As a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt I serve various customers: management, co-workers, the paying customer, etc. The customers that I am most pleased to serve are my co-workers because, to me, nothing is more gratifying than assisting fellow co-workers in fixing their problems. While this may be considered heresy, I find that satisfying my co-workers more important than enhancing customer satisfaction or saving money for my company (undoubtedly many of you may be shocked by this statement). There is no argument that the latter two are very important and directly affect my employment status but neither deliver the smile that my co-workers provide. Without fail, successfully completing a Lean Six Sigma project reduces the pain and frustration that my co-worker had lived with for an extended period of time. Eliminating this pain yields trust, respect and extended friendships.

In most cases the process owners had tried numerous times to fix their problem but their unsuccessful efforts have only increased their pain and suffering. Fortunately for them, my organization’s Lean Six Sigma team is there to help them by stepping through the DMAIC problem solving methodology and we, as a group, are able to find the root cause, develop counter-measures and successfully implement corrective action. I still feel the many hugs of gratitude I received after each project’s completion.

At first many people within my organization were hesitant to ask for, or accept, assistance from the Lean Six Sigma team. Maybe their reluctance was due to pride, or maybe it was analogous to asking the IRS for assistance (their fear of us reporting to management what they were doing wrong). Many times I heard such phrases as: “you don’t know our process,” “the way we do things is unique,” or “you will just slow us down,” but as the number of successful Lean Six Sigma projects started to grow, word of mouth broke down these barriers. Success begets success.

Quality professionals such as quality engineers, quality managers, Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, continuous improvements experts, etc., can be equated to an organization’s internal medical professionals; the doctors and nurses of business. Quality professionals are at their best when solving problems, similar to when health care professionals make a correct diagnosis and provide the necessary bandages, medicine and care. Ultimately it is about eliminating the pain, whether it is physical pain or the pain and frustration one feels from banging their head against a wall after, yet again, failing to correct a problem.

Like doctors and nurses, quality professionals treat each problem on a case-by-case basis because individual care is at the heart of what is needed. Problem solving should always begin with listening. Where does it hurt? What are your symptoms? What have you tried already? In business, the next step is to create a charter to define scope, establish a problem statement, set goals, etc. This is followed with data collection; doctors may do a simple blood test whereas a Black Belt may create a process map and collect appropriate process data. Ultimately the root cause(s) is determined and corrective action instituted.

During the various phases of DMAIC, quality professionals may be required to dig deep and get their hands dirty. To do whatever it takes to see a project through may require them to apply pressure or “empty a bed pan,” but almost certainly to rely on their education, training and skills, if not, management may step in and call the time of death.

Medical school, clinical rotations, and residency provide doctors the education and training needed for them to successfully perform their duties. Quality professionals can get the education and training that they need from ASQ. Beyond its professional quality certifications, ASQ can deliver training that provides the skills that both novice and seasoned professionals seek. ASQ even has a Healthcare Division.

Quality professionals certainly do not have the impact that a doctor achieves, but when successful, quality professionals will receive nearly the same level of gratitude. I personally have put many smiles on my co-workers’ faces upon project completion. When a project ends, co-workers will speak highly of the care and service they received and, in many cases, will return for future assistance because the elusive goal of perfection never ends. Businesses, like the health care profession, have an endless supply of maladies that need to be addressed.

Helping my co-workers remove the pain points in their work flow that ultimately leads to a leaner, faster and better process provides me the greatest job satisfaction. Making a difference that results in someone else’s happiness is the essence of my profession. Hopefully you can agree.