Deploy – Integrate – Sustain – Institutionalize. Although each phase has distinct qualities, the lines between them are blurred or almost seamless – as it should be. I’m often asked what I think “institutionalization” looks like. My response: “Unconscious application.” By that, I don’t mean asleep at the wheel. When addressing an audience I typically use the following example to describe the state of “Unconscious Application.”

Let’s say that youare working in an office and need to send some information across town. How do you do it? Immediately I get responses like “email” or “fax.” Exactly, I reply. I then ask the audience, “How many of you thought about printing the document, stuffing it in an envelope, adding a stamp and putting it in the US mail?” People look at me like I’m nuts. And so the point is made. No one even thinks in those terms anymore. Even when a signature is required, we sign, scan and move the document along electronically. That’s Unconscious Application and that’s what it means to make Six Sigma “the way you work” or have it in “your DNA.” It means that when you have a tough problem to solve, you wouldn’t think of using anything besides Six Sigma to find the answer.

Getting there is not an overnight journey. But knowing when you’ve personally made the hyper-leap to “institutionalize” from “sustain” may occur in an instant. It is when you get a report with bar charts and ask the author to present yourdata in box-plot charts so that you can better understand the variance. Once you get there you will never go back. . . and that’s the “Real Deal!”

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