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Kyle Toppazzini

Six Sigma

A Paradigm Shift for Lean Six Sigma

To establish trust, first formulate, understand, synthesize, and execute

Published: Friday, September 13, 2013 - 14:55

Before my first book, Maximizing Lean Six Sigma (West Bow Press, 2013), was published, I’d begun work on a second book, which details a new approach to lean Six Sigma called FUSE—for formulate, understand, synthesize, and execute. It’s an approach that enables organizations to maximize enterprise performance with the least amount of friction to continuously learn, improve, and innovate.

The FUSE framework’s first phase has three key activities: education; values, beliefs, culture, and attitudes; and formulating a plan. In this article, I will explain, in part, the first activity: education.


When deploying the FUSE model, we begin with educating senior management on what FUSE is, what it is not, and how this approach closes many gaps that have prevented the optimum use of lean Six Sigma. Below are questions and answers to have ready when discussing the FUSE approach with any management member within the organization.


Q1: What is FUSE?
A1: Formulate, understand, synthesize, and execute (FUSE) is an approach that enables organizations to maximize enterprise performance with the least amount of friction to continuously learn, improve, and innovate. It embodies three core Chinese values that are used to achieve these objectives: trust (shin); relationships (gunaxi); and knowledge, or more specifically, reflective thinking (zhi).

Q2: How is FUSE different from lean Six Sigma?
A2: Lean Six Sigma uses both lean and Six Sigma as complementary methodologies to eliminate seven kinds of waste, produce high-quality outputs, and ensure stable and predictable processes. Lean Six Sigma considers the views of the customer, the business owner, and the stakeholders. Change management is part of lean Six Sigma implementation.

FUSE, on the other hand, works to optimize the interrelationships between all parts of an enterprise, to instill trust, and create an environment of continuous learning, improvement, and innovation. FUSE considers the views of employees, leaders, suppliers, business owners, stakeholders, and partners because each of these entities plays a key role in the overall performance of any organization.

FUSE helps establish a trust-centric environment so that performance improvement can be achieved with the least amount of resistance and friction. Building trusting relationships is something organizations using the FUSE model do consistently—not just when a project is initially implemented.

Q3: How does critical thinking lead to innovation?
A3: FUSE uses a concept of critical reflection, which promotes a higher level of critical thinking. With the FUSE model, employees are taught to consider alternative scenarios as a way of thinking through a problem, and comparing and contrasting as a way to energize creative thinking. In the FUSE model, the concept of critical thinking is implemented throughout many of the standard tools used in lean Six Sigma to assist people in thinking at a higher and more creative level when problem solving. Employees are challenged to test their assumptions using data and statistical analysis when doing the critical reflection, which allows for validation of data and theory.

Q4: How long does it take to fully implement FUSE?
A4: The name FUSE was no accident—the model was given this name because the formulate phase is slow and long, but the remaining phases are faster and deliver explosive results. Overall, the FUSE framework takes less time than lean Six Sigma. Getting to the point where you start to implement FUSE can take six to eight months. However, reaching a point where the organization is trust-centric and fully embraces the framework can take years.

The benefits of implementing FUSE, however, are worth it. Having every employee focused on a shared vision, common principles, and working hand in hand with management, suppliers, and customers in total trust means much less effort in dealing with issues that suboptimize performance and consume much of the organization’s resources. Every effort of building trust into relationships means a greater probability of success and longevity.

Once you have your management team excited and willing to deploy this new approach, it’s time to start peeling back the layers of the enterprise to see how well they are currently holding together. The goal during the preliminary discussions will be to confirm the following:
1. If the organization has a mission, vision, values, and strategies
2. Senior management’s interpretation of its mission, vision, values, and strategies
3. If the organization’s mission statement reflects those of the organization’s core business
4. If the vision statement is inspiring, energizing, and memorable. Does it say something about the company: its operating environment, what makes it different, and what its leaders aspire for it to be. Does the vision statement paint a clear picture of future goals?
5. If the mission and vision statements have been clearly communicated to all employees
6. If employees are reminded frequently of the company’s mission and vision. Are these reminders communicated through various means? Various means could include the company’s website, its newsletters, town-hall meetings, marketing material, strategic and operating plans, and company announcements.
7. If there are any signs, garnered through speaking with management and staff, that management does not exemplify its values. Does management walk the walk?
8. If there are any values that conflict with other values listed by the organization
9. If the values are integrated with the company’s HR strategies such as hiring and compensation
10. If the company’s strategies are linked to its operational plans
11. If the company’s strategies have clear objectives, key performance indicators, and performance targets as well as an executive accountable for meeting those targets
12. If the company’s strategies are integrated with the day-to-day activities that employees conduct


Validating each of these 12 items will help you determine the next steps—if you need to work with senior management to develop a mission and vision statement, for example, or develop strategies or align the strategies to day-to-day activities.

Normally at this point, practioners of lean Six Sigma will be tempted to develop (if one does not exist) a balanced scorecard that defines strategic objectives across four key perspectives of an organization: finance, business process, customers, and learning growth. Within FUSE, however, it’s important to first identify the beliefs, attitudes, and values of employees and managers, and then validate whether management and employees share the same interpretation of the vision, mission, and values. Once you are able to come up with a common vision that everybody understands, you can start to integrate something like a balanced scorecard to ensure alignment of your strategic objectives with your performance improvement projects.


About The Author

Kyle Toppazzini’s picture

Kyle Toppazzini

Kyle Toppazzini is the president of Toppazzini and Lee Consulting, and an international leader and consultant in lean Six Sigma. He is a certified balanced scorecard trainer and a lean Six Sigma Black Belt. He works with C-level executives to assist in developing and implementing process improvement strategies and transformations that result in faster, better, and more cost-effective delivery of services and products. Toppazzini’s Lean Six Sigma Challenge has appeared in more than 200 outlets, including Yahoo News, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Miami Herald. Contact him at Kyle.Toppazzini@TLeeCorp.com or tel. (613) 680–4333, ext. 2.