Top 20 Capabilities of an Executive Business Improvement Leader

Authored By: Mikel J. Harry, Ph.D.

Leadership Compass

According to the 2014 CEO surveys conducted by several highly respected organizations, there has been a fundamental shift in business priorities [1].  After a detailed examination and study of the survey results, this author was able to draw several decisive conclusions.  The first conclusion is related to the shift in business strategy.  Essentially, the strategic shift can be characterized by the following statement.

Today’s CEO’s are strategically focusing on increasing revenues and business growth through organic means.

Growth through mergers and acquisitions is no longer considered a viable alternative.  Although cost cutting through efficiency improvements is still on the radar screen, it has taken a back seat to growth.  In fact, chief economist Bart van Ark stated:

“The research suggests that the era of cost cutting is finally coming to an end and that companies are positioning themselves for growth.”

In order to enable the growth strategy, CEO’s plan to employ the following tactics:

1. Cultivate and retain new as well as existing customers.  Winning back lost customers is also on the playing field.  Naturally, the success of such strategies is ultimately dependent upon improving the company’s overall value proposition in the marketplace.  Consequently, the velocity at which value can be created will come center-stage in the battle to increase profitability while gaining market position.

2. Create and retain critical internal talent.  Given the shift toward organic growth (while tending to operational costs), the need for executive-level business improvement leaders will greatly increase and be on-going over the long haul.  However, there is currently a great shortage of individuals with the necessary competencies to design and lead strategic business improvement projects.  So, until the supply and demand ratio finds its equilibrium point, companies will likely have to grow their own business improvement leaders or turn to external sources.

3. Improve leadership development.  Beyond question, developing and sustaining leadership talent (at all levels) is an on going necessity for every corporation.  However, in light of the strategic shift to business growth (after years of cost cutting), the uncompromising need for a new breed of improvement leader is at hand.  While most of today’s well-managed companies have an adequate supply of process improvement leaders, there is a stark shortfall of strategic business improvement leaders.  Again, this means that companies must immediately develop a strategy and supporting system to generate and sustain an adequate supply of business improvement leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to align business improvement projects with the goals and objectives of the company.

4. Leverage Business Analytics.  The use of business analytics refers to the skills, technologies, practices for continuous iterative exploration and investigation of past business performance to gain insight and drive business planning.  Business analytics focuses on developing new insights and understanding of business performance based on data and statistical methods [2].  Owing to this understanding, strategic business improvement leaders will not only need to have a strong business acumen and financial literacy, they will also need to posses statistical skills, as well as have a viable understanding of process improvement methods.

Based on the aforementioned conclusions and other research, as well as personal experience, this author (in conjunction with his research team), identified the top 20 capabilities that a strategic business improvement leader should possess.  In this sense, a business improvement leader should be able to:

  1. Gain access into the company’s inner circle of power and influence
  2. Get executives to trust your knowledge, skills and leadership
  3. Recruit an executive sponsor that will be your mentor and guardian
  4. Capture the executive mind and show the way to business victory
  5. Develop and sell strategic plans to increase the velocity of value
  6. Develop a business acumen that is integrated with your analytical skills
  7. Shift people’s thinking to the Quality-of-Business, not the Business-of-Quality
  8. Speak the language of business and finance with a senior executive team
  9. Plan, operate and thrive in the light of circumstantial ambiguity
  10. Negotiate the acquisition of scarce resources and top talent
  11. Command the attention, respect and confidence of your peers
  12. Employ your existing analytical skills to diagnose business performance
  13. Design and implement a vertically correlated metrics system
  14. Leverage corporate politics to build vital relationships
  15. Design, build and sustain an ecosystem of business improvement
  16. Connect the Voice-of-the-Customer to the Voice-of-Business
  17. Capture the Voice-of-Society to isolate new business opportunities
  18. Increase the true value of your company’s products and services
  19. Increase consensus and eliminate biases in the decision making process
  20. Build a workforce of world-class process improvement leaders

To build these capabilities, the Six Sigma Management Institute located in Scottsdale, Arizona has developed the Executive Master Black Belt Training and Certification Program under the leadership of Dr. Mikel J. Harry, co-creator of Six Sigma and consultant to many of the world’s top business executives.


[1] Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Gartner, KMPG and PWC.

[2] Wikipedia.  Subject Reference: Business Analytics

For more information on how to become a Certified Executive Master Black Belt, please contact:

Don P. Drury

Executive Vice President

Sales & Marketing

Six Sigma Management Institute

720-272-2855 direct

EMBB Cover Sheet.png

About Mikel Harry

Dr. Harry has been widely recognized in many of today's notable publications as the Co-Creator of Six Sigma and the world's leading authority within this field. His book entitled Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations has been on the best seller list of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and He has been a consultant to many of the world’s top senior executives, such as Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric Corporation. Dr. Harry has also been a featured guest on popular television programs, such as the premier NBC show "Power Lunch." He is often quoted in newspapers like USA Today and interviewed by the media, such as The Economic Times. In addition, Dr. Harry has received many distinguished awards in recognition of his contributions to industry and society. At the present time, Dr. Harry is Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute and CEO of The Great Discovery, LLC.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s