Joanie has a conversation with Luis Socconini, the Director of the Lean Six Sigma Institute and master blackbelt in Lean Six Sigma. He is the author of several books on Lean practices and has run over 300 projects in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and South America. He is an engineer by training and he has several certificates in quality and manufacturing from very prestigious institutions, like Harvard and MIT. Luis tells us about how he learned to be a good leader anywhere and how to help teams work more efficiently.
Q: Tell us your story of starting a business in Mexico and moving it to the United States?
“I’m an industrial engineer with a master’s in quality and productivity. One of the key factors for a business to grow is to move into different countries. I learned that since I was learning how to be a businessman. It was in 2006 when I started my international journey. I started my first office in South America, in Columbia. It was an interesting and risky adventure. It was something I really wanted to do, so I decided to take the risk. After that, I started an office in Spain, and later in Switzerland. It was in 2010 when I decided to expand to the United States. One of the reasons was because some of my clients in Mexico and South America were American companies and they were asking us, ‘Why don’t you help us in the United States? Why don’t you have an office?’ It was an idea that my clients gave me, and I decided to take the opportunity. In 2010, as you know, it was not an easy time. It was an economic situation where the world was the world was really difficult. It was an interesting journey.”
Q: You moved your family here, right? How was that?
“Yes, we moved all together. I presented this opportunity to my wife. At first, I had to convince her. I thought she was going to say ‘no.’ But then she said, ‘why not? Let’s try it.’ We decided to take one year and try it and if it didn’t work out, we would move back to Mexico. The first year was fantastic! We learned a lot. It was a completely different change in the way we live, the way we interact with kids, and the way we work.”
Q: What is Lean Six Sigma?
“Lean is a philosophy, a methodology, and a set of tools created by Toyota. Toyota created this methodology based on the learnings they had from when Japanese companies came to the United States to learn best practices so they could improve their productivity based on the U.S. productivity after the second World War, that was eight times higher. They took all this knowledge and converted it into a system. It was called the Toyota Production System. On the other hand, Six Sigma was created by Motorola. They created it as a secret project in the 80s. At the end of the 80s they presented it as a project to succeed in quality. They had a lot of problems with quality. It was in 1988 when Motorola won the Quality Award given by President Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan said to Bob Allen, who was the CEO, it was incredible how you improved quality. You have to show this to the world! And Bob Allen said okay and they called it Six Sigma. Together, Lean and Six Sigma became the most powerful methodology to improve quality and productivity.”
“We can condense this into two words. Lean Six Sigma is about speed and quality. You need speed and quality for sales, marketing. If you have a restaurant or hotel, you need speed and quality. Even in decision making we need speed and quality.”
Q: What kinds of challenges are your clients usually facing, especially in technical organizations?
“A large number of companies are dealing with delivery time and cost, especially cost. Individuals are also facing increasing job opportunities and increasing competition. The typical customer we have is not delivering their products on time. In a software company, one of the main headaches they have is they are not delivering on time; the software sometimes does not have the quality. Anything that is related to quality and speed, that’s something where we can help.”
To hear examples of how Luis motivates technical leaders to be more efficient, how he developed himself from introvert to people-oriented, and what he’s learned is most important to managing his own team, listen to the episode.
Words of Wisdom:
Helping others is the most wonderful thing.
Better leaders are better teachers.
Once you give employees the information, tools, and trust to make decisions, things start changing.
Contact Luis Socconini: