“All or nothin’ at all…

Half a love never appealed to me

If your heart, it never would yield to me

Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all.”

(Song composed in 1939 by Arther Altman, lyrics by Jack Lawrence – a big hit for Frank Sinatra)

I was thinking of these lyrics the other day, when a few of my colleagues engaged in a discussion about doing Lean and Six Sigma “the right way.” Some said, if you weren’t going to do it right – meaning, in strict emulation of the Toyota Production System or Motorola, then you shouldn’t bother to do it at all. Others said, half a loaf is better than none, and if you engaged employees in 5S, process mapping and other simpletools, at least you would be setting the foundation for culture change.

Since not everyone has a Jack Welch, or a leadership team composed of Taiichi Ohno/Shigeo Shingo/Eiji Toyoda, that raised an interesting question to me. Is there no reason for starting to use lean tools, or implement a Six Sigma culture, if you can’t do it right, right away?

Another cultural reference occurred to me, this time from the old movie “The Mighty Ducks.” There’s a scene in which a hard-driving youth hockey coach tells his team of boys, “It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big!” Some companies won’t charter a Six Sigma project if the expected ROI is less than a quarter of a million dollars (or other large figure). But does that mean, that the only projects we can do are large projects?

So my two questions that I would like to ask for your help in pondering, are:

1. Is it worth doing lean or Six Sigma if you can’t do it full-force, with a full scale deployment and all leaders maximally committed?

2. Is it worth doing small projects, if the only significant ROI comes from large projects?

In other words… does it have to be all, or nothin’ at all?

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