How to Foster the Adoption of Lean and Six Sigma in the Sharing Economy?
Successful business like Uber and Airbnb prove that the sharing economy is here to stay. An increasing number of customers are now able to get services that are more affordable and available for everyone. But what about the quality of these new offerings?
Today, you can travel by ride-sharing with Uber, eat at someone else’s house with Cookapp, rent your empty rooms on Airbnb, or communicate with a client on the other side of the world for free with WhatsApp, Skype, or Google Hangouts. A few years ago, you would have never considered sharing a book before publishing it, but today a lot of companies offer their e-books for free or promote free chapters. Even conferences and high-quality expert talks are now available for free, like the Ted Talks platform and a handful of webinars on-line.
All these new companies and strategies are centered on sharing resources and offering more affordable products to a greater number of customers. In the hyper-connected world we live in, people are beginning to feel the need for human contact again, and face-to-face connections and closer partnerships are becoming more popular. Millennials -members of generation Y- the youngest generation of consumers, born between 1980 and the early 2000s- want services that are tailor-made to meet their unique needs. For instance, instead of 5 star hotels, where you don’t always get to talk to the manager, Millennials prefer boutique apartment-type lodgings where you can talk to the owner, get homemade pancakes, or share a family room.
As it turns out, Millennials are also looking for very different things from a job, and want varied, interesting experiences from work. A Harvard Business Review research shows that happy employees have, on average, 31% higher productivity; their sales are 37% higher, and their creativity is 3X higher. Researchers at Gallup have found that retail stores that scored higher on employee life satisfaction generated $21 more in earnings per square foot of space than the other stores, adding $32 million in additional profits to the entire chain.
One of the differentiators of Millennials is that they look forward to joining companies which have a culture that matches their values. Fostering the implementation of quality methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma can help us in this journey, but we need to make sure we consider millennials’ needs so that they really embrace the quality culture. Peer-to-peer moneymaking opportunities exist all around us but, in order to ensure sustainability of these businesses, product and service quality are still key. More than one-in-three American workers today is a Millennial (adults aged 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest single demographic of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
In order to foster quality practices in any kind of company that offers a service or a manufactured product, quality needs to be part of the culture.
Culture develops over time, and best practices are generally learnt by example, so the reinforcement of behaviors is key in its design. Even though all businesses already have a culture set, sometimes it may not be of the right kind to achieve the objectives defined in the annual plans or to succeed in the new economy, so new behaviors need to be learnt and promoted.
Fostering a new culture
I have found out that there are 5 main behaviors that need to be fostered in a company by HR to allow a quality culture to flourish at the same time as a sharing philosophy. I call these 5 behaviors the sharing culture set:
1. Share your purpose: Think long term. Define long term objectives, communicate them to the employees and provide resources to meet them. That is, if you plan to improve the quality of your products, you need to provide your employees with training and allow time off production to do them! This is the first step also in the DMAIC methodology in six Sigma. Projects need to be defined based on long term priorities and availability pf resources.
2. Share your tasks: Work in teams. Focus on a “we” instead of “me” thinking by promoting team working and defining team objectives instead of individual ones so that everyone understand what is that the company values. Lean and six sigma are only successful if everyone is entitled to make and propose improvements. Every employee is part of a company process, and the best candidate to improve a task is to work with whom is doing the task every single day. Aristotle would said that, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
3. Share your rewards. Reward all of them: reward people based on team performance to help them meet the team objectives. Many companies are moving from an individual performance ranking towards a profit sharing model where everyone knows how the company is doing and feel responsible for it. Tips sharing is a simple example of this. Other incentives that are very common are bonuses based on participation in continuous improvement projects, or rewards for the best ideas. Any of these money incentives provide focus to the employees on improving performance, thinking outside of the box and sharing ideas.
4. Share your passion: Motivate your people. Based on Maslow’s theory of needs, once people are paid fairly, respecting their Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose will motivate them to do their best. Deciding what to work on or when to do it by setting objectives in teams; implementing flex time schedules; requesting tasks neither too difficult nor too easy for their ability; and connecting work to values like socially responsible activities are examples of good practices that motivate people. If you share the purpose of the company by defining long term objectives with your employees, you are not only planning the work schedule but you are also providing your people with a clear understanding of what you are expecting from them, therefore they can be more autonomous (they already know what they need to do), they learn to master their skills so as to complete tasks on time and align their purpose with the company’s purpose (objectives have been set together considering not only company needs but also their own).
5. Share your ideas: Let them innovate. Every employee knows how to do their job better, so just help them do it. Listen to their ideas and provide then with the required tools. Improving project by project is the lean and six sigma mantra. Many companies organize monthly meeting to review ideas organize projects teams to accomplish those ideas. Other companies just capture suggestions during operational meetings, perform periodic brainstorming sessions or organize Kaizen events.
How does your culture look like right now? What are your main barriers towards achieving performance?
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