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But Lean Six Sigma Doesn't Apply to MEEEE!

“But I’m in HR/Sales/Real Estate (pick one). I can’t define what I do. You can’t put me in a box. It’s creative, and it’s different every time, depending on the situation. It's all about relationships, not process. Lean Six Sigma doesn’t apply to me.”

I don’t agree.

Once, I was approached by a hiring manager, an executive looking for a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) leader for her NYSE-traded company, which enjoys revenues of more than $1 billion annually. She couldn’t offer me feedback after our discussion, because she didn’t know what she was looking for, but she’d know after she talked to a few candidates (her words).

Ironically, I was in the position of recommending to the executive in charge of Lean Six Sigma, to use LSS on the hiring process. The recommendation went like this:

“Thanks for your time yesterday, I enjoyed getting to know you and a little bit more about your company.

I’d like to respectfully suggest a different approach for your procurement of the new leader of Continuous Improvement. It typically takes months for a company to find, interview, hire and on-board a new leader at this level. During that time, unless you are doing his/her work, that work is on hold. Why not practice Lean Six Sigma and apply DMAIC to your search, along with some Lean concepts, and accelerate the time, reduce the cost, and maybe improve the quality of the selection process?

DEFINE: Someone has written a job description which was posted. It’s either accurate or it’s not. If not, gather a small team and revise it to capture your requirements. While they are with you, have them map out the current state of the hiring process. Then define the ideal state and identify how to close the gaps. What are the non-value added steps in the process? Where is there unnecessary waiting time in between the steps?

There are three main components to consider in a new hire: a) technical abilities b) leadership abilities, and c) cultural fit. The technical and leadership requirements for this position are nothing new. You’re not going to find accomplished LSS leaders with much variety in a) and b). Your biggest challenge is finding the right cultural fit. But you can delegate a) and b) to a more junior person. Use something like a Decision Matrix with your requirements, teach him how to use it, and have him develop a numerical score for each candidate. Be sure to include your date requirements. When do you want him or her on board? What are the steps you need to accomplish to make that happen? Pick the dates backwards from that date.

MEASURE: Leave this to your delegate. Respectfully, as an executive, talking to a wide range of candidates to see what’s available in the marketplace is a waste of your time. Your recruiter asked me approximately the same questions that you asked me. I gave you the same answers. From a Lean perspective, having you duplicate her work is Muda, waste, in this case over-processing. Your job should be to assure cultural fit and your enthusiasm for this person to work for you and with your team.

ANALYZE: This is the only place in the process for NOT relying on a tool. It’s the time for the in-person interviews. You’ve already checked technical and leadership abilities. Have conversations with your candidates, probably with a panel, including yourself. Let everyone hear the same responses. Do the interviews all within a day or two, and then have the panel, as a facilitated group, subjectively discuss the candidates until you as the facilitator have caused a consensus to occur.

IMPROVE: If you are not satisfied that you have found your new leader among that group, reconvene the team to modify the job description, and put your delegate back to work to find 3 more people to interview.

CONTROL: Use the learnings from this process to cement the hiring process for leadership positions at this level. Put measurements in place for things such as number of days for each step in the process, % of job offer acceptance rate, time spent in interviews, some measure of success of the candidate after 90 days, etc. Review the process from time to time to consider modifications.”

P.S. I didn’t get the job. In fact, the recruiter called the same day to inform me. Perhaps I’d have been better served sending the traditional, “I enjoyed our interview, I look forward to next steps.” But an interview is a two-way assessment, and I don’t think this would have been a great match from my perspective either.

Can you think of any process in any organization that can’t be improved when the employees involved in the process put their heads together to critically analyze what they do? Leave a comment.

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