The early gains had been impressive, but since then economic returns had flattened out and interest in the program was waning. Still, with economic pressures increasing, the company thought it would be worthwhile to see if there wasn't something it could do to reinvigorate the deployment.

The first step was searching out the underlying causes for the lackluster performance. The company knew the problem wasn't with the methodology itself: Lean Six Sigma has been proven in practice time and time again. So there must be something in its deployment approach.

A close investigation revealed that the company had taken some shortcuts in its initial deployment, intended to make the program easier to digest by busy executives and staff. For example, a workshop for potential project sponsors had been pared down from the original one to two days to just a few hours. Stakeholders were selected without careful consideration, based on proximity to the CEO rather than an analysis of the political dynamics. A rigorous project selection process had been abandoned in favor of holding brief brainstorming sessions.

The consequence of these shortcuts was that the company had mediocre projects with ineffective sponsorship. ...

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