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Updated: Aug 9, 2023

by Cynthia J. Young

When you build a team to deploy lean and six sigma (LSS), do you need a team of those with experience and know-how or hard workers with a strong emotional quotient (EQ)? Know-how is comprised of knowledge, skills, and abilities. EQ is the “ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.” A combination of know-how and EQ may end up as a better team, and easier to put together, rather than requiring strictly a team LSS experts.

Building a team can come with many questions such as:

• What does know-how buy you?

• If you took a group of people who have experience in certain roles, do you

expect to get the same results?

• What do you need if you need to build your team from scratch?

• Is the person in the role the best person for the job?

There are also questions you should consider when opting to create a LSS team. Do you:

• Default to the A-team or the team with the best track record?

• Search for individuals for each task or do you consider multi-tasking?

• Get recommendations from trusted leaders or peers?

• Look for experience?

• Hire new team members?

Anyone putting together a team should be cautious of creating a team of experts. Arguments can occur when team members feel they must argue to be heard or be seen as the smartest person on the team. Insecurities can also feed into the feelings of inadequacy. Team members may not agree on the goal, find it difficult to focus on something they don’t think is the correct thing, or lack forward momentum since they don’t think others on their team understand what they do.

Basic LSS team deployment composition should have, at a minimum, champion, sponsor, black belt, green belts, quality personnel, statisticians, process or project analysts, and support of other departments from human resources, communications, and finance. Consider something like project management practices supporting team composition to support project initiating through closing. With various team members from differing parts of an organization brought together to comprise a LSS deployment team, it’s important to find ways that team member can support each other even with different levels of know-how.

An interesting method of creating a team is by profiling for team composition. Three common types are DiSC, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MDTI), and CliftonStrengths, formerly known a StrengthsFinder. DiSC profiling is focused on having a healthy balance of knowledge, problem-solving, and personalities broken down by dominance, influence, steadiness, and cautions. MDTI is focused on revealing communication styles of individuals that can help them understand how to interact with other people and understand how others communicate. CliftonStrengths is focused on the goals of understanding what others are great at and where the team is strongest. These are all highly used profilers that can support assessing EQ.

So, what’s common between the methods of DiSC, MBTI, and CliftonStrengths? The person participating in the survey in each method answers questions dictating the profile with opportunities to choose or shift the results to what they feel best about. The results may not help the person put together the team for deployment because the result is ultimately chosen rather than a result of the profiling. All of these profiling methods offer the EQ a team could use, but skills, or know-how, cannot be determined by using these profiling techniques.

"Once you build a team and deploy it, the next step is retaining the knowledge."

If the profiling doesn’t help comprise a team capable of LSS deployment, an option may be to consider reverse mentoring which is “describes a situation in which a younger or early career professional mentors a senior colleague.” Reverse mentorship is not a situation in which a younger or early career professional mentors a senior colleague just about technology, an opportunity to add tasks to the junior providing reverse mentorship, or a single opportunity to transfer knowledge and know-how from junior to senior. What reverse mentorship offers are situations in which a younger or early career professional mentors a senior colleague an opportunity to open line of communication for all generations in the organization, and juniors offering seniors opportunities, fresh perspectives, and insights.

Consider what the return on investment can be when investing in embracing reverse mentorship for team deployment. Benefits include sharing tacit (experiential) and explicit (written) knowledge as well as sharing, transferring, and demonstrating know-how. Reverse mentorship also benefits the team due to opening pathways to discuss cultural and generational similarities and differences leading to improved team communications and offering new perspectives and gaining fresh viewpoints. These benefits can lead to a grow in the bench strength of personnel in roles and is especially important to supporting staying away from the trap of “This is how we’ve always done it.”

While seniors bring experience, juniors can bring innovation to a stale process which is just one process improvement benefits. When conducting a process improvement event, junior personnel may ask questions that get senior personnel to consider the method of improvement in a new light opening their aperture of the process. Additionally, junior personnel may not be afraid to rock the boat on the accepted processes. Similarly, new personnel, or those who are still junior in their careers, can bring fresh perspectives to processes.

Once you build a team and deploy it, the next step is retaining the knowledge so when the brain trust leaves or retires, knowledge won’t need to be recreated or located. Brain trust is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “a group of official or unofficial advisers concerned especially with planning and strategy.” Consider the cyclical process where the brain trust’s knowledge retention could start with sharing and transferring of knowledge, followed by active use of knowledge, and followed up with documentation as shown in figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Cycle of Knowledge Retention (Theoretical)

If the entire team has Six Sigma know-how, knowledge sharing, and knowledge transfer may not occur because team members may believe there is nothing else to learn. While it’s important that teams may work well together on a personal level if they all have know-how and know exactly what to expect, professional and business growth would be limited because they would stick with what’s been acceptable for prior projects. Similarly, LSS deployment teams may complete a task, but the outcome may not be fully successful for the organization or the customer since they did what is normal and didn’t allow creative thinking, innovation, or new ideas to be used. In the end, the Brain Trust must be part of team deployments even if just understanding how to best comprise them because know-how is necessary, but the entire team does not need know-how; in fact, it’s better.

The bottom line of team deployment is that teams may work best with a combination of know-how and lack of know-how with high EQ. Embracing reverse mentorship as a method of process improvement supports learning up and down the team while also allowing for innovative thinking. Retention and dispersion of corporate knowledge throughout the organization promotes business and team opportunities and prevents loss of knowledge when personnel retire or leave an organization.


Cynthia J. Young, is the founder of CJ Young Consulting, LLC, a knowledge management consulting firm. Through a human-centric focus, Dr. Young continues to demonstrate and reinforce that having a knowledge management mindset supports overall organization health with the intent of knowledge to be managed throughout the enterprise. She has co-authored three books with her chapters having a knowledge management focus – two of which are international best sellers and gave her TEDx Talk, A Knowledge Mindset: What You Know Comes from Where You Sit for TEDxBeaconStreet in September 2020.

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