By Mr. Thomas Peske (AMC)February 11, 2008
CRANE, Ind. - Lean Six Sigma is a data driven process to improve the efficiency, quality and effectiveness of how work is done, but very often its greatest challenge is not in problem solving on a project, but creating a culture of change among resisting employees.
Breaking down these barriers to change is part of the task of the Green and Black belts at Crane Army Ammunition Activity who strive to improve the way the activity does its business. Lean Six Sigma can often be seen as threatening to employees who are used to doing things a certain way or think of it as the change of the month.
According to CAAA Commander Col. Charles Kibben, "No one is really going to have a great Lean Six Sigma program unless you have buy in from the rest of the individuals who are actually out there doing the work." He added, "Change is something very difficult for people to accept and you need to build an atmosphere where they will want to accept it."
CAAA Continuous Improvement Program Manager and Master Black Belt Paul Allswede explained that changing culture requires few distinct things. First, identifying the need - the rationale of why change is needed has to be clearly defined, it's imperative to know the why before defining the what. Second, setting the direction - a goal and a path forward has to be identified and thoroughly communicated, tying together the why and what and introduce the how. Third, obtaining commitment - leadership at all levels should have buy in into the path forward, if the need and direction are rational and tied to the business strategy buy in should meet less resistance.
The fourth thing is to take action - put into motion the activities needed to enable the path forward to achieve the desired goal and involve the maximum number of people allowable. Allswede said, "Getting people into the decision cycle leads to empowerment and ownership. It is then vital to leverage success to further buy in across the organization. Finally, continuously review the process; assess what went well and what did not so organizational learning can take place. Now apply the above to a LSS setting."
One of the critical ways to win over skeptical workers is by showing that the process not only works, but it will make their life better. This can take time and takes patience. CAAA Chemical Engineer Lara Zilafro, a Master Black Belt, explained that on one of her projects it was only after showing the data that opinions began to turn from hostile to accepting.
"With Lean Six Sigma, the hard part is not using the tools and the techniques. The hard part is changing the culture," Zilafro said. She said the key lesson from her project was the involvement of the stakeholders at the beginning and showing them the scientific data to their efforts to reduce defects and improve cycle time in zinc plating operations.
CAAA Electroplater Kenny Walls said his personal belief before the LSS project was that it was a joke. Over time of working with Zilafro, Walls said the trust began to be built up and their efforts produced results that saved time, material and created cost avoidance. In the end, Walls and Zilafro did not just work together to improve the plating process in the shop, but also developed a greater respect and friendship with each other.
The remarks about change were echoed by CAAA Depot Operations' Supervisory Operations Specialist Dennis Sickel about the LSS project that helped to create the Ammunition Transportation and Tracking Control Center. Sickel explained teamwork was vital to the process, especially when it involved both Army and Navy assets. He said that teamwork had to come from the senior leadership all the way down to the wage grade workers.
CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.