I was privileged recently to attend the American Society for Quality’s World Conference in Houston, TX. What an energetic gathering of quality-minded people!

One topic thatI heard a lot of conversation about was concern for leadership of Lean and Six Sigma. There were many stories shared of new deployments, attempted deployments, and failed deployments. One question that I’ve been asking, when I hear these accounts, is “Who was your Jack Welch?” In other words, who was the top executive that championed the initiative over all obstacles?

Too many times, I heard that the push for Lean or Six Sigma came from middle management – not a criticism of those individuals, of course, but if top executives don’t catch the fever, then the initiative can be treated as a hobby for someone down below. When the going gets tough, it’s easy to fall back on an excuse such as “Six Sigma’s not working for us.” As my MBB Todd Sperl used to say, it’s the difference between support and commitment.

Therefore,it was not a big surprise to read, in Michael Marx’srecent post Project Failure, that the number one reason for failure of Six Sigma projects was… no management support. I suspect that could read, instead, no top-level executive support.

So now, when I come into an oragnization that says they’re “doing” Six Sigma or Lean, I ask: “Who’s your Jack Welch?” The answer is always illuminating.

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