In my last blog entry, I wrote about the fugue as a model for deployment. A fugue is a musical form in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices, until eventually the entire orchestra is playing the same tune. I suggested that this might not be a bad way to deploy, especially in cases where human resources are tight but time is not.

But this won’t make sense for all organizations, just like it doesn’t make sense for all pieces of music. An alternative musical form worthy of consideration in this context is the symphony. A symphony is a relatively long musical composition with several interweaving themes. Symphonies are often based on the sonata form, which comprises multiple movements in different forms and keys.

Symphonies are usually freer in form than fugues, and often feature different parts of the orchestra being used in different ways. Whereas in a fugue every plays practically the same tune, in a symphony different groups are depended upon to play different tunes. The composer develops and allocates separate but related musical themes according to the unique characteristics of the various sections. These tunes play off one another and combine to express more complex musical ideas. The tubas can do what tubas do best while the violas do what violas do best. Each group certainly needs to be cognizant of what others are doing, but the various groups are not doing the same things most of the time. As long as each plays their part and follows the conductor, beautiful music is made.

Mapping the symphonic form to Six Sigma deployment yields a familiar model. We start with some central themes but deploy them a differently in different areas. What we do in the supply chain can be different than what we do in manufacturing which can be different than what we do in IT which can be different…well, you get the idea. Or maybe what we do in business X can be different than what we do in business Y which is different that what we do in business Z. Not entirely different – there needs to be some degree of coordination through the composer and conductor – but not the same either.

The point is that the program in each place doesn’t need to be the same, as long the themes and their relationships and well planned. And furthermore, we’re free to include different “movements” in our Six Sigma symphony – maybe we start out with DFSS, then move on to traditional Six Sigma, and finish up by modulating to Lean Sigma. We can do that without losing the overall structure of the program. This can work, and when it’s done well it’s a very powerful model.

The key for a symphonic deployment is that it requires excellent planning and coordination throughout. There needs to be a highly skilled composer to plan things ahead of time, and there needs to be a highly skilled conductor step up on the podium and lead all the diverse groups. Most organizations don’t have a resident Mozart who can put all the pieces in place. Most organizations don’t find and free up the resources to plan a deployment in detail well before it happens. And most organizations, especially large ones, aren’t good enough at communicating within and between silos to keep several different but related deployments playing nicely together.

In short, a lot of pieces need to be in place to succeed with this model of deployment. Organizations that have these pieces in place can and do run with this model and develop very powerful and successful programs. A few high-profile examples of this are probably why so many people gravitate towards this model. But woe to organizations that try it without having the enabling pieces in place first! Unfortunately, that’s most of us.

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