Lean Six Sigma Teams: Leadership Skills And Strategies
A Lean Six Sigma project team leader has special responsibilities to ensure productive team interactions that lead to successful results. This challenging role requires someone with excellent leadership qualities and the right set of skills to bring out the best in a project team.
Lean Six Sigma Team Leaders
The role of a Lean 6 Sigma team leader is central to proper implementation of a Lean 6 Sigma project. He or she guides the project team from start to finish, serving as coach, mentor, leader, facilitator, mediator, and more.
A good team leader can literally make or break a project. A project team without an exceptional leader is much like a ship without a captain or a busy intersection without a traffic light. In other words, the team may appear to be doing a lot but they have no direction, work in chaos, and are very likely to crash at some point.
Choosing a team leader for a Lean Six Sigma project requires attention to a number of qualities in each candidate. A few of these important qualities include:
- Level of Lean 6 Sigma training
- Leadership experience and skills
- Personal characteristics and integrity
- Business frame of mind
- Passion for their job
The team leader generally works with the process owner and the rest of the Lean 6 Sigma group to select the rest of the project team. His or her input and active participation in the selection process are vital, as they allow the team leader to help shape a group that will be more likely to work smoothly together in the months to come.
Lean 6 Sigma Leadership Qualities
The leadership qualities needed in a Lean Six Sigma team leader both universal and specific to the Lean Six Sigma process. Each quality is generally seen in good leaders across many different industries and applications, but also tends to be present at exceptional levels in a good Lean 6 Sigma team leader.
What are the key leadership qualities required? Lean 6 Sigma experts may vary somewhat in the specific words and labels they give to each quality, but they most often fit into one of the following categories:
- Project Management
- Problem Solving
- Team Dynamics
- Customer Focus
- Business Expertise
- Technical Expertise
The following table shows why each category is important.
Leadership Quality Why It’s Important
Training for Lean Six Sigma Team Leaders
In most cases, the Lean 6 Sigma team leader will be a Black Belt, but sometimes a Green Belt will fill the position if the project is smaller or less complex. Hands on training and experience are also important, so the team leader will have been involved in other Lean Six Sigma projects in a variety of capacities.
The amount of training necessary for a Lean Six Sigma team leader is a subject of some discussion in the Six Sigma community. While Black Belt qualification is still the “gold standard” for team leaders, some people advocate for team leaders that are leaders first and Lean Six Sigma Black Belts second.
In other words, as the thinking goes, it is much easier for someone with strong leadership skills to acquire Six Sigma training than it is for someone with strong Lean Six Sigma training to acquire leadership skills. The reality is that both sets of skills – leadership and Six Sigma – must be present for a team leader to perform well and it does not really matter in which order the skills are acquired.
Success Strategies for Lean 6 Sigma Team Leaders
All Lean 6 Sigma teams go through various stages and processes to get to the final project results. Each step along the way presents unique challenges and opportunities to the team leader, requiring different leadership and management strategies to ensure success.
Here are some of the most common situations a team leader faces, along with suggested strategies for working through them.
|Obstacles And Impediments|
|Conflict Management And Resolution|
A Lean Six Sigma team leader fills many varying roles over the course of a Lean Six Sigma project. From manager to facilitator, mediator to mentor, each of these roles is important to the success of the team as well as the growth and development of individual team members.
The best team leaders have the right balance of leadership skills and Lean 6 Sigma knowledge to help guide a team through all of the project stages and ultimately to a successful result. Any organization that is fully committed to Lean Six Sigma will make a concerted effort to attract, develop, and support the right people to ensure a steady flow of leaders well into the future.