You are better than Toyota

People only jump when they are pushed. Kotter in his book Leading Change (1994) talks about creating the “Burning Platform”. My mental image of this burning platform is a team of guys and / or gals on a burning oil rig knowing the oil rig is going to sink but only jumping into the murky depths of the sea when they feel the heat of the flames.

The car industry is permanently on the burning oil rig platform or in the sea. There is no greater burning platform than the competitiveness of the car manufacturing sector where complacency, will lead to huge financial losses and even Bankruptcy. ‘Rover’, can you believe was the third biggest car manufacturer in the world in the late 1960s. That’s like Ford going bust today!

Until you have these market forces or artificially create the illusion of them, your Six Sigma deployment will never be priority within your business.

The real art is for your deployment to flourish even when you have very little competition (or even a virtual monopoly like I have on the railways), when it takes all your powers of persuasion especially when your team members do not work for you to drive through change and when you do not always have the data or even the processes in place. If you can get projects to completion and save money in this environment then you can argue that in many ways you are better than Toyota.

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In my next blog I will talk about PBL Performance Based Leadership (based on behavioral science) which our deployment have driven as a philosophy alongside the DMAIC methodology to help create an illusion of “The Burning Platform”.

Comments 3

  1. Mike Carnell


    Just a couple thoughts.

    Just as an FYI even though Kotter uses the term "Burning Platform" and we have used it for years it doesn’t play well in the oil and gas industry.

    I had an executive push back against the term because he felt it created an atmosphere of fear when in fact he was considering SS to move the company ahead when they were already doing well.

    Regardless of what it is called though you are exactly correct there needs to be a very clear message from the top that articulates exactly why they want to do this.

    Looking forward to PBL.


  2. Robin Barnwell

    Hi John

    My mental image of a burning platform is the poem Casabianca, link below.



  3. systhinc

    Dr. Deming would have classified this writing as an example of "slogans and exhortations" which do nothing to improve quality or productivity. I have been reading these things for many years and truly believe the author to think he is on a good path, as he may well be, but such short snippets and such comparisons to the likes of Toyota need a lot more data, explication, and effort to be of any use to the neophytes who think these articles are of any value. Please don’t stop before you’re finished.

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