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We’re in the middle of one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime: COVID-19. We’re burning out our employees, losing our customers and struggling to keep ourselves and families happy and healthy. Every one of us is paying the price for not having processes that withstand uncertainty.

We’re learning that without antifragile processes, we’re powerless.

But you can build an antifragile business with Lean Six Sigma process improvement. Lean Six Sigma is the fastest way to build a culture of high performing problem solvers that never lose their power.

Lean Six Sigma is Antifragile Because It Thrives In Uncertainty

Nassim Nicholas’s book, Antifragile, details under stress there are organizations that fail, some that survive, and a few special ones thrive in uncertainty. 

 “The classic example of something antifragile is Hydra, the Greek mythological creature that has numerous heads. When one is cut off, two grow back in its place.”

Continuous improvement is the embodiment of antifragility because it focuses on progress; continuous growth. This constant pursuit of perfection means a system rapid, agile problem solvers who spend all day creating gaps and closing them.

Companies that exercise Lean process improvement are always prepared for a crisis because “Major disruptions are not an abrupt departure from what anti-fragile organizations do continuously — solve problems.”

Brad Power’s Harvard Business Review article explains,

“After the 2009 financial crisis and economic depression, “Toyota’s fiscal 2013 profits were more than four times its earnings in 2010, and three times 2012’s.”

We say in business, you evolve or die.

A Lean Six Sigma culture finds people with the drive to learn and grow. It gives them the tools to find the high performer in themselves.

Process Improvement Is A Commitment To Culture 

A culture is a set of habits and beliefs. The habits reinforce the culture and a culture creates the habits.

Process improvement is a daily habit. It’s leaderships’ habits of blaming processes instead of people. It’s the habit of embracing failures quickly because learning is the best weapon against threats and for opportunities. 

These habits are the direct results of believing in the Lean Six Sigma philosophy of humble leadership and respect for the individual.

I believe this because I’ve seen these same companies establish a habit of faster and better-sustained change.  

Power says, “Antifragile organizations are those that have a culture that enables them to learn fast from their environment and adapt to it so they can take advantage of volatility.” His specific characteristics include:

“Continuous experimentation. As described in Toyota Kata, good management knows that the best solutions come from the workers. They create an environment in which practitioners are able to run experiments to learn as rapidly as possible. The feedback loops in command and control organizations are too slow for them to adapt effectively.”

There is no status quo in Lean Six Sigma.

An Antifragile Company Starts With The Executive Leadership 

Six Sigma Lean culture transformations aren’t easy. In fact, they fail more often than they succeed.  

You don’t need a corporate title to lead change, but if you have one you are required to lead it. A company’s culture is set by it’s vision and mission statements.  

But we don’t work say “Hold on let me check the corporate vision statement to make sure we should do this”. We look to our leaders. We watch how they speak, act and spend their money.  

These habits reinforce what’s important and not important in the company. And what’s important, gets codified as a process.

When we look at studies root causing why process improvement culture transformations fail, we find

Lean Six Sigma sensei, Jaime Villafuerte, states the top mistakes are, “

  1. Senior management’s lack of commitment/understanding of Lean or Six Sigma
  2. Senior management’s unwilling to accept that cultural change is often required for Lean to be a success.
  3. Lack of Lean/Six Sigma skilled people in the right positions.”

Change management is everyone’s job and your privilege if you’re the boss.

Antifragility Is Systematically Embracing The Fear of Failure

Yet struggle is progress. Struggling opens the day for meaningful change.

What better time to lead a cultural change than now? It’s the perfect time to design processes and standard operations procedures to help your employees feel trusted, confident, and empowered.

It’s the perfect time to scrap your pre-pandemic deliverables and set up agile KPIs and targets so your people feel like they can take care of their family and their work.

Most importantly, it’s the perfect time to ask ourselves if our leadership habits reflect the legacy we want to leave behind.

We don’t live forever, but the processes we leave behind do.