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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Understanding and Utilizing Lean and Six Sigma in the Histology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Effect on Organizational Culture

Organizational culture can be defined as the attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and values of an organization. The practical implication of laboratory culture is "how we get things done around here." Every laboratory culture is unique. Many managers will talk about "changing the culture," but the reality is, you don't really change the culture itself. You do change the strategy, organizational structure, and policy, and eventually the culture will follow.
Changing a culture is never a quick or easy process, but Lean and Six sigma can help with both the strategy and the structure. The key for leadership is to have the desire to create change, to bring the energy to get involved, and then set about the foundation for the culture you are working towards. This will not happen with a one-time initiative, but only through consistency and commitment.
The process improvement methodology of Lean and Six Sigma provides insight into every process, which saves time and effort by minimizing the time and energy needed to "put out fires." Laboratories are notorious for creating special processes around one time events (fires). Once you understand process variation, you begin to recognize those sudden shifts are usually one time events and any attempts to deal with the root causes are lost to history. Over time, this "crisis" culture creates overly complicated, confusing, and ill-defined processes and structures which generate frustration and mistrust. With greater process knowledge, there is less finger-pointing and blaming, and more collaboration.
A Lean-Six Sigma organization has clearly defined roles for each member. This is part of establishing a structure in which everyone has a role and they have clear directives of their expectations. Because Lean and Six Sigma are built on commitment to the customer, this unifies the entire organization to a simple organization-wide goal . One of the most powerful aspects of Lean and Six Sigma is that it allows everyone to become involved in the process and to understand how each improvement impacts the bottom line helping to create an action-oriented culture.