Sunday, April 26, 2009

Searching for Your Organization’s Susan Boyle

Before she sang, Susan Boyle, the 47 year old, unemployed, Scottish woman, and current Internet phenomenon, was asked why her dream of becoming a professional singer “had not worked before?”  To which she replied, “I have never been given the chance before.”  Moments later, she delivered an amazing rendition of “I Dreamed The Dream.”  Now ponder this, how many employees in organizations across the world could say they never had a chance to shine?  Here is one such story that I observed first hand.


Facing a significant financial and quality challenge, the leadership of an organization realized radical change was necessary.  They understood, as Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” To avoid corporate insanity, their only option was to embark on a Lean Six Sigma journey.  Their first decision was to seek out the “informal” leaders in the organization.  Next they approached those key individuals with the ability to influence their peers; to make them aware of the issues and the plan to implement Lean Six Sigma.


One of the key influencers in the informal network was a long time employee who had the reputation of being negative and critical of management.  Reaching out to him, the leadership outlined the reasons for the changes and the new course of direction.  He was told that his opinion mattered and that his input was required to make the organization successful.  He began to share his very insightful thoughts and ideas.


After being recognized for a particularly thoughtful observation, the employee replied that he was now being praised for the same thing that would have landed him in trouble with previous management.  In retrospect, this employee was his organization’s Susan Boyle.  He was an amazing talent who had never been given a chance.


The beauty of the Lean Six Sigma processes is it provides for involvement from all levels of the organization.  It allows employees to voice their opinions and experiment with new ideas in try-storming sessions.  It allows their voices to be heard and their input considered.  It shouts you have value!  You are not simply a commodity!  You are a person with a brain!  When implemented correctly, it demonstrates to the employee that their input matters.


So what happened to that employee after he became engaged?  He went on to facilitate his plant’s Morning Market and was a leader in the deployment of 5S and Visual Controls.



I cannot emphasize enough that one of the key jobs of a Lean Six Sigma leader is to find and use the amazing talents of their employees who have been overlooked and/or underutilized by providing a vehicle for them to voice their ideas and shine.  After all, every company’s got talent.  




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Post Author: Royce Williard

Copyright 2009, The Williard Group

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