Building Trust. It’s often overlooked. This oversight leads to project failure. We aim to correct this. By focusing on trust, we boost our project’s success rate.

You could have the most meticulously crafted improvement initiatives only to hit roadblocks despite flawless data and methodology. The missing piece might surprise you: trust.

Think about it. Six Sigma thrives on open communication, collaboration, and buy-in from stakeholders at all levels. Without trust, data becomes suspect, suggestions fall on deaf ears, and change stalls.

Why Trust Matters: The Foundation for Progress

“Trust is the glue that holds organizations together.”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This rings especially true for leaders trying to inspire organizational change.

Trust fosters:

  • Open communication: People feel safe sharing information and concerns, leading to better problem identification and solutions.
  • Collaboration: Diverse perspectives and talents come together, making teams more effective.
  • Buy-in for change: Stakeholders trust the process and its outcomes, driving successful implementation.

Common Ways Trust Fails During a Six Sigma Project

1. Define Phase: Trust is missed initially. Goals become hard to set without them.

2. Measure Phase: Absence of trust questions data integrity. Sharing halts.

3. Analyze Phase: No trust equals silence. Fear muffles valuable input.

4. Improve Phase: Change is resisted without trust. It’s viewed skeptically.

5. Control Phase: Sustaining improvements is challenging sans trust. Old ways creep back.

Building Trust: Beyond Methodology

Building trust isn’t a one-time event; it’s an ongoing journey. Let’s explore two crucial cornerstones:

1. Active Listening and Demonstrating Integrity:

Building trust starts with active listening and demonstrating integrity.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This underscores the importance of:

Maya Angelou, in “Letters to My Daughter
  • Be genuine: Express your ideas and concerns openly, and be true to your values.
  • Genuine engagement: Actively listen, focusing on the speaker and asking clarifying questions.
  • Open communication: Share information readily, even when it’s not favorable. Honesty builds respect.
  • Integrity as your guide: Follow through on commitments and deadlines. As Simon Sinek highlights in “Leaders Eat Last,” “Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.”

2. Understanding the Culture and Engaging Everyone:

Patrick Lencioni, in “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” emphasizes that trust requires vulnerability and openness. Here’s how:

  • Culture immersion: Prioritize understanding the organization’s culture, values, and goals. Align your approach accordingly.
  • Inclusive engagement: Seek perspectives and contributions from team members at all levels. Value their insights.
  • Transparency and consistency: Share information readily, even when unfavorable. This demonstrates respect and fosters a culture of honesty. Share progress, setbacks, and decisions openly. 
  • Be accountable: Follow through on commitments and deadlines.

How to Build Trust During a Six Sigma Project

1. Define Phase:

Start by engaging all stakeholders. Clarity on goals is crucial. Michael Watkins in “The First 90 Days” emphasizes the importance of early credibility. It’s foundational. Simon Sinek adds, in “Start with Why,” that articulating the project’s purpose connects deeply with stakeholders, fostering trust from the outset.

2. Measure Phase:

Data transparency is key. Involve everyone. This openness fosters trust. Stephen R. Covey in “The Speed of Trust” discusses the value of transparency in building credibility and trust. By sharing data openly and encouraging team members to engage in its analysis, we create a culture of shared responsibility and trust.

3. Analyze Phase:

Make it safe to express insights. Diverse opinions are crucial. Kerry Patterson’s “Crucial Conversations” teaches us the importance of creating a safe environment where people can speak openly without fear of judgment. This openness leads to richer, more productive analyses and fosters a strong sense of trust among team members.

4. Improve Phase:

Solution development should be collaborative. This boosts trust. In “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni highlights the importance of vulnerability-based trust where team members can openly admit mistakes and weaknesses. This level of trust encourages participation and ownership in the improvement phase, ensuring that solutions are practical and supported by all.

5. Control Phase:

Communication is continuous. Share both progress and setbacks. Regular updates reinforce trust. Lencioni also notes the importance of over-communicating clarity and progress to build and maintain trust throughout the project lifecycle, ensuring that improvements are sustained.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.”

Leaders Eat Last” – Simon Sinek

Your 90-Day Trust-Building Plan:

Month 1: Self-Reflection

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses in communication and leadership.
  • Reflect on past trust-building and eroding situations. What lessons can you learn?
  • Seek honest feedback on your trustworthiness from a trusted colleague. Does your company offer 360-degree reviews?

Month 2: Active Listening and Inclusive Engagement

  • Practice active listening and clear communication. Share both positive and negative information.
  • Seek feedback from stakeholders, actively addressing their concerns.
  • Engage with team members at all levels, demonstrating value for their perspectives.

Month 3: Integrity and Accountability

If you want to lead organizational change, you must embody servant leadership. Prioritize the needs of others, foster collaboration, and create a psychologically safe environment where team members feel comfortable voicing concerns and ideas. This will earn trust and strengthen your impact.

Remember, building trust is a continuous process. You become trusted by prioritizing active listening, demonstrating integrity, engaging everyone, and embracing accountability.

Trust is essential. It’s the starting point for any Lean, Six Sigma, or consulting endeavor.

When you’re ready, there are a few ways I can help:

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