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Getting in the Mood for Lean Six Sigma

The research on emotional intelligence continues to build a case that individuals who have the ability to work well with others tend to be more successful. Over the years I have been working with Lean Six Sigma belts I have noticed those who have “people skills” tend to do better in terms of project success than those who are purely “intellectuals”. When I ask others their opinion of my observations and anecdotal evidence they tend to agree that being a successful belt is more about working well with others, rather than purely analytical skills. However, there is no question one must know how to use the tools in the Lean Six Sigma toolbox, but what may be more important is the ability to tap into the human element of process improvement.


So what does the human element mean in relation to Lean Six Sigma success? A large part, I would argue, is related to team dynamics. For a project to succeed it takes an effective team to work through the DMAIC process. This leads to the question-does emotional intelligence effect team performance?


The research on team performance and emotions tends to zero in on a concept known as emotional contagion, which can be described as the spread of emotions from one person to another. You have no doubt experienced this phenomenon at home and/or work when you’ve been around people in certain moods. Think about it-it’s hard to be in a bad mood when everyone around you is happy and having a good time, for example, at a party, or on the opposite end of the spectrum when everyone is sad, for example, at a funeral. The same argument can be made when thinking about working with your Lean Six Sigma team.


As the leader of the team you have the ability to change the emotions of the team based on how you feel. Much of the work we do in Lean Six Sigma takes place in team meetings, and depending on the mood and/or emotions of those in a team meeting how well you perform may depend on how the team is feeling at the moment. The good news is that you can change emotions of the team with some simple techniques I’m going to outline in this posting.


The process starts by assessing your current feelings and energy level right before the meeting. This is one of the key elements to becoming emotionally intelligent-perceiving your emotions. Before your team meeting rate your energy level and feelings from 1-10 using a grid similar to the one illustrated here.


Based on what you have planned for your team, where you find yourself on the mood meter will determine if you need to take action to change your emotions and/or energy level before the session. For example, if you plan on having a brainstorming session looking for causes to a problem or solution ideas to implement as part of an improvement, you will want high energy and pleasant feelings. Research suggests we come up with better ideas when we are in positive moods.


There are a number of techniques that can be used to change your emotions. Some of the methods I have used include:


· Listening to music

· Watching inspiring or funny videos

· Looking at inspiring or funny pictures

· Taking a short walk and leaving all gadgets behind

· Meditation or prayer

· Thinking about a time when you have overcome a challenge


As the leader of the team you have the ability to “contaminate” the team in a good or bad way depending on where your mood meter is starting from. By accurately perceiving your emotions before the session and using the techniques to get yourself in the “right” mood you can then move on to doing the same with your team using what I call an emotions check-in at the beginning of your meeting.


To conduct the check-in ask the team to assess their current level of energy and feelings and plot them on the mood meter. Once the assessment is complete, use the aforementioned techniques to shift the mood meter into the appropriate quadrant depending on what you have planned for the session. What I hope you will begin to discover is that getting in the mood for Lean Six Sigma is not all that difficult, and when a team is in the mood look out because you are on a path to success!

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