DR. MIKEL J. HARRY
SIX SIGMA MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE ASIA
In conversation with the ‘Lean Six Sigma Guru of Sri Lanka’ on building competence in Structured Problem Solving
Q: What does Structured Problem Solving entail – and why is it needed in a country like Sri Lanka?
A: While Sri Lanka is a nation full of resources, the country lacks the capacity to cater to the entire demand of most of the products and services it offers to the world. Therefore, our aim should be to charge a premium price for our limited supplies.
This can only be achieved by differentiating our products and services through constant value creation, ongoing innovation and a strong commitment to excellence – a strategy practised by countries with similar dynamics in the region such as Japan, Singapore and even South Korea.
By doing so, they have been able to earn higher margins despite their lower production capacity.
Structured Problem Solving is the key competency that corporates must harness to create these unique value propositions. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), five of the top 10 skills expected to be in high demand in 2025 relate to this concept.For corporates to improve operations, they must use systematic thinking and problem solving to improve their rate of success.
Q: And what are the key concepts around Structured Problem Solving?
A: There are various concepts under the banner of Structured Problem Solving. Based on a Google Trends analysis, the most popular over the last few years include Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Lean Management.
Almost six million people have obtained Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma certification across the world, according to LinkedIn. This includes 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies with Tesla, Apple and Microsoft having nearly 6,000 resource people who are competent in Lean Six Sigma, for example.
As for the local context, Sri Lanka is home to about 6,000 professionals with Lean Six Sigma certification. Singapore – which has a quarter of our population – is home to 37,000 professionals who are versed in the concept while around 51,000 are in Australia, despite it having a similar population to ours.
Q: How have you helped build competence in this concept here in Sri Lanka?
A: I have been in consulting and training individuals on Structured Problem Solving for the last two decades in more than 10 countries, helping companies save millions. As a result, I had the opportunity to represent Sri Lanka at many international forums as a keynote and guest speaker, as well as earn awards and accolades in the process.
In 2014, I met the person considered to be the principal architect of the Six Sigma Belt Certification System and world-renowned author Dr. Mikel J. Harry whilst in the US. This led to the establishment of the Asian office of the Dr. Mikel J. Harry Six Sigma Management Institute (SSMI) – a global pioneer in Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma consultancy and training – in Sri Lanka in 2015.
SSMI Asia is responsible for helping companies build competence in Lean Six Sigma in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania and Canada. So far, the company has made significant strides in promoting the concept in the region and operates in more than 20 countries, offering services in 12 languages.
As for its contribution to the country, SSMI Asia is credited with generating the highest number of Lean Six Sigma certified professionals in Sri Lanka and helping organisations save millions. Last year, the company counted among its achievements the conducting of the world’s largest Lean Six Sigma virtual training class with 132 participants from 19 countries.
Furthermore, it became the first Sri Lankan entity to be awarded ‘Asia’s Best Lean Six Sigma and Organizational Excellence Training and Consultancy Organisation’ at the Asia’s Training & Development Excellence Awards in 2019 and 2020.
Q: What differentiates SSMI Asia’s offering from others in the market?
A: When it comes to Lean Six Sigma, you need the right qualifications to compete in the world.
SSMI Asia is positioned as the only organisation offering the original body of knowledge developed by Dr. Harry on Six Sigma in Sri Lanka. The company has a proven track record including contributions to over 50 Fortune 500 entities.
SSMI Asia has a seasoned and qualified multinational resource panel of professionals who were trained by Dr. Harry. Additionally, all our services are priced to match each region and customised to suit the needs of each industry it serves.
Furthermore, the company’s large and well-connected alumni is an indicator of employment opportunities that could be leveraged.
Q: And what are the company’s plans for the future?
A: There is a need to introduce Structured Problem Solving in our education system so SSMI Asia plans to incorporate most of these competencies in academia in the coming years. We already have plans to incorporate the SSMI Lean Six Sigma body of knowledge in bachelor’s and master’s programmes in Sri Lankan universities.
The company also intends to introduce a variety of services to help companies build their prowess in Structured Problem Solving so that they are geared to face challenges in the next five years.