From a building in the centre of Glasgow a team continues to grow, spread and populate one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The team is ours, the mission (which we duly accepted) was to change the way things were done, to build and prepare for growth and to change an embedded culture of ‘that’s the way it’s always been’.

Now, 2 years since inception, the comforting arms of Six Sigma change are morphing the team into a machine of financially prioritised change work which, although valid in today’s dog eat dog world, I personally have to ask the question – “how long can it last?”

I mean, is Six Sigma change a large scale cost cutting exercise hidden under a veil of due process or is it a vehicle of full scale change in corporate culture? The question is one I, personally, believe is tending towards the former… and that is not a good thing!

I believe the children are the future… oops, sorry wrong blog… ahem…

I will admit, I am not a capitalist and have a tendency to show attributes that are sometimes described as idealistic or even ‘hippy’ but I know I’m not the only one that is beginning to believe that many Six Sigma deployments (for reasons of diplomacy I will not mention if our deployment is included in this statement) are missing their opportunity to change a business not from the account book but from the heads of the people contributing to the account book.

A guy called Robert Dilts produced a model of change called the Neuro-Logical levels (based on earlier work by Gregory Bateson). This model explained how to produce the most profound change in individuals and groups of individuals. Now, the more I study this model and the more I hear about Six Sigma deployments, the fewer I realise are doing anything that is going to create the easily maintainable, long term change in an organisation that our jobs as BBs are initially created for.

The model itself is structured as a hierarchy and I have reproduced it in its most basic format below:


In summary of the model, to generate change in any given individual or group of individuals you can change their environment and it will work. For example, I know as BBs we have probably all been involved in producing trackers, posters, dashboards, team positioning etc. and it will work for a while…but eventually the old behaviours will start again because you’ve not changed them. So you can change the behaviour, change processes, remove steps, build systems and you will see the team themselves begin to change their environment to fit their new behaviours…excellent stuff, but it doesn’t change the fact if a group or individual is not capable to do a task then they will not perform. And so we can change the capabilities of a team/organisation through training and hiring new staff…I’m sure you’re getting the idea now – the higher up the hierarchy you go the longer lasting and more pervasive the change.

Now we get into the tough stuff and where I believe the Six Sigma that I have witnessed lacks its real punch. How do we go about changing the beliefs of an organisation or even the identity of an organisation when all our targets, leadership and drive are coming from affecting the bottom line of the hierarchy – the financial environment. If we, as change professionals, want to create change in our organisations we have to start affecting the belief systems and corporate and team identities that hold our businesses back only then can we claim to be purveyors of long term change to an organisation.

This is easier said than done. To make this type of change we need time, training, and strong leadership. We need the skills to inspire as well as manage. We cannot run a Chi-Square on a lack of belief or a confused corporate identity! I’ve got my ideas on some of the approaches we can take and I’ll stick up a post in a couple of weeks time as I’m hoping that this post may spark some debate. As a side note – if you have a way to bring Spirituality to your organisation through Six Sigma then go ahead however that may be taking it a step too far!!

I believe Six Sigma is a great model for change. However, I also believe, if Six Sigma wants to survive, it has to evolve and I don’t know if it has the will or the want to do that. Therefore, as I said at the beginning, my questions remains ‘How long can it last?’

Happy New Year.

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