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8 Traits of People Who Excel at Continuous Improvement & Boost Productivity

Lean Six Sigma Staffing Success Characteristics

Conventional wisdom supports the belief that people with formal Lean and Six Sigma training are the ones that are best at making process improvements. While having skills from the Lean ‘toolbox’ is certainly a big plus, it is not the only thing that matters. Often, the personality traits of an individual play a much bigger role in improving operations in the office or on the shop floor.

So what are the characteristics of someone who is successful at continuous improvement?

  • Problem recognition

You don’t have to be a mechanic to recognize that your car is making a funny noise. You just have to be able to notice a change from how it normally sounds. In the same way, for example, if you wait tables at a restaurant, you have to pay attention to your customers so you can recognize when they become irritated about long waits or other problems with their service.

  • Intolerance

Once you notice a problem, you must believe that it needs to be fixed. How many people do recognize that funny sound in their car, but still drive around for months without looking into the cause? Along the same lines, you may see that a process is causing damage to a part. Does it bother you enough to do something about it?

  • Responsibility

Do you feel that it is your job to make things better? The people who are best at improvement don’t report problems-they act to take care of them.

  • Curiosity

You must have a desire to try to figure things out. Children possess this trait: Where do you think that fire truck is going? How did the moon get up there? Some people lose this curiosity, and never think to ask why a process isn’t working as well as it should.

  • Persistence

Once you recognize the problem and decide that it needs to be fixed, how determined are you to find a solution? Do you allow yourself to get distracted before you resolve the issue? Do you let obstacles deter you?

  • Open-mindedness

Great solutions come from people being willing to step away from their comfort zone. Good problem solvers are able to look at things from a different perspective and are willing to try new methods.

  • Practicality

Simple solutions are often better than complicated ones. For one thing, they tend to be easier to sustain. For another, they often present the best improvement ‘bang for the buck.’ Bells and whistles might be appealing, but how much value do they really add?

  • Optimism

Persistence requires optimism. It would be hard to stick with something if you didn’t think that things could get better.  

Do you have all these traits? Does your team? If the answer is yes, then continue to build on those strengths. If the answer is no, the good news is that simply recognizing the problem puts you on the path to success on your Lean journey.


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