I believe Deming may have said something in this area, but given I couldn’t find a famous quote I made one up.

80% of business issues come from the process and only 20% from the people who work at the business

If someone told me that, I’d say, No!Look at the things people do that cause no end of cost and impact on a business.

  • Not returning messages or only half-answering questions
  • Not investing time in communications
  • Not seeing a strategy through to completion
  • Not having a strategy in the first place
  • Not making decisions or making them too late
  • Not taking responsibility for the customer
  • Not taking ownership of the process
  • You get the idea……

The fact the process fails seems to be the end-result of poor leadership, planning, and execution. It seems wrong to blame the processwhen 5-whys can rapidly get back to the root-cause. Let me touch on one aspect of this people-dimension.

You may have heard of business buzzword bingo, you may have even played it in meetings with words and phrases like “Absolutely”, “Mission Critical” and “On boarding”. But the phrase that fills me with dread is “Lets Be Pragmatic”.

I have no problem with pragmatism and sign-up wholeheartedly to being pragmatic. As the dictionary says, “of or pertaining to a practical point of view or practical considerations”. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in business that claimed to be anything other than pragmatic. It’s the non-dictionary definitions that trouble me, the hidden meanings people have like:

  • I don’t like taking risks
  • Our focus should be on the next quarters results
  • My incentive plan is more important
  • Major improvements always fail
  • I do not support this solution

Of course in business it is good to have balance and sceptics drive-out holes in a solution. But get the balance wrong and you end-up with a business that can’t deliver change and can’t react to customer demands. The business becomes paralysed into inaction or makes seemingly random and half-hearted attempts to change.

I think there are times when we should dream, push the envelope, be radical, take risks, look beyond the here and now, see it from the customer’s point of view. Lean Six Sigma puts you at the vanguard of business change and it is our duty to be bold and square up to the fake pragmatists.

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