iSixSigma

How can we improve the growth and acceptance of Six Sigma?

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We must always remember that the power brokers within and external to a corporation are the ones who render judgment about the success or failure of some initiative. Simply stated, the power brokers are only concerned with one matter – demonstrated results that are overtly visible and economically aligned with larger aims, not hidden somewhere in the bowels of the organization under the guise of cost avoidance or future realization. 

Unfortunately, many practitioners do not respect the essential short-cycled thinking of management.  I believe this sheds some light on why the quality function in most corporations has remained largely disconnected from the sanctum of managerial (financial) control.  While many quality professionals have been overly focused on incremental, perennial, long-term improvement, the power brokers of a corporation are focused on the here and now.  Most of the world’s greatest business leaders want to discuss change in orders of magnitude, not in fractions or small percentages.

The world we lived in yesterday is simply not the world we live in today.  Perhaps Francis Gouillart and James Kelley said it best in their 1995 McGraw Hill book entitled “Transforming the Organization.”  It was here they wrote: “We once assumed that corporate evolution consists of long periods of stasis, punctuated by periodic adaptations, but the pace of change is too fast for that now.  Now, the company needs to adapt every day.”

Tom Peters calls it perpetual revolution.  Joseph Schumpeter calls it creative destruction.  Peter Drucker calls it destabilizing the organization. Alvin Toffler calls it the flex firm.  What they are all referring to is a kind of organizational mentality that refuses to tolerate business as usual.  For years, these visionaries and others have foreshadowed that leading corporations will reinvent themselves again and again.  In the words of Tom Peters:  “Improvement will not do… only revolution will.”  This means, in the words of Peter Drucker, “systematically abandoning the established, the customary, the familiar, the comfortable.”

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We must recognize that without revolutionary thinking, corporations simply cease to grow, prosper and survive, as this is the law of Darwinian economics.  The only way they can survive is through a high-quality, short-cycled process that can produce cash.  In other words, corporations rapidly evolve as a result of judicious planning, careful design and coordinated execution in the interest of quantum, fast-track improvement.  At the same time, such a short-cycled orientation exists in symbiotic fashion with, not to the exclusion of, viable, long-term vision.  This holds true, and must be brought into the forefront of consciousness, at all levels, across all boundaries and within each and every compartment of a corporation.

The point is simple – to unlock the momentum that is required to drive quantum improvement, an organization must approach Six Sigma in a holistic manner.  This means that the initial focus of a Six Sigma curriculum in the short term (first wave of black belts) should be geared toward whatever it takes to obtain dramatic and visible financial results.  It is when the cash register starts to ring, so to speak, that management sits up and notices, and it is only then that curriculum development specialists can start to mold and evolve the content of Six Sigma training in the direction of meeting longer-term needs.

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