Integrating Coaching with Lean Six Sigma Processes at Medtronic
The Client: Medtronic, Inc. is the world’s premier medical technologies, services and solutions company. Medtronic employs approximately 84,000 people globally and has an annual turnover of approximately USD 28 billion.
The Goal: To assist in the implementation of Lean Six Sigma in Medtronic’s manufacturing plants.
The Challenge: To do more with less and put empathy, heart and purpose right at the centre of Lean.
By applying both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies to a process, Medtronic knows it is running the most optimized and efficient process possible. In 2012, Medtronic asked Performance Consultants to create a programme that would integrate a coaching approach with Lean Six Sigma processes.
Needs and Objectives
Medtronic implements Lean Six Sigma in its global medical devices manufacturing plants and core financial processes. Medtronic wanted to bring together the principles of coaching and integrate them with Lean Six Sigma. The objective was to create an environment where innovation, ownership and learning thrived in Lean Six Sigma implementation.
What is Lean Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. It improves the quality output of process by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
Medtronic has successfully deployed its own unique blend of Lean and Six Sigma, initially to manufacturing and production-line challenges, and then across the board. Adopting the mantra “a process is a process … is a process”, they understood that any process, including business transactions, can be broken into steps and optimized. Six Sigma makes a science out of process while Lean makes a science of process flow. Medtronic’s Lean Six Sigma combines best practices from both into a powerful set of tools for broad application.
Performance Consultants’ Approach
A Coaching Style Improves Lean Six Sigma
A coaching style is the perfect complement to Lean. The core principle of Lean is continuous improvement. This is in perfect alignment with one of coaching’s cornerstones – learning. In Lean, the process for achieving this continuous improvement is through:
- gaining awareness of what is/isn’t working;
- using the individuals and teams within the direct production area as experts; and
- identifying ways to build further on strengths and improves areas of weakness.
This mirrors our approach to coaching within the workplace. Performance Consultants’ Training Technology was created out of the principles of Awareness & Responsibility, the Inner Game principles of Potential & Interferences, and using a sequence such as GROW to enable individuals and teams to find and implement their own solutions.
The programme focuses on the practical application of coaching to Lean management. For example, it includes a game which replicates a typical production line where a specific output has been requested and where penalties will be incurred for missed quality targets. Within it, continuous improvement of performance is a requirement just like in the workplace.
The aim is to provide an opportunity to practise coaching skills and behaviours immediately, in an environment that reflects normal working conditions rather than a traditional training room, as well as demonstrating their impact on performance and learning.
Participants report noticing where skills can readily be applied in their day-to-day work and feel more equipped to facilitate those everyday interactions to build new awareness within their teams and increase their sense of responsibility to take personal action.
The programme is being delivered in Medtronic’s manufacturing plants in Europe and the US.
Client Testimony and Impact
The impact of this programme supports the main objective of Lean Six Sigma: the ability to do more with less. As Caroline Healy, Senior HRD Manager, Medtronic in Ireland puts it:
“This programme ensures empathy, heart and purpose is right at the centre of Lean, and gives practitioners a turbo boost to improve performance. By equipping them with coaching skills that perfectly complement what they are already doing, both Lean practitioners and their teams feel more empowered, more engaged and able to do more with less.”