Still trying to push the rock over the top of the hill?

When I first meet my clients, they have been trying to push the rock over the top of the hill for some time. Let’s define “pushing the rock over the top of the hill”. This means to obtain a satisfactory and sustained level of employee turnover, chronically open positions and skills gap. Consistently, they will have short periods of time where they make progress. Only to see the rock roll back on top of them again. Their progress is due to them trying something which they read about or one of their competitors did. It may or may not work out. If they do show some improvement it is invariably for a short period of time.

Six Sigma, Constant Improvement and Lean Manufacturing all begin with a fundamental shift in philosophy. Manufacturing issues can be resolved by a better understanding and management of the processes. They review current activity and results, set goals and determine what can be done to improve. They all see classic management principles as being the long term solution to the problem.

Improvement is seen as a long term on-going commitment

Most companies who go through these changes see a significant improvement quickly. They may see 80% of their improvement in the first 90 to 180 days. They also see most of their improvement in one to three areas. However, they are also always open to new ideas and not allowing sacred cows. Moving forward they have a review of processes every 30 days to stay on top of problems.

We had great success. We had reduced our employee turnover, open positions and our skills gap. We had saved the company a lot of money and our gains were now sustained for three years in a row. But some of the managers questioned whether we had gone too far. There were no symptoms which could be demonstrated. They just felt uneasy. We were moving into uncharted territory.

Be ready for people to feel uncomfortable even with success

It still hits me as interesting that the managers were uneasy even with the absence of symptoms. It was the same managers who questioned in the beginning whether we could reduce turnover. As it was with Six Sigma, this is part of the game. The only cure which I have found is time. It took time for them to realize the gains were real and the uneasiness was unfounded.

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