Earth Consultants

Applying Lean Six Sigma to the Environment

My background in statistics and Six Sigma was what started me down the path of process improvement. Later on, I added the Lean approach and experience, to balance out my approach, and make it more holistic. As I became more focused on environmental sustainability in my personal life, I quickly saw how nicely these techniques could be applied to environmental problems. The problem was that there was little information out there on how it could be done, other than the EPA’s Lean and the Environment guidance. That is until I found “Six Sigma for Sustainability” written by authors with sustainability and Six Sigma experience in the real estate industry at Jones Lang LaSalle in Chicago.

The theme of their book is “using the power of Six Sigma to solve the current global challenge of environmental sustainability”. Specifically, the book shows how using the structured approach of define measure analyze improve control (DMAIC), program governance, project charters, transfer functions, measurement systems, risk assessment, and process design can improve the environment with a greater chance of success. They also provide examples of Six Sigma applied to carbon emissions, energy conservation, materials recycling, water use and finance. The book is geared towards the service business and office buildings, not the traditional manufacturing factories or “direct-emitter” energy companies. It is a business book, not a technical book on how the Six Sigma tools apply.

The following is a summary of the book, with key topics discussed within each chapter.

  • Chapter 1 – Developing the Business Case (available for reading on Amazon “Look Inside” feature)
    • Ties the corporate need for natural resources with environmental issues
    • Aligning sustainability strategies with a strong business case
    • Understanding expectations of your customers, workforce and regulators
    • Assigning a dollar value to metric tons of carbon to help prioritize sustainability projects
    • Sustainability programs can grow company culture and attract and retain talent
  • Chapter 2 – Sustainability and the Collaborative Management Model
    • Leadership embracement of the Six Sigma management framework can improve success of sustainability initiatives
    • Improvement projects require careful attention to leadership and change management impacts in order to be successful
    • There is a stronger move towards collaboration, networks, and employee decisions on what to work on
    • Sustainability programs are more successful in companies that are not hierarchical (pyramid, top-down driven)
    • Collaborative management model consists of a set of leadership and governance practices supported by disciplined use of specific behaviors (midpoint and quarterly leadership reviews, established agenda, skilled facilitator/coach, dashboards to drive fact-based decision making)
    • Apex Case Study
  • Chapter 3 – The Sustainability Transfer Function
    • How to evaluate primary drivers of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water and material use to identify the critical few that will have the biggest impact on sustainability
    • Brundtland definition and three drivers of sustainability (economic, environmental, social) are used to develop the transfer function, y = f(x), where y is the sustainability metric, and x is the list of critical factors that impact that metric
  • Chapter 4 – Sustainability Measurement and Reporting
    • Describes international sustainability measurement standards and reporting protocols that need to be incorporated into your program
    • Mandatory and voluntary reporting has been steadily increasing over the years
    • Successes and failures are expected to be included in reporting
    • Internal and external benefits of reporting
    • Comparison of different reporting concepts
  • Chapter 5 – Transformational Change and the Power of Teams
    • The power of teams and effective change management are critical to sustainability initiatives
    • Reasons why green teams have failed to make an impact, and what Six Sigma teaches that can improve on their efforts
    • Even with good structure in places, efforts can fail as a result of: uncertainty of purpose, lack of goal clarity, narrow focus, lack of authority, insufficient data, or weak leadership
    • Team charters and DMAIC improvement approach are keys to overcoming risk of project failures
    • Change Acceleration Process (CAP, derived from General Electric (GE)) and Bridges model are necessary for change management to be successful
    • Six Sigma integrated team framework includes: Sponsors’ launch, Champions’ launch, project launch, widespread use of DMAIC and blitz teams for fast-focus improvements
  • Chapter 6 – Sustainability and Real Estate
    • Building green is an opportunity to use resources more efficiently and create a work environment protective of human health
    • Importance of managing buildings for sustainability
    • Specific strategies for green buildings beyond operational efficiency
    • Selecting office locations and decreasing need for office space (or not building at all)
    • Natural progression to minimize real estate footprint
      • Reduce floor space
      • Factor carbon into requirements
      • Apply green standards
      • Address existing buildings and retrofits
      • Engage employees
    • Building leases must engage building owners to achieve goals, including: mutual commitment to running efficient building, align financial incentives, and improved transparency
    • If you’re not measuring and reporting carbon footprint today, you will be very soon in the future, so start now
  • Chapter 7 – Six Sigma Sustainability Project Examples
    • Describes the flow of typical DMAIC projects, including three specific examples
    • Collaborative management team should identify new projects based on performance needs
    • Project champions should have reasonable control over resources on project, and team leaders should own the process improvements
    • Always start a project with the business case, and include any benchmark comparisons to industry
    • Don’t set too many goals for one project
    • Tie process metrics to financial goals for each project
    • Stakeholder communications need to take place throughout the project, not just at the end
    • Project improvement goals can and should be adjusted with the champion as the team progresses and learns more
    • Example Project: Office energy efficiency
    • Example project: Office space agility
    • Example project: Greening leased space
  • Chapter 8 – Design for Six Sigma
    • Applying Design for Six Sigma (DfSS) tools like the house of quality (HOQ)
    • Provide a basic example of how design requirements can be established as a talent attraction and retention strategy
    • Provide basic steps for executing a HOQ
    • Define and explain the Six Sigma design approach to define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV)
    • Describe another key design tools called Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
    • Key elements of a program scorecard to support management decisions
  • Chapter 9 – Stakeholder Management
    • Number of influential stakeholders has grown over the years
    • Stakeholders play a key role in success of sustainability initiative, and will get stronger over the years
    • Stakeholders expect transparency and willingness of company to work with them to meet their needs
    • Influencing stakeholders requires knowledge of their needs and a strong trusting relationship
    • Keys tips are provided for effectively and proactively managing your stakeholders
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A – Business Case Template and Examples
  • Appendix B – Sustainability Transfer Function
  • Appendix C – Sample Energy Conservation Opportunity Evaluation Checklist for an Office Building Assessment
  • Appendix D – Sample High-Level Process Map for Energy Conservation in the Office Facility
  • Appendix E – Sample Functional Performance Criteria for Enterprise Carbon Accounting Software

This book will give you some new ideas for your sustainability initiative. It might also give you ideas on how to address problems with your current program.

Six Sigma for Sustainability

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