In a recent blog post, we explored the perils of “one-and-done syndrome,” a trap into which too many organizations fall as initial Lean/Six Sigma project success fails to materialize into long-term gains. One powerful tool to drive organizational sustainability with projects and a broader problem-solving culture can be in recertification requirements for trained employees – but this is a delicate dance.
Maria Fry, an experienced Master Black Belt and member of the MoreSteam Client Services team, shared her guidance against clients requiring trained employees to submit projects for annual recertification because this can grow onerous amid other day-to-day demands.
“You have to find a ‘sweet spot’ so you aren’t overburdening your continuous improvement leaders when they go up for recertification,” Fry said.
That “sweet spot,” Fry explained, can be found by dialing back once-yearly, project-specific recertification requirements and building in accountability measures that ensure trained employees are actively engaging in the organization’s coaching, mentoring, and problem-solving initiatives. Recertification can instead be based on the combination of those activities, with the “big project” a part of the process every few years as opposed to the sole focus.
Broadening the focus of continuous improvement work beyond just projects, Fry added, helps create a support system for newly trained employees and avoids creating the perception that completing a project merely checks a box.
“When employees feel pressured to complete projects for the sake of recertification, they often don’t seek projects that are the highest priority to the organization - they tend to look for projects that are easy to do,” Fry said. “That’s not how you want to spend your resources if you are trying to align project work with strategic initiatives, which is critical to the success of any process improvement system.”
While a healthy continuous improvement culture ultimately involves employees at all levels, the work of shifting focus away from finite project work and toward a more holistic perspective resides with leadership.
“It’s so important that leaders continue to engage those employees who learn and teach and lead people on their own teams,” Fry emphasized.
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