The Missing Link To Lean Six Sigma – Emotional Intelligence


Lean and Six Sigma have a public relations problem. Their problem is that they are both viewed as tools by the majority of the world. Six Sigma can arguably be a set of tools and a way of managing a project but Lean is much more than just reducing waste. Lean is a way of thinking – build your business around your customers, add value, make your products/services “flow”, and respect for people. Six Sigma is great for reducing variation on a process and together Lean Six Sigma is a powerful methodology to address most business problems. Personally I’ve always seen improvements of 30% or better when Lean Six Sigma is applied on a company level. The one caveat is that you have to change your company culture to have these great sustained successes.

If it’s so grand then why do man Lean Six Sigma implementations fail? The fact is it’s easy to pick and choose the tools that you like but it’s very hard to make a cultural change. Many organizations have heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) but not many are familiar with EQ (emotional quotient) aka emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is defined by 4 traits:

1) Ability to perceive emotions – Emotions within you and others based on verbal and non verbal cues.

2) Ability to use emotions – Decision making process takes into account emotional information along with the numbers and data.

3) Ability to understand emotions – Perceiving emotional dynamics, blends of emotions, and how they influence behavior and thinking.

4) Ability to manage emotions – Managing emotions internally and with others adapting to get to an outcome.

EQ is the respect for people part of Lean Six Sigma. If you can successfully manage the four points above then you can manage a Lean Six Sigma transformation. Incidentally when you look at correlations, EQ is a better predictor of success than just IQ. However unlike IQ, EQ can be changed and improved well into adulthood. For every 1 percent improvement in the service environment (i.e. the EQ of your business), there is a 2 percent increase in revenues. If you really want a Lean Six Sigma implementation to succeed or you want to take your business to the next level you may consider first improving your organizational EQ. You need to do a base line first of where you are then then create an action plan to bridge the gap of where you are to where you want to be when it comes to the organizational EQ. Once you have better communications and trust built within the organization then you have a foundation for a Lean Six Sigma transformation.