6 killer tips to sell lean, six-sigma or TQM

Posted on 26 Sep 2008 by The Manufacturer

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to try and ’sell’ the importance of having a quality management ‘framework’, be it six-sigma, Total Quality Management or otherwise? What’s your elevator pitch? Rob Thompson explores...

Here are my six killer tips to generate interest in Lean, or Six Sigma:

1. Don’t sell the methodology, sell the results: People are not interested in increasing the complexity of their processes. However, at a management level, people are interested in less returned product, better throughput from the same resources, and stronger margins from increased efficiency.

2. Show me the money: Look at the revenue you will be either generating as a result of the training, or saving, as a result of the training. If you have no real figures for a company, you should look at how these practices have impacted other businesses. For example: XYZ company implemented this system, and as a result, reduced waste by 60%. That translated into $400 000 of savings. See economic case for quality” (ECQ)

3. Tell people what is in it for them: For business, the pitch should always be centred on increasing productivity/efficiency, increasing profit and saving money. As Rick Warren says in A PURPOSEFUL LIFE, “It is NOT about you.” It is about them. Answer the, “What’s in it for me?” question and you will never have to sell again.

4. People buy on emotion and justify on fact: Don’t sell the program using “black-belt” methods: data, reason and a scientific approach. Instead get people to identify their own “burning platform” and to facilitate their development of a compelling destination so they are clear where they want to get. You create/surface the gap, the “cognitive dissonance” between where they are and where they want to be. The pain or the potential for gain will then become your improvement frameworks “driver.”

5. Administer the right medicine for the right disease: The first thing a lot of companies need before they go anywhere near half-sophisticated techniques, is implementation basic Lean tools, but often six sigma programs and the like are implemented and over-layered on top of a general disorder, untidiness and ignorance of more basic quality principles

6. Dumb it down: There is an old stand-by in Six Sigma presentations. The presenter starts off with the old “How good is 99%. He/she then goes on to discuss how many planes crash, how many surgeries fail, etc. It is a definite eye opener and it gets people listening:

What if other businesses excepted 99% error-free operations …

1,203,453 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly during the year.

140 newborns would be given to the wrong parents each day.

20 planes at Chicago’s O’Hare airport would crash each day.

3,150 entries in Webster’s Dictionary will be misspelled.

2,742 pacemaker operations would be performed incorrectly.

31,856 copies of tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal would be missing one of the three sections.

181,352 pieces of mail would be mishandled every hour.

280,000 incorrect drug prescriptions would be written each year.

1,144,550 mismatched pairs of shoes would be shipped each year.

12,780,000 credit cards would have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.

57,000,000 cases of soft drinks produced would be flat.

So in summary:

Find the pain and the money: the company pain is what will get management to listen to you and the money (revenue more so than cost) will get their attention. Which methodology and how you execute to get to the results for them is irrelevant.

Once you’ve caught their attention, a plan with a quick timeline turnaround (showing the ROI/gain) will capture some interest. Usually the question is how and how sure? At that time you can present the methodology to show its success with other companies and industries to give you the creditability in moving forward with the project.

With your first project success, communication and expansion of the methodology you chose will become easier. Else you can only be lucky with an executive that has gone through and knows the pain and the success in implementing a well-defined quality framework.

By Rob Thompson of LearnSigma blog.

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