I am fresh off of the American Society of Quality’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement. It was an outstanding idea forum that charged me up and allowed me to press some of the key thought leaders in Lean/Six Sigma/Quality on this idea of the need for innovation WITHIN the process improvement community.

I was motivated to see many others in the process improvement community shared my idea that we need a revolution within the process improvement community. Today’s generation of consumers/professionals/leaders live in a fast paced, interconnected, web-enabled, IT-charged world. People not only want quality and value, they EXPECT speed and convenience. Many of managers and workers in today’s generation are frustrated with the lack of speed, flexibility, and responsiveness of existing process improvement models. On the last day of the conference, I intended a Six Sigma Forum Experts Panel and networking session. We had a lot of great discussion in an intimate setting with some key leaders within the Six Sigma community. Here were some of the key thoughts and ideas discussed about how to take existing process improvement models & methodologies to the next level:

  • Today we have complex organizations working in a very complex environment. These organizations need PROBLEM SOLVERS AND PROBLEM PREVENTERS people who can innovate and drive REAL change. Too often, we are getting process improvement ideologues who are inextricably wed to one methodology or approach. The fact is that with today’s complex problems and complex environment, our change agents require a broad set of problem-solving tools/skills/methodologies. It is less about WHICH tool/approach works better, but knowing when and how to use the correct tool, for the correct reason, in correct circumstance.
  • Most Black Belt and Green Belt Certification programs’ Body of Knowledge (BoK) represent a bare minimum of what is needed to be successful as a real change agent/ leader. However, the answer is NOT a larger BoK but better continuing education, coaching and mentoring for those who earn belts. Additionally, our belts need to avoid the “cookie cutter” training/application approach that goes on in many organizations. Our belts need to be able think, lead, adapt and be creative. No certification BoK can test for this.
  • We need to refocus our change agents to the goal of problem solving rather than “Lean” or “Six Sigma”, etc.Lean/Six Sigma/Quality is not the goal, but rather at tool to help us get to the desired goals. Our change agents need to be imbued with a deep and abiding intellectual curiosity. Change agents/belts/sensei should be people who have an unquenchable thirst to know “why?”
  • We need better use of technology as part of our problem solving/process improvement toolkit. Technology has lowered the cost and ease of applying such things as simulations, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, analytics, database mining, etc. These technologies should be incorporated into the improvement team’s suite of tools.
  • Our change agents need to understand systems thinking and be able to grasp the “big picture”.

These are just a few of the key points brought out in discussion. What are your key points to help drive Innovation WITHIN Six Sigma?

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