Nayism 32: We’ve learned the tools, trained folks and made good progress with our projects but somehow Six Sigma hasn’t become the “way we work.” Exactly when, if ever, will the cultural transformation thing happen?

Sounds like this organization is having a tough time changing old habits. Much like the latest weight loss fad, short-term success can be realized but sustainable results will require a lifestyle change. So what is the difference between a Six Sigma diet and lifestyle change? Here’s what I say . . .

At some point in our lives we’ve probably all been on a ‘diet.’ Whether we jump on the latest fad or devise a well thought out plan, we’re looking for the same result – to look and feel better. When we begin our diet, we are very focused and keep to a strict regimen of eating right and exercising. It works and the pounds melt away. But as time progresses, it becomes harder to lose a pound. The easy weight loss is gone and it is going to take even more dedication to keep going. At this point, some folks give up because it is just too hard. Others find the stamina to continue until they reach their goal weight. They look good and feel good and their strict regimen of eating right and exercising no longer seems necessary. Eventually old habits return and it is not long before they are back where they started – sometimes even a few pounds more. What went wrong? There was no lifestyle change to sustain the results. Weaving new behavior into an old mindset is not easy. It requires an unconditional desire to change. A passion so strong that it doesn’t give way to the ‘old ways’ which at times seem more comfortable and requires a lot less effort.

By now, some of you have forgotten that we are talking about a diet and have made the connection to Six Sigma. For some it’s just a fad. Others find success and start to become complacent in their search for excellence. Results are held up as being ‘good enough.’ Identifying good projects is a little tougher since the ground fruit is gone. The easy converts are on board and the tough naysayers are just too tough to overcome. Keeping on the forward path becomes more difficult as the constant focus on continuous improvement begins to be overshadowed by cultural norms. This is a turning point for many organizations. Only those who have the vision, the passion and the will to make Six Sigma a lifestyle change will succeed. As for the others, they are destined to become the next victim of the Six Sigma diet.

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