Why Combining Leadership and Lean Six Sigma Training is the Best Tool Today

Q&A with Jeff and Mason Gray by TG&H Editor, Christine Faria

Christine Faria

In the last couple of years, we’ve talked a lot about the Lean Six Sigma program. Recently you did a session at the Raving NEXT: Indian Gaming Strategic Operations & Leadership Conference where you talked about the importance of leadership and Lean together.

Why is it important that leadership goes hand in hand with Lean?

Jeff Gray: A lot of times we think that leadership as one thing and Lean Six Sigma as another. Leadership is supposed to guide the ship, tell us where we’re going, and Lean is supposed to follow along and do what they’re asking them to do. They are two things that need to come together like a Venn diagram.

There are certain skills that everybody needs to execute strategic projects throughout the enterprise. The leadership component needs to be an understanding that everybody has the basic skills to execute successful projects. If you have somebody who has never led a team before and you throw them in there with five people and you say, “here’s the project, now lead the team,” well they’re not set up for success. They have to have some components, some of the primary, secondary, tertiary level of skills to execute that leadership role as they’re executing a project with a team that they’ve never even worked with. You have to take those two things that are needed at those levels, the leadership piece, and the Lean component all the way through as you’re executing a project through the enterprise. You have to put them together as one instead of one program or the other.

If the goal is to solve problems and save money, can you dive a little bit deeper into the difference between the two programs?

Mason Gray: You have Lean Six Sigma, which is all about eliminating waste, reducing variation, and improving your efficiency. You have leadership, as guiding tenants for what your leaders of those teams need to have including proper communication facilitation, conflict resolution, etc. If you have five people on a team trying to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and somebody doesn’t agree with where the project’s going, you definitely need someone who’s able to conflict resolve within that team.

Every Lean Six Sigma team has a leader and probably a supervisor, just someone to keep on track. We call them a project champion. Someone rallies the troops that keeps everyone on track. You  also have a team leader who’s going to be compiling all the documents, helping you get those meetings to present to leadership and help the project move forward. There’s two separate parts where leadership is looking at more of those soft saves and soft wins for your team and the skills that your team needs to have to norm perform storm and then perform. Whereas Lean Six Sigma is looking at the actual tools and methods you’re going to be using to perform those Lean six Sigma projects. So have a great leader, have a great tool, and then save money.

Give us an example when somebody combines leadership and lean training together that you would find in a casino.

Jeff Gray: The first thing that we do when we go into a casino, we get leadership together. We understand all of the problems that they need to tackle and how those problems are impacting their strategic KPIs. They might say, “We’re losing money here, we’re losing money here, customers are complaining here, how do we align these problems to drive our KPIs in the right direction?” Leadership picks those issues and they prioritize them and then they give them to their team members that are going to execute them. They are aware of the vision and the goal and the direction. Leadership has to now pass that on to the people who are going to be executing. Sometimes it might be a mid-level manager, but they have to pass the knowledge down. As leaders, it is passed down that, here’s your goal and I’m going to help you and support you to get there. And when you have roadblocks, when you have challenges, through leadership, those team members will be given basic skills to execute successfully. That’s how they flow down and the bigger the project, the team is tasked with the more leadership skills they’re going to need.

How do you work through people who are resistant or have challenges? That’s where leadership skills are needed at the right time to execute successful and long-term success. We’ve done that with maintenance projects, food and beverage.

Another example. Just say you are losing money on some promotion, you put together a team, you figure out what went wrong. Leadership will help you figure out how you re-engineer and make that promotion better to bring more people in, grow profits and then measure the success of that. Leadership will drive it; the team will execute it and there will be success at the end.

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Have you heard the phrase, “It’s the process, not the people”? Most organizations have great team members, but despite all efforts, service, and performance KPIs are not being met. Is it time for leadership and business optimization training? Raving can help – we’re just a phone call away.