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What Can Six Sigma Do For You?

If you thought the Six Sigma framework was big business territory, think again.

Monique Verduyn

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SixSignma

Small and medium sized businesses have a number of characteristics that can speed up the structuring of an effective Six Sigma system, such as flexible process flows, short decision-making chains and high visibility of senior management.

Sound like Greek to you? In his book Six Sigma for Everyone, noted consultant and author George Eckes provides a practical guide that explains the underpinnings of this revolutionary quality assurance methodology.

A quality management and process improvement methodology, Six Sigma is particularly well suited to process-intensive industries like manufacturing. It measures a process by its average performance and the standard deviation of this performance, aiming to reduce the occurrence of defects in a process to a level of “Six Sigma” outside the norm: no more than 3,4 times per million.

Limiting Process Variation

Motorola is where Six Sigma began. An engineer, Mikel Harry, began to study the variations in the processes within Motorola. He saw that too much variation in any process resulted in poor customer satisfaction and ineffectiveness in meeting the customer requirements.

Eckes uses the example of a fast food restaurant where you are the customer. What if over the course of going there for lunch five days in a row, you experience different waiting periods in the drive-through line from the time you join the line until you get your order filled – anything from two to 24 minutes.

The average wait is 12 minutes, but that doesn’t describe the real situation. Not having control over variation, this fast food restaurant is going to lose business, since customers don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing whether it is going to be a 2-minute wait or a 24-minute wait.

Six Sigma is about applying a set of tools to reduce variation in the processes and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of those processes. It’s an approach, says Eckes, that can move management away from thinking of downsizing as their only approach to improving the financial outlook.

The Six Sigma Framework

Six Sigma projects should be derived by senior management from your business’s strategic plan. This sets an organisation’s goals and key performance measurements.

1. Define the objectives.

Based on goals, the senior management team defines the scope of each Six Sigma project and organises the right project team. While projects are progressing, review them and provide financial, technical and moral support. After the projects are completed, audit the results, establish systems to sustain the improvements, and continuously adjust the business’s strategic plans.

2. Measure existing systems.

Identify and describe the potential critical processes or products. Establish valid and reliable metrics to help monitor progress towards the project goals.

3. Analyse the system.

Identify ways to eliminate the gap between the current performance of the system or process and the desired goal. Outline each process and document your findings.

4. Improve the process performance.

Each process is modified and the outcome is measured to determine whether the revised method produces results within customer expectations.

5. Control the new system.

Institutionalise the improved system by modifying policies, procedures, operating instructions, and other management systems. Each critical factor should also be continuously improved by transforming its management into different Six Sigma projects.

Get Buy-in With Early Wins

For Six Sigma to be successful in your business, the first projects you take on must be successful.

Winning projects help the people in the organisation see that Six Sigma works for them and are essential to overcoming doubt and scepticism.

Bear in mind that because smaller businesses have limited cash and resources, senior management has to play an active role in the entire Six Sigma cycle. It may seem like a big commitment, but driven from the top, Six Sigma can have a healthy impact on your bottom line.

Buy The Book

Six Sigma for Everyone, by George Eckes, is published by John Wiley & Sons. Get it from www.kalahari.net

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Strategy

4 Ways To Find Your Own Business Style

The only way to develop a business style is step-by-step over time.

Timothy Sykes

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Finding a style in finance will define how you react to changes and how you approach new situations. It’s as important in business as it is in stock trading. Developing a business style and developing a stock trading system are extremely similar pursuits.

But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to do. It will take time and you do have to be willing to work at it.

Here are my four ways of finding your own business style.

1. Get rid of your expectations

You can’t force anything to work. It’s necessary for you to be flexible when it comes to finding a business style. Begin by letting go of any expectations you have before trying a new style.

Prior to attempting a new style, you have to be willing to go into it with no expectations. You never know what you’re going to find.

Related: 8 Steps to Building Your Business According to the Lifestyle You Want

2. Track your movements

Some things are going to work and some things aren’t going to work. I always tell my students in the Tim Sykes Millionaire Challenge that they should keep records of the things they’re doing. Keep these records as detailed as possible because attempting trial and error can quickly lead you in circles.

Don’t fall into the trap (as I did in the beginning) of trying the same thing multiple times because you never tracked the results.

I keep large spreadsheets with notes of the various styles and systems I’ve tried in business. Business mistakes can be costly, so you need to do everything you can to avoid making them.

3. Look at what others are doing

business-options

I refuse to believe that someone is doing something truly unique. The moment someone makes a breakthrough in business there are a hundred people replicating the same things. And that can be a powerful tool. Consider what others are doing and see whether you can learn something.

It’s why I also advocate finding a mentor to help you out. They’ll be able to help you out and you’ll benefit from their enhanced experiences in business.

Again, track what you’re taking from other people so you know whether something is working.

Related: I Started Saying ‘No’ To These 6 Things. My Life And My Business Got A Lot Better

4. Refine what you do

Rarely will anything in business work the first time. However, your first attempts will give you a good benchmark as to what you need to do next.

You should never be satisfied with what you have, even if it’s working. Always work on improving your business style. I believe this is the most important thing because it also teaches you how to adapt to changing conditions over time.

Last Word – Constantly Growing

There’s no step-by-step guide for how to develop a business style. The only way to do it is to obey the fundamentals and then develop everything over time.

Even though the process is long, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot of lessons and gain from a huge number of experiences over time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Strategy

6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching

Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.

Nadine Todd

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Dr Marshall Goldsmith

Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.

The expert

Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

The method

Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What are you doing well?
  4. Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. So you have suggestions for me?

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4 Ways To Develop The Leaders You’ll Need In The Future

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.

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One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.

It can be easy for those at the top to forget that eventually someone will have to take their place at the helm. And ignoring that fact has lead to issues with succession planning, unwanted turnover and other challenges in leadership development in many organisations.

2016 High Impact Leadership research from Bersin by Deloitte asked 2,422 HR and business leaders from around the world how well they believed they could discover new leadership talent. Just 35 percent of respondents said they were above average when it came to successfully identifying and developing leaders.

To understand why this is, consider the typical leadership development paradox. Traditionally, the first step is to choose who has leadership potential, then develop their skillset. Logically, however, this makes little sense.

How is it possible to identify effective leaders if employees have yet to receive any type of leadership development?

Here are four ways to properly identify better qualified candidates for leadership positions:

1Stop choosing potential leaders based on unrelated skills

Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report, which studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role or because of their tenure with the company. Neither of those criteria have any proven correlation with leadership skills or relevant experience.

Create a better means of measuring for true leadership potential. Look at the culture of the organisation and envision what it would look like for someone to lead by those values.

Also consider how successful leaders evolved over time in the organisation. Then use that information to make a list of recognisable traits to look for as signs of leadership potential.

2Broaden leadership development to more employees

People learn and grow at their own unique pace. Requiring that an employee reach a certain position or be with the company for a certain number of years before they’re offered leadership opportunities holds back those who might be ready for more responsibility now. Or even worse, it might push those who aren’t yet ready into leadership roles.

Instead, let leadership development be a company-wide initiative. This gives more people the chance to take the next step in their career. It also creates a larger pool of possible great leaders to draw from across the organisation.

3Track progress and growth

Track progress and growth

There’s no way of knowing who is ready to step up and lead unless development is monitored. Remember that this is a process. Employees need feedback from their mentors and coaches to know for certain what skills they’ve mastered as well as where there can still be improvements made.

Develop a way to assess progress for different leadership positions, and be clear with employees and coaches about what success would look like in different situations. For instance, explain what is expected of a first time project leader.

Get everyone on the same page about the developing leader’s responsibilities and how that should guide their team.

Then collect thorough feedback from all those involved. Ask the leadership candidate what challenges they faced as well as where they think they thrived. Pose the same questions to those they supervised and organisational mentors.

Over time, this will reveal patterns that make it easier to identify who is best suited for leadership in the long-term.

4Focus on continual leadership development

There is no such thing as too much experience. There is always more that can be learned. After leadership candidates have been identified, continue to nurture them. This keeps employees from feeling that they have plateaued, which is unfortunately common.

The 2014 Insigniam Middle Management Survey: Middle Management’s Critical Role In Saving Company Innovation looked at responses from 200 middle managers from around the world. It found that only 15 percent of managers believe they will ever be promoted to the next level of leadership at their company.

Whether intentionally or not, employees who have proven their leadership abilities are being told that their leadership journey is over – and this hurts both them and the organisation. Encourage a steady stream of highly trained and skilled leaders working their way up by demonstrating that there is no end to development.

In order to clearly see who the next wave of leaders is going to be, employees need to be given the chance to hone and exercise their skills.

That means redefining how leadership potential is identified and providing each employee with the chance to develop personally and professionally.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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