I have worked in 4 different Global Fortune companies and have interacted extensively with directors and managers who come from the Business Excellence, Operational Excellence, Continuous Improvement or Lean Six Sigma department of different companies. I find this is one department where its role can be quite ambiguous at times.
Let’s take a look at the diverse functions it may play:
1) Strategic deployment – working with leadership team on strategy formulation and deployment across the organization.
2) Strategic project management – as requested by the leadership team, to personally lead the projects from inception to success. And many a times, to take over projects which are running behind schedule, cost and turn it around.
3) Lean Six Sigma project management – to meet productivity or quality targets
4) Culture development – to develop a continuous improvement culture so everyone will be motivated to continually do better in their work
5) Change agent – to interact with diverse stakeholders and facilitate changes to processes
6) Trainer – deliver Lean Six Sigma or Project Management methodologies to staff
7) Leadership mentor – be a mentor to leadership so they will know how to be more objective, more data-driven, recognize staff more, etc
8) Projects coach – Coach staff who are running projects on the use of tools and methodologies
9) Facilitate workshops – Bring staff from cross-functional departments and conduct Kaizen workshops in identifying improvement areas
10) Expand the department scope to incorporate the grey areas where the main departments would not want to take up. This also includes new initiatives driven from corporate.
With these diverse roles that the excellence or CI department will play, the staff who are in these departments will need to be multi-talented to handle all of the above.
They will need to be people-oriented and be able to handle relationships with stakeholders well. There’s a need to be apt in identifying the unique political dynamics and clique structure of each organization they go to. They need to be influential and at times driving (or assertive) in order to move the organization towards an objective. They will need to be technically inclined and be well-versed in the different tools and methods. They have to be data-driven and not take information at face value and there is a need to verify on every information or data received. They need to be good in processing information, at times utilizing excel programming to analyze and present data. They need to be good communicators as there’s a need to be up there in town hall to communicate and reiterate on key points. They need to be trained in different domains such as Project Management, Customer Experience, and different functional areas in order to have the depth of understanding faced by each functional departments. They need to be able to learn many things fast as there’s a lot of things to learn.
The person playing the role of Excellence or Continuous Improvement will need to be highly qualified and energetic, with enthusiasm and eloquence to make organizational changes happen.