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Kyle Toppazzini


Rethinking Lean Six Sigma Change Management

Trust is the foundation for all successful initiatives

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012 - 11:28

Confucius, also known as Kong Zi, was an ancient Chinese philosopher who believed that trust—or shin—enables people to contribute to society. He believed that, for a leader, earning trust was essential. In addition, according to Confucius, to consider the concerns and interests of another person was necessary for trust to be established between two people.

I believe that one of the reasons that organizations find change management so difficult is because they do not address the root cause of why change initiatives fail, which is often due to a lack of trust.

Many organizations establish change management only when a change initiative is implemented; however, most organizations are constantly evolving and thus, change is always occurring. For this reason, employees may see the change management activity in a change initiative as just another process that an organization must undergo, a formality that has no real value. Employees may not trust that the change management activity will make them feel any better about the changes that are anticipated. 

Organizations must make trust a key principle in how they operate every day. Once they are able to establish trust, people will embrace change within the company and not fear it. So how do organizations reach a state of harmony in which trust is paramount and consistent throughout the organization?

1. Ensure your organizational values are consistent with the principles of quality management and lean Six Sigma

Most people would agree that implementing value-stream optimization, reducing process variability, eliminating waste, achieving targets, and continuously improving organizational performance are critical steps to ensuring the success of any organization focused on quality management and operational excellence. An organization ought to make these concepts a focus of everything it does. These concepts should be part of the organization’s value system, and every employee should trust that this way of operating will result in success and personal satisfaction.

Figure 1 highlights an overview of Toppazzini and Lee Consulting’s enterprise change management model for lean Six Sigma, which is one component of our new lean Six Sigma framework that is rooted in Chinese values. Trust is at the heart of this change management model. To establish trust, all employees must have a shared vision and believe in the same guiding principles for quality management and performance improvement. In our model, the shared principles of quality management and performance improvement are value-stream optimization, reducing process variability and eliminating waste, achieving the target, and continuously improving organizational performance. These principles encompass everything that the organization is. If employees do not believe in these principles or do not have a shared vision, it will be hard to establish trust, and if trust is not established, change will be difficult to achieve.

Therefore, an organization should take a good, hard look at the values that it believes in and determine if these values are consistent with the guiding principles of quality management and performance improvement. If an organization’s values are inconsistent or in conflict with the quality management goals that have been set, the organization could be sending a message that quality management is simply a passing trend, and employees will start to distrust the organization’s messages. Furthermore, in this scenario, an organization may risk hiring employees who share similar values but do not actually believe in the principles of quality management; this can eventually lead to mistrust if the organization starts to advocate quality management or lean Six Sigma principles. 


Lean Six Sigma, Change Management, Quality Management
Figure 1: Enterprisewide change management model for lean Six Sigma (Click for larger image.)


2. Implement strategy in a way that creates trust

I remember having a discussion with a vice president and one of the executive directors of a company, during which I explained that success is more likely if 300 people are focused on implementing your strategy, as opposed to six people. The VP looked at me in total agreement and excitement, while the executive director looked at me in total shock and disbelief. Why was this happening? Although the VP agreed with my idea, the executive director had never experienced it, so accomplishing my goal seemed impossible.

To establish trust, you need more than a shared vision and shared principles. You need to execute strategy in a way that excites and motivates employees. It must be done in a way that shows genuine interest in the ideas, thoughts, and concerns of employees who will be responsible for executing the strategy.

In our lean Six Sigma framework, employees come up with and execute improvement ideas that move the organization closer to its vision. Management selects the improvement projects with the strongest business case, and employees execute their improvement projects and demonstrate how those projects have improved the organization’s key performance indicators (KPI). Because the KPIs are linked to the organization’s strategies, employees can see their contribution to strategy execution and know that their ideas are important to the organization as a whole.


These are only two methods of establishing trust throughout an organization. Other methods must be implemented for trust to be established. Once an organization is able to establish the value of trust, buy-in is not something that you set out to achieve; it is something that just happens. Do you think organizations can reach a state where shin is established throughout the company?


About The Author

Kyle Toppazzini’s picture

Kyle Toppazzini

Kyle Toppazzini is the president of Toppazzini and Lee Consulting, and an international leader and consultant in lean Six Sigma. He is a certified balanced scorecard trainer and a lean Six Sigma Black Belt. He works with C-level executives to assist in developing and implementing process improvement strategies and transformations that result in faster, better, and more cost-effective delivery of services and products. Toppazzini’s Lean Six Sigma Challenge has appeared in more than 200 outlets, including Yahoo News, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Miami Herald. Contact him at Kyle.Toppazzini@TLeeCorp.com or tel. (613) 680–4333, ext. 2.