Constancy of Purpose

I’m sure most anyone reading this blog is familiar with Deming’s 14 points. I recall studying them when I first started my Six Sigma journey and though they all have their place, one keeps coming back to me over and over again: Constancy of Purpose. When I first read this one I felt a bit like it was a no brainer. Over time I’ve come to realize most things Deming said fall into the “brainer” category andI think I know why he felt this was so important.

I’m going to save you the speech on leadership here because 1) you’ve heard it all before and 2) I’d like to discuss this point relative to project selection.

When evaluating an office, plant, division, etc. for project opportunities, have you ever stopped to gauge the local leadership in terms of Constancy of Purpose? Do you think it’s a good idea to put a such a factor in your project prioritization matrix? I’m thinking it probably is. If, for example, you are dealing with managers with very little patience and limited knowledge of Six Sigma it would probably be wise to consider projects which make an impact quickly, even if you know there are greater opportunities elsewhere. I submit that it is more important todemonstrate results earlyso you can gain support from this type of manager for the larger, longer duration projects. The risk of not doing so is to be cut off in the middle of a long project because of their lack of patience.

I don’t think it’s necessary to belabor the point, I just wanted tothrow it out there to see if anyone might beinterested in sharing their ideas on Constancy of Purpose as it pertains to project selection. Feel free to post your thoughts and/or maybe a link to related information. If you have a project prioritization matrix which includes a category similar to what I’ve discussed here I’d love to see it.

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Comments 5

  1. Gary P Cox

    Our company has a ’Project Council’ made up of representatives from different ’departments’, each submitting possible projects into the project hopper from their areas. (about a dozen of us on the council)

    We’re now developing the project selection so that projects won’t get into the hopper until a draft charter is created, based on some facts which indicate a higher than acceptable defect rate in meeting customer requirments, as measured by our "Company Scorecard".

    We have a matrix with weighted criteria, and as a group we score the idea against the criteria; like Impact on the Customer… Impact on the employees etc… (We have six criteria, each weighted) We then score the project ideas. (1= none, 5=some positive impact, 9=high positive impact for each criteria)… the score multiplied by the criteria weighting and we end up with a score for each project. This sort of scoring supports the consistancy of purpose in our project selection.


  2. Dobra Wilson

    I read your blog in iSix Sigma magazine, followed the link, and here I am. I am also working as an MBB, for one of investment banks in Europe, however not as long as you do. Yet I have been practicing Project Management for last 6 years, and as you said – it’s all people’s thing, absolutelly true. Just because you work with people – there is no other way really.

    I don’t pay much attention to hunderts of examples of variation calculations and such stuff, I am not a statistician, that’s good for those in love with numbers and missing talking to people about their problems instead.

    But what troubles me in my work recently, is the fact that the more of Six Sigma I understand and master, the more distant other people (who understand about null of Six Sigma) tend to be towards me. I literally stopped talking about Six Sigma not to be occused of black magic:-) I just use common sense arguments, not standard deviations, and it seems to work much better.

    So tell me: how do you actually do “the people thing” with Six Sigma? What do you see as your advantages towards “numer’s geeks”?

    Best regards,

  3. Mike Carnell


    Constancy of purpose as much as it sounds like a no-brainer has never been a no-brainer. Any difference between Constancy of purpose and alignment are negligible. We have seen a proliferation of tools, books, etc trying to create alignment. Hoshin planning is intended to take an organization that direction. Dashboards and scorecards basically the same thing. As natural as it may seem it certainly does not seem to be natural behavior. Maybe the issue is interpretation but it seems to run much deeper than that.

    Check out your rewards and recognition system as well. That drives behavior as much as anything does.

    You won’t find as much of an issue with the alignment with Process Owners if you have an organization that holds Process Owners accountable for the Project Pipeline. They select projects – they will support projects.

    Getting cut off in the middle of a project should be impossible without the consent of the people who chartered the work. The fact that it is a “long” project may have something to do with it. Management tends to be A type personalities and they are not patient people. You need to keep projects moving and the myth that a project takes 4-6 months is pure nonsense. Hold Belts accountable for the pace of projects. Use the SS methodology to understand the speed of projects and understand that not all projects are the same.

    Don’t lay this all on managements doorstep. The deployment owns this as well.

  4. W. Michael McBride

    Mr. Carnell,

    I agree with most everything you say here. Alignment, Constancy of Purpose, call it what you will, without it a company will stay mired in an endless cycle of chaotic stops and starts when it comes to project execution.

    I think your mention of rewards and recognition is important but I believe it’s bigger than that. If we don’t have alignment between what we say we want to accomplish strategically (which project we will do) and the way we measure the performance of the company and everyone in it, we will struggle to complete any work, project or otherwise, that is misaligned.

    Thanks for the comment, Mike

  5. W. Michael McBride


    Though your comment relates to a different post, I will respond here in the hope that you will see said response.

    I’ve recently started a string of post’s on organizational maturity I think might interest you as that subject relates to your comment. In some organizations you have to tone down the acronyms and statistical references if you intend to reach people.

    I’ve found over the years that, like you, I adjust the way I discuss Six Sigma depending on the audience. I can talk standard deviation and hypothesis testing with some and not with others. In general, I try to gauge who I’m talking to and discuss the problem/project in their vernacular, not mine. If the audience is made up of engineers, I don’t hesitate to use mathematical terms, if the individuals have a less technical background, I use less technical terms.

    The fact is, you have a responsibility to use the knowledge of the people working the process to help you solve problems. If you scare them off, you’ve lost a valuable resource.

    Thanks for the comment, Mike

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