Today, more than most others, I’m convinced that a large majorityof ourSix Sigma brotherhood/sisterhood just don’t get that continuous improvement is a people thing. Sure, the technical stuff is important but what good is reciting a formula from memory if you can’t get the people in the operation or the executives in the board room to understand exactly what needs to be done to improve the business. Math for the sake of it is an interesting past-time but unless one can communicate, lead, and stimulate a passion for improvement among the troops it’s just an academic exercise that evaporates as soon as the math expert leaves the floor. The fact that the U.S. has lower math scores than many third world countries should be a clue that posting formulas on the equipment in the shop is not an effective process control device.

Don’t get me wrong, I can geek out on the stats with the best of them but I figured out a long time ago that in order to be effective I needed to get down on the floor and get involved with the people doing the work. As such, I relegated my scepter with the sigma character on top to the corner of my closet and spent my time learning how to create lasting change.I enter every new project with one goal: produce lasting value for the business. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that after 10 years in this field I occasionally have to look something up or call someone with more expertise on a particular subject. Isn’t that what books and friends are for? The real trick is knowing what you are looking for and where to find the answer,not having it committed to memory.

I do this work because I like helping people and a big part of that is listening and building relationships. With all the intellectual prowess in this field one would think this would be a given but that doen’t seem to be the case. The command and control mentality is alive and well and I’m afraid Six Sigma is going to fade into the land of fanciful fads if we don’t change our approach. How many Black Belts do you know who walk the walk as opposed to just spouting their book knowledge to and fro? True wisdom is humble and it’s time weabolished the ignorance of arrogance.

Reciting the minimum batch size formula over appetizers at Outback Steakhouse may be a good measure of how hard you’ve worked to overcome your intellectual insecurity but it’s about as useful as burping the national anthem if true results depend on something other than your memory.

Gotta go, my kid is bugging me about that scepter. He said something about being God in the school play….

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