I hope you enjoyed my article in the May edition of Executive Secretary on 5s. Have you tried it yet, even in your kitchen or garage? I am delighted to write my second article which is based around how I achieved my Sigma Green Belt.

Six Sigma is widely used in industries worldwide and basically it is used for improving customer satisfaction, reducing cycle/lead time and reducing defects or errors. I’m not going into the science and mathematical analysis as this can be mind-blowing, but am merely going to explain my reasons behind my Green Belt project which is entitled “Creating Excellence”.

I achieved my Green Belt back in 2007 when I worked in Civil Operations HQ at Rolls-Royce in Derby, England. (I moved from Derby five years ago to Combustion & Casings at Hucknall which is where I live, so this is convenient for me).

When I first moved to Civil Operations in Derby, I quickly realised that the Secretarial/Administrative processes were all over the place. A lot of people had their own “little book” of notes for their own use. For me also, as a newcomer to the department, I had to learn a lot so I found myself making my own “little book” of notes. I also found it hard to find out how to get things done quickly and more efficiently and soon realised that something needed putting in place so that anyone who worked at Rolls-Royce who could access the intranet-shared drive could gain access to administrative information which could be stored in one place.

I had a good secretarial network and got a group of secretaries together and asked them to bring along all of their “little books” so we could gather all the information and transform this onto an intranet page. This worked really well and after a lot of suggestions it was called “Runway” a guide to secretarial and administrative processes.

There was a great deal of secretarial knowledge around at very different levels. I had all sorts of ideas about training and arranged a few secretarial away days. A colleague of mine suggested that I turned all of this information and work into a Green Belt and with a lot of help and advice from Master Black Belts, I came up with a plan.

To begin with, I came up with a Project Charter which detailed the current state which identified a lack of general training, and work processes were not up to standard. Secretaries didn’t network or communicate with each other and there was a lack of confidence. There were also no centralised work instructions or secretarial Leadership. I held one-to-one meetings with managers to identify current performance and held the same meeting with secretaries. This was a questionnaire type self-rating process. Mostly the questionnaires were similar but there were some areas which were highlighted and I recommended suitable training or coaching to bring both parties up to the same level of expectation. This worked well and was sustained with further coaching sessions when required.

The DMAIC process was used.

Stage 1: Define
Stage 2: Measure
Stage 3: Analyse
Stage 4: Improve
Stage 5: Control

Stage 1: Define
There are five sections to the Define Section:
Supplier, Input, Process, Output and Customer.

The “supplier” input was from the Manager, “input” was via a request. “Process” was to understand, discuss and agree timescale of the request, to carry out the task, then communicate. The “output” was via feedback from the “customer” manager. When the challenges were “defined” I went to the next stage.

Stage 2: Measure
The needs of the project were to train up secretaries to a high standard so the end result was a group of professional and efficient secretaries who worked together as a team, working to a revised set of processes. They also gained competent behavioural and base skills. They were also able to network with each other. I measured this by using a Training Matrix which was updated monthly, and a questionnaire to measure core skills. The questionnaire was based on management assessment of requirement skills versus the individual’s competences.

Stage 3: Analyse
A very good and simple analysis tool is to use a Fishbone diagram

The majority of the problem was people orientated, ie lack of confidence/low esteem, inconsistent professionalism/no guidance, low morale/insufficient training, no networking/lack of experience and/or willing to cover holiday and sickness cover, negative attitude/no team-working.

Stage 4: Improve
I looked into potential solutions for the challenges and scoped a solution in priority order:
•Secretaries had their own “note book” with lots of information stored
•Information was placed on the intranet and entitled “Runway” your guide to secretarial and administrative processes
•Secretarial away days were arranged to improve the challenges and obtain everyone’s buy-in so the outcome would be sustained
•Several “Process Mapping” meetings were arranged in order to improve the processes and eliminate waste
•External workshops were held to improve inner confidence and assertiveness
•A Personal Shield event was held so that secretaries could gain more confidence, drawing and presentation skills and also a personal action plan was achieved
•Training matrix was implemented
•Training library

Further solutions included coaching, mentoring and counselling.

Stage 5: Control
As a result, the core task skill level increased from 55% to 88%. Rolls-Royce training skill level increased from 4% to 38% and network training skill level increased from nil to 32%. The training matrix was regularly updated after coaching sessions. The manager/secretary scores were analysed and actions plans were implemented.

I personally found this project very interesting and worthwhile and I hope you enjoyed reading it too!”

Sharon Severn began her career in 1974 as a Shorthand Typist for Barclays Bank International in Nottingham progressing to Secretary at Rolls-Royce, Engine Test Facility at Hucknall. Sharon is a firm believer in Process Improvements and attained her Green ... (Read More)

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