How to Develop Effective Team Communication Skills – 5 Tips


5 Tips For Effective Team Communication Skills

Let’s say, you have in mind several valuable and brilliant ideas but you lack the ability to share them effectively with your company or team. If this is the case you ideas just might get passed right on by and then become useless. This is one of the reasons that effective team communication skills are essential. There are of course many others.

You’re in a team therefore you must work as a team. But how can that be possible if you can’t even share your thoughts with them? Or how can your organization be empowered if you as the leader have insufficient effective team communication skills?

The truth is that not all people are gifted with effective communication skills. Certain skills do come naturally for some individuals while there are other people that need to take the time to develop them. However, there are many skills that can be greatly improved upon even for those fortunate to have the natural “gift of gab.” And remember, for communication skills to be truly effective, practice is definitely needed.

So, how do we learn this great art of effective communication?

Even before we were able to walk as a child, we had our own dose of learning how to get our message across. As a baby, of course we cried or smiled to catch the attention of our parents. At some point, we learned to imitate the words we heard around us, and then finally we managed to develop our own oral communication skills well enough to at least survive as time passed by.

However, now it’s time to unlearn those behaviors you have brought with you from childhood that aren’t working very well and add to the ones that are not quite as effective as you would like them.

So, here are a few effective communication tips that can help you get started:

1. Organize Your Thoughts

Learn to organize the thoughts that are rushing through your mind.

Before you begin to express your ideas, be sure of what you want to say and how to say it. If you organize your thoughts and plan out step by step how to get your point across, you can work on creating an interesting and thought provoking communication that will motivate your listeners. Furthermore, the details in your message will be more easily grasped by all who are listening.

2. Communication Is to Express and Not to Impress

This is the common fault of many people. They perceive that being able to use complicated sounding words gives the impression of being an intellectual. This actually is a fallacy. A person with good communication skills is someone who uses the language in a manner that allows everyone to be able to understand the message.

3. Communication Is a Two-Way Street

Effective team communication skills is not only about the way you get your point across to other people in the team but also about addressing the concerns of the other members of your team and letting them express their ideas while you learn to listen. Both parties in any communication should listen to one another and then offer ways to improve the conditions faced by the team and each other.

4. Know Who Your Team Members Are

Get to know and understand the members of your team. Especially if you’re the leader, you should be able to study the profiles of all of your members. How can you reach out to them and understand where they are coming from if you don’t understand who they are personally?

5. Sharpen Your Memory

A good memory when it comes to remembering the names of your staff and what their concerns are will go a long way towards building effective team communications. And if your memory isn’t quite as good as you would like it to be, keep a journal on each member so you can brush up on what’s important to each of them personally.

Effective team communication skills are worth developing. You can get a proper education by participating in communication skills training courses or reading books or ebooks with information to help you sharpening your skills. You can always lessen the risk of misunderstandings when you have effective team communication skills.



How to Be an Effective Team Member


Working on teams can be rewarding, but at times it can be difficult and downright frustrating. If there are poor communicators on your team, you may often feel left in the dark, confused or misunderstood. To create a successful team, effective communication methods are necessary for both team members and leaders. Even though some people understand their communication skills need improving, many aren’t certain how to improve them. So, in the following article, we’ve outlined how to avoid some common team blunders as well as some helpful advice on how to be a better teammate or leader overall. Go… team!

If You’re a Team Member
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If you have a problem with someone in your group, talk to him about it. Letting bad feelings brew will only make you sour and want to isolate yourself from the group. Not only does it feel good to get it out, but it will be better for the team in the long run.

Don’t Blame Others
People in your group lose respect for you if you’re constantly blaming others for not meeting deadlines. You’re not fooling anyone, people know who isn’t pulling his weight in a group. Pointing the finger will only make you look cowardly. Group members understand if you have a heavy workload and weren’t able to meet a deadline. Saying something like, “I’m really sorry, but I’ll get it to you by the end of today.” will earn you a lot more respect than trying to make it seem like it’s everyone else’s fault that you missed your deadline.

Support Group Member’s Ideas
If a teammate suggests something, always consider it – even if it’s the silliest idea you’ve ever heard! Considering the group’s ideas shows you’re interested in other people’s ideas, not just your own. And this makes you a good team member. After all, nobody likes a know-it-all.

No Bragging
It’s one thing to rejoice in your successes with the group, but don’t act like a superstar. Doing this will make others regret your personal successes and may create tension within the group. You don’t have to brag to let people know you’ve done a good job, people will already know. Have faith that people will recognize when good work is being done and that they’ll let you know how well you’re doing. Your response? Something like “Thanks, that means a lot.” is enough.

Listen Actively
Look at the person who’s speaking to you, nod, ask probing questions and acknowledge what’s said by paraphrasing points that have been made. If you’re unclear about something that’s been said, ask for more information to clear up any confusion before moving on. Effective communication is a vital part of any team, so the value of good listening skills shouldn’t be underestimated.

Get Involved
Share suggestions, ideas, solutions and proposals with your team members. Take the time to help your fellow teammates, no matter the request. You can guarantee there will be a time in the future when you’ll need some help or advice. And if you’ve helped them in past, they’ll be more than happy to lend a helping hand.

How to be a Good Retail Manager?


By Shalu Bhatti, Written on 9/22/2011

With the retail sector booming with career and growth opportunities, there are many candidates who aspire to become a successful retail manager. If you are wondering as to how to be a good retail manager and excel in the retail sector, you must read the following write-up!

If you are a part of the retail industry, even though not at a managerial level, you would know that in order to be a successful retail employee, one needs to imbibe a lot of personal qualities in a professional manner. I mean, not everyone can become a successful retail manager. It is only those who possess the quality and the right attitude to please the customers and take responsibilities, that are destined to become good retail managers. The saying that most of the employees hate their boss can stand true in this sector as well, unless one focuses on how to become a good retail manager instead of a bad one! The fact that your job involves not only inventory management, but also building effective customer rapport and effective people management, you should always be available for guidance, help and training. These points will be evaluated further as we proceed with this article.

What Makes a Good Retail Manager

Customers don’t always know what they want. The decline in coffee-drinking was due to the fact that most of the coffee people bought was stale and they weren’t enjoying it. Once they tasted ours and experienced what we call “the third place”… a gathering place between home and work where they were treated with respect… they found we were filling a need they didn’t know they had“. ~ Howard Schultz

A retail manager is a person who is responsible for the smooth functioning of the retail store. A smooth functioning involves building an effective and strong rapport with the consumers, creating a goodwill for the store, managing the employees in terms of their training and product knowledge, taking care of their payrolls, hiring, firing, and so on. Though it may appear to you that these functions seem to be easy, it is not a cake walk! Mentioned below are some essential qualities and tips that can help you be a good retail store manager.

Communication Skills
Good communication skills play a very important role in the retail sector. One should be efficient enough to communicate in a pleasant, polite, and professional manner, both with the employees as well as the customers. Remember that all people you deal with are not the same, which is why you should have the tactics and the judgment to be able to deal with them effectively no matter what the situation is. An example for the same would be, suppose a customer complaints to you about a sales boy who has not been helpful, instead of scolding him in front of the customer, apologize to the customer on his behalf and offer to give assistance. Ask the sales boy to follow you and see how the query of the customer should have been solved ideally.

Training and Delegating Authorities
There are many managers that do not understand the emphasis of constant training and development of the employees. It is very important to continuously train the employees in terms of product knowledge and customer interaction so that they can brush up on their existing skills. Assigning them responsibilities and duties in other areas like inventory management can also train them better and prepare them for promotions and growth. Therefore, stop taking everything in your hands and give your employees a chance to show you their potential.

Maintain Professionalism
It is also very important to maintain professionalism when it comes to handling a retail store and become a good manager. Remember that you have to set an example to others. To the customers you have to be the best guide they ever had, and to your employees, you need to be the perfect example of excellence in your profession. Being too strict and critical towards your employees can result in demoralization. On the other hand, acting unprofessionally with your customers may cost you a loyal client.

Keep Your Customers Always Happy
For any business to be successful, it is very important for them to keep their customers happy and satisfied. Being a patient listener and trying to understand their demands is one thing, and being a guide to fulfill their requirements is another. You must treat your customers like kings and queens, taking care of even the minutest detail like telling them about your promotional offers so that they can save out on some money, making sure that they are getting all the assistance and knowledge that they need while shopping from your store and so on. All this can be done only through making your employees efficient enough by following the above mentioned tips.

Be a Guide to Your Employees
It is not only customers that need guidance, even employees need it and a good retail manager is the one that can be a guide to the employees in terms of professional and personal growth. We must remember that at the end of the day, each and every employee has a personal motivation which may include appreciation, appraisals, promotions, or even a small pat on the back. So, make sure you give them all the guidance and motivation that they need in order to be able to excel in this career path.

Apart from the aforementioned tips and traits on becoming a good retail manager, the other necessities included in the retail store manager job description, is to be a constant motivator and being constantly updated about the latest trends and innovations in the retail market. It also involves helping the employees to be well updated with each and every aspect of the trade, so that there can be maximum number of customer satisfaction and excellent customer service. After all, your subordinates will follow you as an example, right? How to be a good retail manager will be possible only when you have the passion and the desire to put in your best in your job, and make sure that you do all that you can to make your employees do the same. Always remember, if you do your job with focus, concentration, and passion, there is nothing that can stop you from becoming the best.

How do we effectively communication one-on-one?


Effective One on One Communications

Written Feb 14, 2011 by Steve Bell.

After 20+ years of managing and working in corporate America, no one will argue that communicating with your direct reports is not important. One on One communications is the life blood of coaching, mentoring and developing the boss/employee relationship. Why is it, that many managers fail at this? Or employee’s just don’t want them? Could it be that the sessions are just not effective? Over those 20+ years, I hate to think how many of those one on one’s I have led or attended as the direct report. I do know I have had some great, good and terrible one’s.

Here are my very simple steps to making sure that these sessions are effective:

Agenda’s set in advance: Normally the one on one was the employee’s meeting (in my last employer) and they had to have an agenda. I have found that agenda’s are the first critical step. Know what is going to be discussed sets up the meeting in the right way. Some of the worst one on one’s were those that had no agenda. One point that I would make is, the agenda needs to be sent to the manager at least 24 hours in advance. This way, the manager has time to prepare.

Be prepared: Both the employee and manager need to be prepared! Prepared to discuss what is on the agenda without holding back. When the discussion is guarded, no one wins. Having the agenda ahead of time, helps the manager to be prepared to discuss in more detail. Being put on the spot sometimes can be damaging to the relationship. The one explain that really used to get me fired up as an employee was… My question would be something like, “how is my performance to date?”  The answer back, “keep doing what you are doing.” Two things come to mind… First, my agenda was probably not looked at ahead of time because the manager was not prepared… Or worse, this manager has no idea what I am doing – I have basically been goofing off the past month…

Set up meeting frequency regularly: Maybe it is me, but having a regular cadence and basic discussion topics insures successful discussions during the one on ones. Basic discussion topics are overall performance, professional development, help needed, coaching and general discussions. Not every topic can be accomplished every time.. Set up the meetings in the right cadence (every 2 weeks maybe) and have certain basic topics preset..

Listen: Better yet, effective listening… Make sure that this meeting is really about your direct report. This is one of those critical times where you as the manager get to really learn and help develop the employee/manager relationship. Listening helps you learn!

Follow-up: Sometimes the one on one will be so successful that the employee and manager may have some stuff that needs to get done outside of the session. Don’t forget to follow-up! Successful sessions get people excited and really to take on whatever is in front of them. Forgetting to follow-up, just demonstrates the words were just that words… Actions speak much louder!

Sounds simple, it truly is.

Understanding the Customer


Understanding your customer’s frame of mind

By Yuri Bolotin | 16 August 2008

Understanding your targeted customer is a vital to running any retail business. It is one of the first things that we as retail and brand designers need to investigate before designing any project.

Yet, when I ask some retailers the question, ‘Who are your targeted customers?’ I often hear the following two kinds of answers – both I believe are dangerous for your business.

The first response is, ‘Our customer is anyone’. Really? Running a retail business with this premise would be similar to telling a cab driver to take you ‘anywhere’. In both cases you put yourself at the mercy of other people. ‘Anywhere’ you will be taken to is likely to be the wrong type of place. ‘Anyone’ you are opening your doors to may well be the people who are not able or willing to buy your goods or services at the prices you are asking.

The second response is even more problematic. It comes from retailers who believe that they have understood their customers, whereas this ‘understanding’ is superficial at best, and dangerous at worst. I am referring to people who think they know their customers if they can quote a few numbers obtained from quantitative research such as Census or local Council demographic data. They say, for example, ‘My targeted customer is a 25-30 year old working female’.

If you are trying to build your retail business solely based on this kind of information, there are two issues that could create potentially disastrous ‘disconnect’ between you and your customer.

You have to know much more than simple demographics. Psychographics – attitudes, lifestyles, values, perceptions, beliefs are just as important if not more so. What do they expect from your business? What frame of mind are they in when they visit your store? What are their anticipations as far as service, selection, ambience, product information, waiting time? If you don’t know, you must ask (this is a great and simple marketing idea as well).

If you treat customers as numbers, they will do the same to you and so will only be interested in your prices. Your stores should speak the customers’ language.

The second problem of focussing solely on demographics is that the same person will behave and shop entirely differently, depending on their attitude towards the product or service you are offering, who they are shopping with, who they are buying for and how much time they have at their disposal.

The same person will buy a $20 track suit at K-Mart and then in the same day happily spend $200 for a dinner for two in a popular restaurant or outlay $2,000 for a jacket at a luxury boutique. Imagine if K-Mart tried to put a $2,000 jacket among their $20 track suits? Or if a luxury boutique had a cheap ‘no name’ tracksuit among their branded merchandise?

If you sell high price, high prestige value, and high quality items – does your store environment look the part, does it support your product, does it communicate to your targeted customer the messages of care, quality, service, indulgence or being special?

If you sell discounted, commodity-style items, does your environment support this positioning and respond to your customers’ need for bargain prices, wide and easy choice, speed of service and uncomplicated return policy?

Understanding what is on your customers’ mind when they visit your store is probably more important than knowing how old they are or where they live. This knowledge generally can be sourced from customers themselves, through observing and communicating with them through qualitative research (e.g. focus groups), in-store questionnaires, web site forums or chat rooms.

I also want to illustrate how the same person will require totally different shopping environments, depending on their frame of mind when visiting a particular store. Let’s take a 25-30 year old working female as an example.

Mathers – speed of service

First, let’s observe her shopping with her five year old son to buy him a pair of school shoes, as well as some casual shoes for herself. She goes to a family shoe store, as it is a one stop shop, and her purchases are of ‘maintenance’ rather than ‘high fashion’ kind. What would she likely be expecting? Think about yourself buying a pair of shoes.

It goes something like this:

  1. You first spend time looking through the shoe displays.
  2. Finally you see a shoe that may suit you. You now must try it on.
  3. You wait until a shop assistant becomes available. You then ask him/her to find and bring you the pair to try on.
  4. The assistant disappears into the storeroom for what seems like a long, long time, finally coming out with your shoes in the box.
  5. You try them on and they are too small/too big/don’t suit you after all.
  6. Go back to Step 1, 2 or 3. Repeat this exercise until you find the right pair of shoes.

Now, imagine doing this with a five year old child. This is why the most important thing on our customer’s mind at the moment is the speed and quality of customer service. We discovered that through observations, staff interviews and customer focus groups when we were researching a new concept for ‘Mathers for shoes’ some years ago.

Another aspect of this was that this long wait was not due to the sales staff being lazy or inefficient. While customers waited in the retail area for what seemed to them like a very long time, we observed Mathers staff working really hard, running up and down the ladders in the storeroom, trying to find the right pair of shoes. That storeroom, by the way, was very big and occupied up to 40 percent of the overall store area.

What if we took most of the shoe boxes out of the storeroom and positioned them on the retail floor, above and below merchandising displays and designed moveable ladders that the sales assistants can use to reach the stock, in full view of the customers? Here is what has happened

  1. Both the real and the perceived speed and quality of service have improved dramatically. Sales assistants now spend most of the time in full view of the customers, going up and down the ladders or extracting the boxes with special long rods, instead of disappearing into the back room. It takes much less time to locate the product. As well as that, there was a psychological factor at play – for all of us, the time drags on slowly while you are waiting in a queue, but always flies pretty fast while you are being actively served.
  2. By positioning a mass of neatly arranged shoe boxes on the retail floor, we have created a more interesting and exciting environment and a sense of retail theatre. It has also given the store a feeling of abundance and good prices which has proven highly beneficial for this middle market retailer.
  3. By taking a big part of the stock out of the back and locating it in the otherwise non-productive retail space at the front, we have dramatically reduced the size of the storeroom and increased the productive retail floor area without changing the overall floor area of the shop and therefore the rent.

This strategy, borne out of the understanding of how customers think, became the foundation for the new concept that included colours, finishes, merchandise presentation, lighting, signage and graphics.

The client reported sales increases up to 95 percent after the installation of the new concept. I am convinced that if we had just focused on colours and finishes suitable for a ’25-30 year old working woman’, these figures would have been not nearly as impressive.

Taylors Shoes – good product selection and fun, informal environment

Back to our working mum. It is a weekend. She met with a group of friends to do some shopping together and she would like to buy a pair of smart evening shoes. What are her thoughts and expectations?

This shopping trip is part of her weekend relaxation, and being able to enjoy this time with her friends, away from work and household chores is as important to her as making the purchase.

We recently worked with Taylors Shoes on a project that targeted women that have similar expectations. We created an environment that has a unique and fashionable feel – simple contemporary fixtures, custom designed wallpaper and funky feature lights.

It is a store where the shopping is easy, relaxing and fun. At the same time, the store is open, friendly and welcoming, and it also continues to offer excellent value for money.

Our friend the working mum will enjoy this environment because it responds to her different frame of mind and circumstances.

JFarren-Price – making customers feel special

Our 25-30 year old mum is now buying a watch for her husband’s 30th birthday. She wants something very special, a timeless design, the best possible quality. She is not sure how to go about the selection process. She is apprehensive about spending a lot of money, and – what if it doesn’t work or if he doesn’t like it?

ara11design02She needs to find someone who she can trust, who would treat her with respect and care, who would understand the importance of this special occasion and who would make her feel special.

In our design for JFarren-Price Jewellers the special experience starts at the door where every guest is greeted personally by a trained consultant. The visitor is then invited to sit and relax in one of specially designed consultation areas, while jewellery pieces and watches are brought in for them to see. Several consultation areas offer different degrees of privacy. There are advice desks for a quick consultation, a semi-enclosed watch selection area and a fully private lounge room.

Attention to design detail in-store reflects the attention to detail in product selection and product design in their jewellery workshop. The main sales area has marble floors, sleek line contemporary advice desks, French baroque customer chairs, exquisite XVII century chandeliers and modern lighting. The lounge features Lois XVI furniture alongside a 42” plasma screen that is used for demonstrating finer features of watches and custom-designed jewellery. The showroom expresses the essence of J Farren-Price brand – a mixture of the traditional values of best service and attention to detail, with the commitment to contemporary ideas, technology and designs.

The environment is a major contributor, along with the staff training, to JFarren-Price Jewellers’ strategy of treating every customer like royalty. We gave this retailer all the facilities and the required ambience to make every customer visit feel like a special experience.

In Summary

Same person – buying shoes for her child, going on a weekend shopping trip with her friends, selecting a special present for her husband.

Three totally different sets of expectations, feelings and emotions. Three totally different design solutions.

A good understanding of your customers’ attitude and frame of mind when they visit your store will allow you to:

  • Create the right environment
  • Develop the right brand ‘tone of voice’
  • Decide on the right location(s) for your store
  • Buy the right product
  • Set the right prices
  • Use the right promotional media
  • Employ and train the right staff.

These examples demonstrate why customers should never be treated as a statistic.’s_frame_of_mind

Six Sigma is an excellent way of managing effectiveness


Six Sigma is a business management strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1986.[1][2] As of 2010, it is widely used in many sectors of industry.

Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability inmanufacturing and business processes.[3] It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization (“Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, etc.) who are experts in these methods.[3] Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction and/or profit increase).[3]

The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturingprocesses. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield, or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million). Motorola set a goal of “six sigma” for all of its manufacturing operations, and this goal became a byword for the management and engineering practices used to achieve it.

Historical overview

Six Sigma originated as a set of practices designed to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, but its application was subsequently extended to other types of business processes as well.[4] In Six Sigma, a defect is defined as any process output that does not meet customer specifications, or that could lead to creating an output that does not meet customer specifications.[3]

The core of Six Sigma was “born” at Motorola in the 1970s out of senior executive Art Sundry’s criticism of Motorola’s bad quality.[5] As a result of this criticism, the company discovered a connection between increases in quality and decreases in costs of production. At that time, the prevailing view was that quality costs extra money. In fact, it reduced total costs by driving down the costs for repair or control.[6] Bill Smith subsequently formulated the particulars of the methodology at Motorola in 1986.[1] Six Sigma was heavily inspired by the quality improvement methodologies of the six preceding decades, such as quality controlTQM, and Zero Defects,[7][8] based on the work of pioneers such as ShewhartDemingJuranIshikawaTaguchi and others.

Like its predecessors, Six Sigma doctrine asserts that:

  • Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results (i.e., reduce process variation) are of vital importance to business success.
  • Manufacturing and business processes have characteristics that can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled.
  • Achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management.

Features that set Six Sigma apart from previous quality improvement initiatives include:

  • A clear focus on achieving measurable and quantifiable financial returns from any Six Sigma project.[3]
  • An increased emphasis on strong and passionate management leadership and support.[3]
  • A special infrastructure of “Champions,” “Master Black Belts,” “Black Belts,” “Green Belts”, etc. to lead and implement the Six Sigma approach.[3]
  • A clear commitment to making decisions on the basis of verifiable data, rather than assumptions and guesswork.[3]

The term “Six Sigma” comes from a field of statistics known as process capability studies. Originally, it referred to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within specification. Processes that operate with “six sigma quality” over the short term are assumed to produce long-term defect levels below 3.4 defects per million opportunities(DPMO).[9][10] Six Sigma’s implicit goal is to improve all processes to that level of quality or better.

Six Sigma is a registered service mark and trademark of Motorola Inc.[11] As of 2006 Motorola reported over US$17 billion in savings[12] from Six Sigma. Other early adopters of Six Sigma who achieved well-publicized success include Honeywell (previously known as AlliedSignal) and General Electric, where Jack Welch introduced the method.[13] By the late 1990s, about two-thirds of the Fortune 500 organizations had begun Six Sigma initiatives with the aim of reducing costs and improving quality.[14]

In recent years, some practitioners have combined Six Sigma ideas with lean manufacturing to create a methodology named Lean Six Sigma.[15] The Lean Six Sigma methodology views lean manufacturing, which addresses process flow and waste issues, and Six Sigma, with its focus on variation and design, as complementary disciplines aimed at promoting “business and operational excellence”.[15] Companies such as IBM use Lean Six Sigma to focus transformation efforts not just on efficiency but also on growth. It serves as a foundation for innovation throughout the organization, from manufacturing and software development to sales and service delivery functions.


Six Sigma projects follow two project methodologies inspired by Deming‘s Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. These methodologies, composed of five phases each, bear the acronyms DMAIC and DMADV.[14]

  • DMAIC is used for projects aimed at improving an existing business process.[14] DMAIC is pronounced as “duh-may-ick”.
  • DMADV is used for projects aimed at creating new product or process designs.[14] DMADV is pronounced as “duh-mad-vee”.


The DMAIC project methodology has five phases:

  • Define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals, specifically.
  • Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
  • Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. Seek out root cause of the defect under investigation.
  • Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experimentspoka yoke or mistake proofing, and standard work to create a new, future state process. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability.
  • Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Implement control systems such as statistical process control, production boards , visual workplaces, and continuously monitor the process.

[edit]DMADV or DFSS

The DMADV project methodology, also known as DFSS (“Design For Six Sigma”),[14] features five phases:

  • Define design goals that are consistent with customer demands and the enterprise strategy.
  • Measure and identify CTQs (characteristics that are Critical TQuality), product capabilities, production process capability, and risks.
  • Analyze to develop and design alternatives, create a high-level design and evaluate design capability to select the best design.
  • Design details, optimize the design, and plan for design verification. This phase may require simulations.
  • Verify the design, set up pilot runs, implement the production process and hand it over to the process owner(s).

[edit]Quality management tools and methods used in Six Sigma

Within the individual phases of a DMAIC or DMADV project, Six Sigma utilizes many established quality-management tools that are also used outside of Six Sigma. The following table shows an overview of the main methods used.

[edit]Implementation roles

One key innovation of Six Sigma involves the “professionalizing” of quality management functions. Prior to Six Sigma, quality management in practice was largely relegated to the production floor and to statisticians in a separate quality department. Formal Six Sigma programs adopt a ranking terminology (similar to some martial arts systems) to define a hierarchy (and career path) that cuts across all business functions.

Six Sigma identifies several key roles for its successful implementation.[16]

  • Executive Leadership includes the CEO and other members of top management. They are responsible for setting up a vision for Six Sigma implementation. They also empower the other role holders with the freedom and resources to explore new ideas for breakthrough improvements.
  • Champions take responsibility for Six Sigma implementation across the organization in an integrated manner. The Executive Leadership draws them from upper management. Champions also act as mentors to Black Belts.
  • Master Black Belts, identified by champions, act as in-house coaches on Six Sigma. They devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma. They assist champions and guide Black Belts and Green Belts. Apart from statistical tasks, they spend their time on ensuring consistent application of Six Sigma across various functions and departments.
  • Black Belts operate under Master Black Belts to apply Six Sigma methodology to specific projects. They devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma. They primarily focus on Six Sigma project execution, whereas Champions and Master Black Belts focus on identifying projects/functions for Six Sigma.
  • Green Belts are the employees who take up Six Sigma implementation along with their other job responsibilities, operating under the guidance of Black Belts.

Some organizations use additional belt colours, such as Yellow Belts, for employees that have basic training in Six Sigma tools.


Corporations such as early Six Sigma pioneers General Electric and Motorola developed certification programs as part of their Six Sigma implementation, verifying individuals’ command of the Six Sigma methods at the relevant skill level (Green Belt, Black Belt etc.). Following this approach, many organizations in the 1990s starting offering Six Sigma certifications to their employees.[14][17] Criteria for Green Belt and Black Belt certification vary; some companies simply require participation in a course and a Six Sigma project.[17] There is no standard certification body, and different certification services are offered by various quality associations and other providers against a fee.[18][19] The American Society for Quality for example requires Black Belt applicants to pass a written exam and to provide a signed affidavit stating that they have completed two projects, or one project combined with three years’ practical experience in the body of knowledge.[17][20] The International Quality Federation offers an online certification exam that organizations can use for their internal certification programs; it is statistically more demanding than the ASQ certification.[17][19] Other providers offering certification services include the Juran Institute, Six Sigma Qualtec, Air Academy Associates and others.[18]

mplementation roles

One key innovation of Six Sigma involves the “professionalizing” of quality management functions. Prior to Six Sigma, quality management in practice was largely relegated to the production floor and to statisticians in a separate quality department. Formal Six Sigma programs adopt a ranking terminology (similar to some martial arts systems) to define a hierarchy (and career path) that cuts across all business functions.

Six Sigma identifies several key roles for its successful implementation.[16]

  • Executive Leadership includes the CEO and other members of top management. They are responsible for setting up a vision for Six Sigma implementation. They also empower the other role holders with the freedom and resources to explore new ideas for breakthrough improvements.
  • Champions take responsibility for Six Sigma implementation across the organization in an integrated manner. The Executive Leadership draws them from upper management. Champions also act as mentors to Black Belts.
  • Master Black Belts, identified by champions, act as in-house coaches on Six Sigma. They devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma. They assist champions and guide Black Belts and Green Belts. Apart from statistical tasks, they spend their time on ensuring consistent application of Six Sigma across various functions and departments.
  • Black Belts operate under Master Black Belts to apply Six Sigma methodology to specific projects. They devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma. They primarily focus on Six Sigma project execution, whereas Champions and Master Black Belts focus on identifying projects/functions for Six Sigma.
  • Green Belts are the employees who take up Six Sigma implementation along with their other job responsibilities, operating under the guidance of Black Belts.

Some organizations use additional belt colours, such as Yellow Belts, for employees that have basic training in Six Sigma tools.


Corporations such as early Six Sigma pioneers General Electric and Motorola developed certification programs as part of their Six Sigma implementation, verifying individuals’ command of the Six Sigma methods at the relevant skill level (Green Belt, Black Belt etc.). Following this approach, many organizations in the 1990s starting offering Six Sigma certifications to their employees.[14][17] Criteria for Green Belt and Black Belt certification vary; some companies simply require participation in a course and a Six Sigma project.[17] There is no standard certification body, and different certification services are offered by various quality associations and other providers against a fee.[18][19] The American Society for Quality for example requires Black Belt applicants to pass a written exam and to provide a signed affidavit stating that they have completed two projects, or one project combined with three years’ practical experience in the body of knowledge.[17][20] The International Quality Federation offers an online certification exam that organizations can use for their internal certification programs; it is statistically more demanding than the ASQ certification.[17][19] Other providers offering certification services include the Juran Institute, Six Sigma Qualtec, Air Academy Associates and others.[18]

[edit]Origin and meaning of the term “six sigma process”

Graph of the normal distribution, which underlies the statistical assumptions of the Six Sigma model. The Greek letter σ (sigma) marks the distance on the horizontal axis between the mean, µ, and the curve’s inflection point. The greater this distance, the greater is the spread of values encountered. For the curve shown above, µ = 0 and σ = 1. The upper and lower specification limits (USL, LSL) are at a distance of 6σ from the mean. Because of the properties of the normal distribution, values lying that far away from the mean are extremely unlikely. Even if the mean were to move right or left by 1.5σ at some point in the future (1.5 sigma shift), there is still a good safety cushion. This is why Six Sigma aims to have processes where the mean is at least 6σ away from the nearest specification limit.

The term “six sigma process” comes from the notion that if one has six standard deviations between the process mean and the nearest specification limit, as shown in the graph, practically no items will fail to meet specifications.[10] This is based on the calculation method employed in process capability studies.

Capability studies measure the number of standard deviations between the process mean and the nearest specification limit in sigma units. As process standard deviation goes up, or the mean of the process moves away from the center of the tolerance, fewer standard deviations will fit between the mean and the nearest specification limit, decreasing the sigma number and increasing the likelihood of items outside specification.[10]

[edit]Role of the 1.5 sigma shift

Experience has shown that processes usually do not perform as well in the long term as they do in the short term.[10] As a result, the number of sigmas that will fit between the process mean and the nearest specification limit may well drop over time, compared to an initial short-term study.[10] To account for this real-life increase in process variation over time, an empirically-based 1.5 sigma shift is introduced into the calculation.[10][21] According to this idea, a process that fits 6 sigma between the process mean and the nearest specification limit in a short-term study will in the long term only fit 4.5 sigma – either because the process mean will move over time, or because the long-term standard deviation of the process will be greater than that observed in the short term, or both.[10]

Hence the widely accepted definition of a six sigma process is a process that produces 3.4 defective parts per million opportunities (DPMO). This is based on the fact that a process that isnormally distributed will have 3.4 parts per million beyond a point that is 4.5 standard deviations above or below the mean (one-sided capability study).[10] So the 3.4 DPMO of a six sigma process in fact corresponds to 4.5 sigma, namely 6 sigma minus the 1.5-sigma shift introduced to account for long-term variation.[10] This allows for the fact that special causes may result in a deterioration in process performance over time, and is designed to prevent underestimation of the defect levels likely to be encountered in real-life operation.[10]

[edit]Sigma levels

control chart depicting a process that experienced a 1.5 sigma drift in the process mean toward the upper specification limit starting at midnight. Control charts are used to maintain 6 sigma quality by signaling when quality professionals should investigate a process to find and eliminate special-cause variation.

See also: Three sigma rule

The table[22][23] below gives long-term DPMO values corresponding to various short-term sigma levels.

It must be understood that these figures assume that the process mean will shift by 1.5 sigma toward the side with the critical specification limit. In other words, they assume that after the initial study determining the short-term sigma level, the long-termCpk value will turn out to be 0.5 less than the short-term Cpk value. So, for example, the DPMO figure given for 1 sigma assumes that the long-term process mean will be 0.5 sigma beyond the specification limit (Cpk = –0.17), rather than 1 sigma within it, as it was in the short-term study (Cpk = 0.33). Note that the defect percentages only indicate defects exceeding the specification limit to which the process mean is nearest. Defects beyond the far specification limit are not included in the percentages.

Sigma level DPMO Percent defective Percentage yield Short-term Cpk Long-term Cpk
1 691,462 69% 31% 0.33 –0.17
2 308,538 31% 69% 0.67 0.17
3 66,807 6.7% 93.3% 1.00 0.5
4 6,210 0.62% 99.38% 1.33 0.83
5 233 0.023% 99.977% 1.67 1.17
6 3.4 0.00034% 99.99966% 2.00 1.5
7 0.019 0.0000019% 99.9999981% 2.33 1.83

[edit]Software used for Six Sigma


Six Sigma mostly finds application in large organizations.[24] An important factor in the spread of Six Sigma was GE’s 1998 announcement of $350 million in savings thanks to Six Sigma, a figure that later grew to more than $1 billion.[24] According to industry consultants like Thomas Pyzdek and John Kullmann, companies with fewer than 500 employees are less suited to Six Sigma implementation, or need to adapt the standard approach to make it work for them.[24] This is due both to the infrastructure of Black Belts that Six Sigma requires, and to the fact that large organizations present more opportunities for the kinds of improvements Six Sigma is suited to bringing about.[24]


[edit]Lack of originality

Noted quality expert Joseph M. Juran has described Six Sigma as “a basic version of quality improvement”, stating that “there is nothing new there. It includes what we used to call facilitators. They’ve adopted more flamboyant terms, like belts with different colors. I think that concept has merit to set apart, to create specialists who can be very helpful. Again, that’s not a new idea. TheAmerican Society for Quality long ago established certificates, such as for reliability engineers.”[25]

[edit]Role of consultants

The use of “Black Belts” as itinerant change agents has (controversially) fostered an industry of training and certification. Critics argue there is overselling of Six Sigma by too great a number of consulting firms, many of which claim expertise in Six Sigma when they only have a rudimentary understanding of the tools and techniques involved.[3]

[edit]Potential negative effects

Fortune article stated that “of 58 large companies that have announced Six Sigma programs, 91 percent have trailed the S&P 500 since”. The statement was attributed to “an analysis byCharles Holland of consulting firm Qualpro (which espouses a competing quality-improvement process).”[26] The summary of the article is that Six Sigma is effective at what it is intended to do, but that it is “narrowly designed to fix an existing process” and does not help in “coming up with new products or disruptive technologies.” Advocates of Six Sigma have argued that many of these claims are in error or ill-informed.[27][28]

BusinessWeek article says that James McNerney‘s introduction of Six Sigma at 3M had the effect of stifling creativity and reports its removal from the research function. It cites two Wharton School professors who say that Six Sigma leads to incremental innovation at the expense of blue skies research.[29] This phenomenon is further explored in the book, Going Lean, which describes a related approach known as lean dynamics and provides data to show that Ford‘s “6 Sigma” program did little to change its fortunes.[30]

[edit]Lack of Proof of evidence of its success

In articles and specially on Internet sites and in text books “claims” are made about the huge successes and millions of dollars that 6-Sigma has saved. 6 sigma seems to be a “silver bullet” method. But, there seems no trustworthy evidence for this:

“probably more to the Six Sigma literature than concepts, relates to the evidence for Six Sigma’s success. So far, documented case studies using the Six Sigma methods are presented as the strongest evidence for its success. However, looking at these documented cases, and apart from a few that are detailed from the experience of leading organizations like GE and Motorola, most cases are not documented in a systemic or academic manner. In fact, the majority are case studies illustrated on websites, and are, at best, sketchy. They provide no mention of any specific Six Sigma methods that were used to resolve the problems. It has been argued that by relying on the Six Sigma criteria, management is lulled into the idea that something is being done about quality, whereas any resulting improvement is accidental (Latzko 1995). Thus, when looking at the evidence put forward for Six Sigma success, mostly by consultants and people with vested interests, the question that begs to be asked is: are we making a true improvement with Six Sigma methods or just getting skilled at telling stories? Everyone seems to believe that we are making true improvements, but there is some way to go to document these empirically and clarify the casual relations.”


[edit]Based on arbitrary standards

While 3.4 defects per million opportunities might work well for certain products/processes, it might not operate optimally or cost effectively for others. A pacemaker process might need higher standards, for example, whereas a direct mail advertising campaign might need lower standards. The basis and justification for choosing 6 (as opposed to 5 or 7, for example) as the number of standard deviations, together with the 1.5 sigma shift is not clearly explained. In addition, the Six Sigma model assumes that the process data always conform to the normal distribution. The calculation of defect rates for situations where the normal distribution model does not apply is not properly addressed in the current Six Sigma literature. This specially counts for reliability related defects and other not time invariant problems. The IEC, ARP, EN-ISO, DIN and other (inter)national standardization organizations have not created standards for the Six Sigma process. This might be the reason that it became a dominant domain of consultants (see critics above). [3].

[edit]Measurement errors and restrictions for time depending defects

The measurement of performance is in most analysis of Six-sigma done by sampling. This introduces sometimes relevant uncertainty in the parameters. Not much can be found about these errors in literature. Decisions should be based on all information. This specially counts for defects with very broad, non-normal and difficult to measure failure distributions over time, e.g. the Reliability of parts or systems. Measurement is here not “time invariant” (Opposite to for example the manufactured diameter of an shaft – assuming that it does not change over time). No easy measurements can be taken for reliability defects on time to make a “six-sigma” type of program effective. Reliability engineering and Quality engineering must not be treated as being one and the same type of engineering.[3]

There are important links and input and output is required, but an indiscreet mixture of those disciplines might result in program failure. [32] An example related to this confusion is a manager (or engineer) asking the question: “99% functional reliability of this motor in 10 years time, how much sigma is this…?”

Six-Sigma was developed originally as a manufacturing based Quality tool and is not to be used – on its own or as a framework – for unReliability related problems [3]

[edit]Criticism of the 1.5 sigma shift

The statistician Donald J. Wheeler has dismissed the 1.5 sigma shift as “goofy” because of its arbitrary nature.[33] Its universal applicability is seen as doubtful.[3]

The 1.5 sigma shift has also become contentious because it results in stated “sigma levels” that reflect short-term rather than long-term performance: a process that has long-term defect levels corresponding to 4.5 sigma performance is, by Six Sigma convention, described as a “six sigma process.”[10][34] The accepted Six Sigma scoring system thus cannot be equated to actual normal distribution probabilities for the stated number of standard deviations, and this has been a key bone of contention about how Six Sigma measures are defined.[34] The fact that it is rarely explained that a “6 sigma” process will have long-term defect rates corresponding to 4.5 sigma performance rather than actual 6 sigma performance has led several commentators to express the opinion that Six Sigma is a confidence trick.[10]

[edit]See also


  1. a b “The Inventors of Six Sigma”. Archived from the original on November 6, 2005. Retrieved January 29, 2006.
  2. ^ Tennant, Geoff (2001). SIX SIGMA: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services. Gower Publishing, Ltd.. p. 6. ISBN 0566083744.
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Antony, Jiju. “Pros and cons of Six Sigma: an academic perspective”. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  4. ^ “Motorola University – What is Six Sigma?”. Retrieved 2009-09-14. “[…] Six Sigma started as a defect reduction effort in manufacturing and was then applied to other business processes for the same purpose.”[dead link]
  5. ^ Schroeder, Richard A.; MIKEL PHD HARRY (2006). Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations. Sydney: Currency. p. 9. ISBN 0-385-49438-6.
  6. ^ Harry, M., Schroeder, R., Six Sigma – Prozesse optimieren, Null-Fehler-Qualität schaffen, Rendite radikal steigern, Frankfurt / Main, 2000
  7. ^ Stamatis, D. H. (2004). Six Sigma Fundamentals: A Complete Guide to the System, Methods, and ToolsNew York, New York: Productivity Press. p. 1. ISBN 9781563272929OCLC 52775178. “The practitioner of the six sigma methodology in any organization should expect to see the use of old and established tools and approaches in the pursuit of continual improvement and customer satisfaction. So much so that even TQM (total quality management) is revisited as a foundation of some of the approaches. In fact, one may define six sigma as “TQM on steroids.””
  8. ^ Montgomery, Douglas C. (2009). Statistical Quality Control: A Modern Introduction (6 ed.). Hoboken, New JerseyJohn Wiley & Sons. p. 23. ISBN 9780470233979OCLC 244727396. “During the 1950s and 1960s programs such as Zero Defects and Value Engineering abounded, but they had little impact on quality and productivity improvement. During the heyday of TQM in the 1980s, another popular program was the Quality Is Free initiative, in which management worked on identifying the cost of quality…”
  9. ^ “Motorola University Six Sigma Dictionary”. Archived from the original on January 28, 2006. Retrieved January 29, 2006.
  10. a b c d e f g h i j k l Tennant, Geoff (2001). SIX SIGMA: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services. Gower Publishing, Ltd.. pp. 25. ISBN 0566083744.
  11. ^ “Motorola Inc. – Motorola University”. Retrieved January 29, 2006.
  12. ^ “About Motorola University”. Archived from the original on December 22, 2005. Retrieved January 28, 2006.
  13. ^ “Six Sigma: Where is it now?”. Retrieved May 22, 2008.
  14. a b c d e f De Feo, Joseph A.; Barnard, William (2005). JURAN Institute’s Six Sigma Breakthrough and Beyond – Quality Performance Breakthrough Methods. Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited. ISBN 0-07-059881-9.
  15. a b Kieran Walshe; Gill Harvey; Pauline Jas (15 November 2010). Connecting Knowledge and Performance in Public Services: From Knowing to Doing. Cambridge University Press. p. 175.ISBN 978-0-521-19546-1. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  16. ^ Harry, Mikel; Schroeder, Richard (2000). Six Sigma. Random House, Inc. ISBN 0-385-49437-8.
  17. a b c d Paul A. Keller; Paul Keller (16 December 2010). Six Sigma Demystified. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-07-174679-3. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  18. a b Larry Webber; Michael Wallace (15 December 2006). Quality Control for Dummies. For Dummies. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-0-470-06909-7. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  19. a b R. Leroy Coryea; Carl E. Cordy; LeRoy R. Coryea (27 January 2006). Champion’s Practical Six Sigma Summary. Xlibris Corporation. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-4134-9681-9. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  20. ^ “Certification – ASQ”Milwaukee, WisconsinAmerican Society for Quality. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
  21. ^ Harry, Mikel J. (1988). The Nature of six sigma quality. Rolling Meadows, Illinois: Motorola University Press. p. 25. ISBN 9781569460092.
  22. ^ Gygi, Craig; DeCarlo, Neil; Williams, Bruce (2005). Six Sigma for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.. pp. Front inside cover, 23. ISBN 0-7645-6798-5.
  23. ^ El-Haik, Basem; Suh, Nam P.. Axiomatic QualityJohn Wiley and Sons. p. 10. ISBN 9780471682738.
  24. a b c d Dirk Dusharme, “Six Sigma Survey: Breaking Through the Six Sigma Hype”Quality Digest
  25. ^ Paton, Scott M. (August 2002). Juran: A Lifetime of Quality22. pp. 19–23. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
  26. ^ Morris, Betsy (2006-07-11). “Tearing up the Jack Welch playbook”. Fortune. Retrieved 2006-11-26.
  27. ^ Richardson, Karen (2007-01-07). “The ‘Six Sigma’ Factor for Home Depot”. Wall Street Journal Online. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  28. ^ Ficalora, Joe; Costello, Joe. “Wall Street Journal SBTI Rebuttal” (PDF). Sigma Breakthrough Technologies, Inc.. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  29. ^ Hindo, Brian (6 June 2007). “At 3M, a struggle between efficiency and creativity”. Business Week. Retrieved June 6, 2007.
  30. ^ Ruffa, Stephen A. (2008). Going Lean: How the Best Companies Apply Lean Manufacturing Principles to Shatter Uncertainty, Drive Innovation, and Maximize Profits. AMACOM (a division ofAmerican Management Association). ISBN 0-8144-1057-X.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Wheeler, Donald J. (2004). The Six Sigma Practitioner’s Guide to Data Analysis. SPC Press. p. 307. ISBN 9780945320623.
  34. a b *Pande, Peter S.; Neuman, Robert P.; Cavanagh, Roland R. (2001). The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies are Honing Their Performance. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 229. ISBN 0071358064.

How to Set Smart Objectives With Your Employees


Setting SMART Objectives

by GEORGE AMBLER on MARCH 11, 2006


Nothing happens until we plan and good plans have goals and objectives. Setting goals and objectives correctly provides the necessary context and support required to mange their implementation. Before we dive into the discussion on how to go about setting SMART objectives, it’s necessary to understand that there is an important of distinction between goals and objectives.

  • Goals relate to our aspirations, purpose and vision. For example, I have a goal of becoming financially independent.
  • Objectives are the battle plan, the stepping stones on the path towards the achievement of my goal. They are measureble and specific and can be used to guide actions.

A goal may consist of one or many specific objectives that would need to accomplished to successfully achieve the goal. For example, to become financially independent I would need to do the following 1) get out of debt, 2) improve the level of savings and 3) improve the level of my income.

The most well known method for setting objectives is by doing it the S.M.A.R.T. way, the SMART approach is well understood amongst managers, but is poorly executed. S.M.A.R.T refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined), Measureable (numbers, quantity, comparison), Achievable (feasible, actionable), Realistic (considering resources) and Time-Bound (a defined time frame). Lets look at each of these characteristics in more detail.


Specific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused and well defined. That is the objective is straightforward, emphasizes action and the required outcome. Objectives must communicate what you would like to see happen. To help set specific objectives it helps to ask the following questions as guidance:

  • WHAT am I going to do? This are best written using strong, action verbs such as conduct, develop, build, plan, execute, etc. This helps your objective to be action-orientated and focuses on what’s most important.
  • WHY is this important for me to do?
  • WHO is going to do what? Who else need to be involved?
  • WHEN do I want this to be completed?
  • HOW am I going to do this?

“The successful man is the average man, focused.” – Unknown

Diagnostic Questions

  • What exactly are we going to do, with or for whom?
  • What strategies will be used?
  • Is the objective well understood?
  • Is the objective described with action verbs?
  • Is it clear who is involved?
  • Is it clear where this will happen?
  • Is it clear what needs to happen?
  • Is the outcome clear?
  • Will this objective lead to the desired results?


Objectives need to be achievable, if the objective is too far in the future, you’ll find it difficult to keep people motivated over the long term. Objectives must be achievable to keep you motivated. However, keeping a good balance is important, whilst being obtainable, objectives still need to stretch you, but not so far that you become frustrated and lose motivation.

Diagnostic Questions

  • Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?
  • Do I understand the limitations and constraints?
  • Can we do this with the resources we have?
  • Has anyone else done this successfully?
  • Is this possible?


Objectives that are achievable, may not be realistic. That being said, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means that you have the resources necesssary to get the job done. The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, people, money, skills, equipment and knowledge required to support the tasks required to achieve the objective. Most objectives are achievable but, may require a change in your priorities to make them happen.

Diagnostic Questions

  • Do you have the resources available to achieve this objective?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective?


If the objective is measurable, it means that the measurement source is identified and we are able to track theresults of our actions, as we progress towards achieving the objective. Measurement is the standard used for comparison. For example, what financial independence means to me, may be totally different to what it means for you. As is so often quoted, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it! Importantly, measurement help us to know when we have achieved our objective.

Diagnostic Questions

  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • Can these measurements be obtained?


Time-bound means setting deadlines for the achievement of the objective. Deadlines create an all important sense of urgency. If you don’t set a deadline, you will reduce the motivation and urgency required to execute tasks. Deadlines create the necessary focus, helps set priority and prompts action.

Diagnostic Questions

  • When will this objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline?

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Unknown

Preventing Shrinkage

Four Sources of Shrinkage
By , Guide
The percentage of loss of products between manufacture and point of sale is referred to as shrinkage, or sometimes called shrink. The average shrink percentage in the retail industry is about 2% of sales. While that may sound low, shrinkage cost U.S. retailers over $31 billion in 2001 according to the National Retail Security Survey on retail theft. Here are the four major sources of inventory shrinkage in retail.

1. Employee Theft

According to the National Retail Security Survey, the number one source of shrinkage for a retail business is internal theft. Some of the types of employee theft include discount abuse, refund abuse and even credit card abuse. Unfortunately, this is one loss prevention area that generally doesn’t receive as much monitoring as customer theft.

2. Shoplifting

Coming in at a close second is shoplifting. Customer theft occurs through concealment, altering or swapping price tags, or transfer from one container to another. While shoplifting remains a smaller inventory loss source than employee theft, stealing by shoppers still costs retailers about $10 billion annually.

3. Administrative Error

Administrative and paperwork errors make up approximately 15% of shrinkage. Simple pricing mistakes due to markups or markdowns can cost retailers quite a bit.

4. Vendor Fraud

The smallest percentage of shrink is vendor fraud. Retailers report vendor fraud occurs most when outside vendors to stock inventory within the store.

20 ways to prevent shrinkage

It is estimated that crime is costing the FMCG industry more than R3 billion* a year. And it’s not a South African ‘thing’ either – the average shrinkage from stores in Western Europe in 2001 amounted to 28,9 billion Euros – that’s the total retail turnover of Norway!
And it’s not shoplifting that’s the major culprit, but employee theft, with admin and vendors also contributing.

Here are some practical and insightful tips:

1. Don’t think you can get rid of the problem if only you had the ‘right’ people. 90% of us steal when presented with a suitable item and a chance of getting away with it. Although screening new employees is an important part of security measures, shrinkage it is not a character thing – it’s a situational thing – the idea is to change the situation.

2. Tidy up your system – you can only notice something’s out of kilter if the rest is in kilter.

3. Start organising your system from the back, not the front. Begin with goods receiving – usually the ‘crime scene’. Depending on the nature of your retail store, shoplifting is probably a distant second.

4. Poor people don’t necessarily steal – people who perceive the absence of a capable guardian steal. Forty percent of total apprehensions in the UK were management, including security officers – basically people who are unsupervised.

5. Use the Golden Hour (the employee’s first hour at his/her new job) to promote your efforts against shrinkage. Set the attitude towards theft –– label shrinkage as unacceptable and share the consequences. It also makes employees more aware of the fact that, because it’s important, resources are dedicated to it and that ‘someone’s always watching’.

6. Don’t over-invest in fixed systems. All measures are transient. It is a dynamic activity that requires constant attention. Shrinkage is about getting around the system. Don’t think that just because you spent a fortune in loss-control measures last year, it must cover you for this year. Any system can be circumvented – all that is needed is time. Budget accordingly.

7. Small things done more often can sometimes be as effective as big things that happen infrequently. Two fake cameras (moved around often) may be better than one real one.

8. Although an important part of loss control is ‘inconsistency’ (such as moving mirrors around), there are aspects of loss control that require absolute consistency. If you have CCTV, then make sure you switch on the recorder every time you leave the store. Omitting to do that once or twice speaks volumes: you don’t take it as seriously as brushing your teeth.

9. Bad HR makes for high shrinkage – there’s nothing more satisfying than meting out your own justice – if staff don’t feel valued, then they will make up for the value in terms of goods. Fair’s fair.

10. The thief that is caught is usually employed for less than 12 months, and can sometimes be taught by co-workers. The challenge is to promote a just environment that does not value or tolerate theft.

11. People often start stealing in the first few weeks of their job (frequently taught by co-workers), Make sure that the amateur has as little desire and opportunity to see theft as an acceptable-risk alternative.

12. You snooze you lose. Waiting for shrinkage to become a problem is, well, waiting for shrinkage to become a problem. Loss control does not require money as much as it requires your serious, regular attention. Simple activities can go a long way: posters, anonymous hotline, lectures/programs, code of conduct, videos, newsletters, honesty incentives, employee committees, paycheck stuffers, employee surveys (just send out a questionnaire), audio tapes and lots more. Be creative – there’s nothing worse than a surprise change to a regular offender.

13. An element of loss prevention should have a communication strategy, just like your advertising and communication to your ‘honest’ customer base. If you have an agency, brief them – the more impactful the result – the better.

14. It’s not so much what you do, but what the perpetrator thinks you have done, can do and will do. A little hype can go a long way. A memo once in a while that alludes to some anti-shrinkage activity can affect behaviour.

15. Blood is thicker than water – relatives are usually the best loss control measures you can have. Not because your genes are more honest than my family’s, but people are less likely to steal from their own.

16. Don’t leave things if that’s not the way they’re supposed to be. Repair immediately. The Broken Windows theory, the brainchild of James Wilson and George Kelling states quite simple that crime is the result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. The anarchy then spreads resulting in what we see as the high crime rate.

17. Make staff understand that there’s a big exam at least once a year that’s called stocktake, where you can work out what the shrinkage actually is (to the second decimal place).

18. See the perpetrator as a consumer with needs. The idea is to make the price unaffordably high and, just as with brands on the shelf, perception can be as powerful as reality.

Harnessing the Power of Creativity



Harnessing The Power Of Creativity For Business Success

It is said that the only constant thing in life is change. Entrepreneurship is about thriving on change. A business cannot

How can creativity be harnessed for business success?  continue to do the same thing every day and hope to remain competitive. In business as well as in life, change is not a choice, it’s a must. The options are very clear; innovate or die!

If there’s one aspect of business that can potentially increase your odds of keeping up with change as an entrepreneur, it is the creative side of your business.

Why do I make such a claim?

Being in business is all about meeting the needs and solving the problems of a particular set of people. These people are known as your target customers.


They have needs that arise as a result of certain problems they have and are in search of products/services that will solve their problems. These needs are always changing with time. Meaning, what may be considered as a need today, may turn out to be unnecessary tomorrow.


Success goes to the business and entrepreneur that not only keep up with these changes, but is also capable of pioneering some of these changes by constantly creating innovative products/services that eventually shapes the needs of the market.


A business is only able to achieve this through an unwavering dedication to creativity.



What does it mean to create?

To create means to come up with something new which never existed before and has the capacity of positively affecting lives. You must bear in mind when creating that what you want to create must benew [unique] and can positively affect lives [useful].


Creativity is the essence of entrepreneurship. Meaning, an entrepreneur is nothing without creating. Products/services don’t fall from the sky like manna, they are created. And the one person that must bear the burden to create is no other than you the entrepreneur.



As Michael E. Gerber, author of ‘E-myth Mastery‘ rightly puts it;

“The entrepreneur takes shape through the act of invention. If there is no invention there is no entrepreneur. If there is no entrepreneur there is no invention. The two are inextricably bound. The substance of the entrepreneur, his worth as an entrepreneur, is determined by the substance of his invention.”

So, your task as an entrepreneur is to engage in a never ending process of creation by forming a creative habit. It is only through the habit of creating that the entrepreneur masters the art of creation.

Creation (making new and better things) must never be confused for execution (getting things done). Your work as an entrepreneur is not about execution but about creation; seeking to do what never existed before and not just seeking to get things done.

To create requires the entrepreneur to go with his/her imagination. It doesn’t matter if there’s an existing need for what is being created or not. Committing to the habit of creation must be the entrepreneur’s work.


Steve Jobs of Apple Corporation didn’t wait for the market to request for an iPod or an iPhone, he went ahead to create what he believed long before the market ever thought they would be needing it. The whole world didn’t know their information needed to be organized until Google came along and changed everything.


The key thing to note here is that entrepreneurs are driven by the passion to create something that never existed before not necessarily because of a need that must be met (although this is equally important) but because of the joy they get from creating.


It’s the joy of creation that makes entrepreneurs persist even when the world laughs at their idea. They don’t wait for the world to approve what they feel should be created; they simply go wherever their heart leads.


This habit of going with the flow’ is what enables them to create what never existed before. They realize one simple truth about our world and they exploit that truth to the fullest.


That simple truth is this; creation is not a human effort, it’s a spiritual exercise being done through the human body.


Entrepreneurs realize that creation is not a thing we humans do or can ever be able to do, but that it’s a thing done through us. They see themselves as the medium through which creation must happen. Knowing this makes it easy for them to submit completely like a child to the creative process not knowing where their imagination can lead them, yet never obstructing the urge to follow through.


They have an unwavering faith that at the end of the process something new which never existed before will be created. So they commit to the process wholeheartedly relishing every moment as the unknown keeps unfolding before them. Trusting the creative flow (passion) and committing to thecreative process (practice) is what being an entrepreneur means.


As entrepreneurs, we must never refuse to begin simply because we have no reason. If all men waited for a reason before they begin, there wouldn’t be anything made. The goal of creation is to surprise the creature; that feeling of amazement of how the creation (idea, vision or opportunity) turns out.


Focus on the creation of the vision, idea or opportunity you have and let its usefulness (purpose) follow. You will never fully know until you’re willing to begin.


Vision, that image of experiencing the birth of something which didn’t exist before is what should inspire you as an entrepreneur to create. It’s in the pursuit of vision (idea or opportunity) that we fulfill purpose (find meaning). It’s in the process of creating the idea we have in mind that the purpose is revealed. Without committing to the process of creation by pursuing the vision, idea or opportunity we see, we’ll never realize the reason for the creation.


 How do you create?

Practice creation. Form the habit of coming up with something out of nothing. Become like a child again; invent play!


You find the power to create something through the practice of that thing.


You create a book by forming the habit of reading a book and practicing writing.


You create music by forming the habit of listening to music and practicing playing music.


The power to create doesn’t come from practice, it comes from you.


But why practice then?


Practice is your signal to the universe that you’re ready to create.


Practice says to the universe; “I’m prepared; make me an instrument for creation!”


How do you know the universe will answer?


Form the habit and commit to the practice first, keep doing it over and over, only then will you know.


You will know only when you’re not afraid to begin. You will only begin to know only after you begin to act!


Balancing Creativity With Innovation

The entrepreneur must also be careful while creating to ensure that what is being created will someday be needed. This can be somewhat hard to tell from the beginning because an idea is never fully matured, it keeps unfolding with every additional step you take to make it a reality. This is the difference between invention and innovation.


An idea that is unique is an invention, but an idea that is both unique and useful is an innovation. This is a very crucial fact that must never elude you as you strive to deliver change. Efforts must be made towards integrating usefulness into every unique idea.


A good way to do this is to form the habit of asking yourself this question; “how is this idea going to make the world a better place for someone?”


By constantly questioning the idea, this keeps you in the creative process long enough for the idea to reveal its intrinsic usefulness – potential value of invention.

So no matter how unique [new] an idea may be, keep in mind that unless its time has come, itsusefulness [potential value] will be the lesson, knowledge and experience you gained from undergoing the creative process. This shouldn’t stop you from pursuing another idea just because one or two or more didn’t work out; rather, this should propel you to continue because with every failed idea created through you, the closer you get to creating the one that will work.

Google for instance, has launched several products such as knol; a unit of knowledge, jaiku; a micro blog etc. that wasn’t as successful as the search engine or Gmail. But they kept on trying and now the result has paid off with their latest project google+

The point here is this; it’s not the number of ideas that didn’t work that counts, but the habit of consistently creating unique ideas. As an entrepreneur, your task is to create ideas whether they work or not is left to the market to decide.


The real failure is not an idea that didn’t work, but rather not being able to come up with any idea at all. The only way to test if an idea has intrinsic usefulness is by creating it. You cannot know the eventual outcome of an idea until you commit and complete the process of creating the idea. That uncertainty will always be present. This is the joy of the entrepreneurial mindset; not knowing completely how it will turn out. That’s why it’s called magic; the joy of discovery!


Over to you

How have you been managing the creative side of your business? How do you create? Have you ever been caught in creating something unique but didn’t turn out as useful as you had imagined? How has your creative ability helped to sustain your business?



Creating a Culture of Ownership & Accountability

A Culture of Accountability

by Craig Hickman on January 6th, 2010

The best kind of culture is a Culture of Accountability where people demonstrate high levels of ownership to think and act in the manner necessary to achieve organizational results.  The defining characteristic of this kind of culture is that people voluntarily assume their own accountability. Rather than having accountability forced upon them, they enthusiastically take it upon themselves. That’s right, they are neither commanded to be accountable nor kept under surveillance until “called to account” for their actions. In a Culture of Accountability, people at every level of the organization are personally committed to achieving key results targeted by the team or organization, and they never wait to be asked for a progress report or a follow-up plan. Instead, they report proactively and follow-up constantly, diligently measuring their own progress because they have internalized their commitment to achieving results. Their mantra—“What else can I do to achieve the desired results?”—leads them to continually find answers, develop solutions, overcome obstacles, and triumph over any trouble that might come along. And, as you would expect, everyone holds everyone accountable for results.

Creating a Culture of Accountability will have a powerful impact on results, because people consistently produce organizational success, human fulfillment and the creation of real value. But getting there represents more of an ongoing journey than an actual destination. Leaders, together with everyone else in the organization, must work continually to create and maintain such a culture. Consider this example from one of our clients about their journey toward building a Culture of Accountability. Every year the “Women’s Boutique,” a nationally branded chain, conducted a women’s suit contest, a sales event that lasted four weeks and included a companywide competition. Susan’s district, ten retail stores in Nevada, had always come in dead last in the contest because neither she nor her people believed they could sell suits in Nevada, especially in this economy. When a new regional manager told her that district managers fell into two groups—“owners” and “renters”—and that she was a “renter,” Susan finally woke up. She realized that her failure to ful­fill expectations had stemmed from an inability and unwillingness to get the people in her region to take accountability for achieving the desired results. With a commitment toward greater personal accountability, she persuaded her store managers that their collective excuses were preventing them from achieving better results. Together, they committed themselves to embracing and living the Steps to Accountability: to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.

Targeting the annual women’s suit contest as a sales event they all needed to own, Susan and her store managers became relentless in asking, “What else can I do to get the result?” Susan visited each store to provide coaching and assis­tance as store managers hosted VIP parties to get their people and preferred customers excited about the contest. They installed “Think Boxes” in every store, giving people a way to share their ideas about what else could be done to increase sales. People throughout the district quickly became engaged in thinking up new ways to draw more cus­tomers into the excitement, coming up with ideas such as offering customers the opportunity to win a Fossil Watch or a second suit for a penny. As Susan continued to meet one-on­-one with her store managers, they became more accountable for results. Four weeks later, when the suit contest ended, Susan’s district finished in first place. Her regional manager congratulated her on making the move from an entrenched “renter” to a solid “owner” of the business. She was even invited her to speak at a companywide conference about the transformation she had engineered in her district, “A lot of you know me. I’ve been with the company for twelve years and I have never been the number one district in anything before. What changed for me this year was I applied what I learned about how to help people take accountability, and it totally changed my life.” During the next three years, Susan’s district rose from the bottom 20% of the company’s 90 districts to the top 20%–further evidence that a  Culture of Accountability is the best kind of culture for creating sustained results.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Create a Culture of Accountability and Hold People Accountable

Here are a couple of questions from readers on the topic of accountability:

1. “I have recently been part of several discussions on accountability, and I am curious to hear/read your perspective. Some of the salient discussion points have included: for what should leaders be held accountable? Results and behaviors? Once it’s been determined for what they should be held accountable, how do you make accountability happen? What must occur within the organization in order to ensure accountability is a cultural expectation? If you have any insight into this topic, I’d love to read about it.”

2. “What are the top 3 ways to hold people accountable?”

It’s no surprise that accountability is a hot topic these days – it tends to come up when things are not going well. In fact, most people think of accountability as knowing who to hang for poor performance or mistakes.

Here’s Webster’s definition of accountability: “subject to having to report, explain, or justify; being answerable, responsible.”

No wonder it has such a negative connotation. And since most people view it as something to get hit over the head with, we tend to avoid it and instead focus our energy on coming up with creative excuses, blaming, or finger pointing.

I changed my worldview on what accountability was all about when I was doing research for some culture change work for my last company. We knew we needed to “create a culture of accountability”, but there were a lot of different opinions as to what that really meant and how to go about it.

I came across the work of Roger Connors and Tom Smith, from the consulting and training company Partners in Leadership. Their first book, The Oz Principle, defines accountability in a much more positive way, and describes how to develop it yourself and coach others. Their second book,Journey To The Emerald City, builds on that work, and outlines how to create a culture of accountability.

I like that they’ve created a more positive and useful definition of accountability: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to see it, own it, solve it, and do it.”

Their book and training programs go into detail on each of these four steps to accountability. In a nutshell, it’s all about defining accountability early, before problems occur, being open to feedback and willing to face problems, taking ownership, problem solving, and proactive follow-up.

The opposite of this kind of behavior is blaming, finger pointing, and excuse making. I’ve shown segments of an old 1994 ABC News John Stossell 20/20 segment called “The Blame Game: Are We a Country of Victims”, as a way to introduce and discuss this topic. While it’s easy to see the behavior in others, most people can’t help see a bit of it in themselves as well.

In the Emerald City book, Connors and Smith go on to outline how to create a culture of accountability. Their methodology, which can be used for any culture change, consists of the following steps:

1. Define clear results within your organization

2. Define the actions required to achieve the results

3. Identify the beliefs that produce these actions

4. Create experiences that instill the right beliefs

The book gives a lot more details, checklists, and tools to lead a group through these steps.

In response to the second reader question, “What are the top 3 ways to hold people accountable?”, here’s a “simple” six step method, from the training and consulting company Communico:

S = Set Expectations

I = Invite Commitment

M = Measure Progress

P = Provide Feedback

L = Link to Consequences

E = Evaluate Effectiveness

Finally, I’ll leave you with a story of four people:

This is a story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
– Unknown