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6 Sigma vs. 3M Culture of Innovation

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  • #29784

    Annonymous
    Participant

    This morning on NPR, I heard that at least some of the most productive technical innovators and a few of the business analysts I still respect are quite concerned that introducing 6 Sigma at 3M will change the culture in ways that will reduce their commitment to and ability to foster innovation.  One speaker was quoted as saying “6 Sigma is all about reducing variation.  Innovation means doing things differently. Obviously there’s a conflict there.”
    What do you all think, and why?

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    #76881

    James A
    Participant

    YourDictionary(dot)com supplies the following definitions:
    Main Entry: in.no.va.tionPronunciation: “i-n&-‘vA-sh&nFunction: nounDate: 15th century1 : the introduction of something new2 : a new idea, method, or device : NOVELTY- in.no.va.tion.al /-shn&l, -sh&-n[^&]l/ adjective

    And for variation (not all listed):-
    Main Entry: var.i.a.tionPronunciation: “ver-E-‘A-sh&n, “var-Function: nounDate: 14th century1 a : the act or process of varying : the state or fact of being varied b : an instance of varying c : the extent to which or the range in which a thing varies
    I would hazard a guess that in order to have variation, the innovation must already have happened, been defined, drawn up, modelled, and specified.  In other words, the “Out of the Box” type thinking has been and gone (a good thing if you rely on continuous innovation).
    Six Sigma is surely about reducing unwanted variation to an acceptable (near zero) level (also a good thing if you rely on repeat business).
    Regards
    James A

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    #76882

    Smithsigma
    Member

    Yeah, I have to agree with James.  I didn’t listen to NPR this morning, but from what you are saying it sounds like some of these people, whether they are respectable or not, don’t have a grasp of what most Six Sigma efforts are trying to accomplish.  Variation is the enemy because it is linked to inconsistency and it makes us less predictable.  Every customer wants consistency in SOME form or fashion in the product or service they purchase.  (i.e. even the starving artist types who thrive off not having boundaries to deal with are still expecting the Michelin tires on their new Volkswagon to perform as expected).
     

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    #76885

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    I did a “Tea Talk” at the Penang Skills Development Center in Malaysia and got exactly the same comment from someone who was really just trying to get a little controversy stired up. 
    I have been searching this morning for some of the old first call reports from back when we were doing GE [Greg Brue and me, Hathaway was at Med Systems – so all the other people claiming to be there(?)] Between Allied and GE about 90 (3 groups of 30) analysts were flown to Arizona for a 1.5 day class on Six Sigma. We taught the classes in the addition to Mikel’s home on Sigma Ranch in Payson, Arizona. This was done specifically to avoid this kind of inane confusion. Bossidy and Welch wanted them to understand exactly what was being done (contrast this to some of the lack of involvement from some of the other posts).
    The Analysts are on the whole above average intelligence. Of the ones I have met and spoken with they were all above average. I can see where one sitting in isolation could come up witha convoluted interpretation such as this. There is currently so many people out there claiming to have done things they didn’t do, writing books about things they have not experienced, etc the quality of the information about SS is declining badly.
    The other point which was made in an earlier post (I apologize for not remembering who made it). SS focuses on unwanted variation. There are processes where there is freedom to inovate and there are jobs where ther has to be constraints or proceedures around inovation. Anyone who owns a piece of tooling will understand this. If you have put money into a die that stamps car hoods the last thing you want to see is someone grinding away part of the die because they think the car will sell better if the hood looks different. I spent yesterday in a Bowling Ball factory. The people there do not have the option to make square bowling balls. On the other hand there is a group which is absolutely empowered to inovate virtually any other feature of a ball (there is more to them than you can imagine). There are places where unbriddled inovation is just a stupid decision.
    If the analyst is concerned about the 3M deployment there are other issues which they should be more concerned about.
    My real concern is why did NPR feel this person had the credibility to speak on this topic. It is like thae Newspaper article that was posted a while back (referencing Bill Smith). They had a quote from Bossidy about what it would do for Allied then they had an opposing opinion fron some technician/engineer. Just a guess but Bossiby probably has a better idea on what the overall corporation needs. Just a guess.
    Great topic.

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    #76887

    Chris Young
    Participant

    Correct me if I’m wrong (I think Mike will back me on this), but isn’t DFSS geared for exactly the kind of “innovation” that these analysts say Six Sigma quashes?
     

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    #76890

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Chris,
    DFSS should be geared towards that. It is also getting infiltrated by some variation.
    If you look at the material that Bob Launsby and Statistical Design Institute (SDI – Tom Cheek) use it addresses the inovation cycle.
    There are some other forms that really don’t do anything at all. They have some basic stuff like Statistical Tolerancing, Scorecards, etc.
    Neither one will impede creativity. The better courses have some tools that try to assist the creative process.

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    #76898

    Tim
    Member

    Could you explain a little bit more on your article “Tea Talk” at the Penang Skills Development Center in Malaysia. Thanks.

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    #76901

    Annonymous
    Participant

    Mike – To address your question of the interview subjects’ credentials, he was a business analyst and writer (not a stock market analyst) who has written a book on 3M’s Culture of Innovation.  I wish now I could remember his name.  The library here is closed already in anticipation of the long holiday weekend, or I’d go find the book and name him for the Forum. (I read and enjoyed this book just over a year ago when it was nearly new – it was recommended to everyone here involved in product development by our VOC evangelist organization.)
    One of the 3M employees quoted by name in the NPR story was the fellow who invented Post-It notes by a combination of perseverance and serendipity.  He perceives that 6Sigma is moving 3M toward a more elitist culture where fewer, more senior people will be able to say “yes” to exploring new ideas, vs. their former “everyone can/should spend 10-20% of their time on anything that interests them in order to keep things fresh and new”. 
    I’m not agreeing with the commonly held belief that (6 Sigma or other) rigorous analysis of innovative ideas stifles creativity or is elitist.  I’m asking people for their opinions or conclusions, and to share as much of the background data or experience as possible.  It seems to me that this is a potential “unwanted function” of 6 Sigma to borrow a VE term, and that perhaps there are steps to take in implementation / deployment that will minimize or eliminate this as a problem. 

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    #76904

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Tim,
    I did a Tea Talk at PSDC last year. They have people come talk about topics of interest to the community. It doesn’t cost the local people much money and helps keep them current. The local business community works pretty well with PSDC. Kind of a symbiotic relationship.
    Who do you work for? If you don’t want to put it up here please email me at [email protected]
     

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    #76906

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Annonymous,
    Sorry about the misunderstanding of the analyst term.
    AS far as the post it note guy the story I heard was he still had to overcome some company barriers (the adhesive was a failure by definition) when he drove it home. Maybe he just like so many are more afraid of change than they are anything else. It would be great to get one on one with this guy and find out what he was basing this on. It is certainly possible that some person is off on their own driving things on their own.
    I didn’t think you were saying that the methodology was stifling creativity. Sorry if I sounded that way.
    If you get this guys name I would appreciate if you could send it to me. I would really like to read his book. Wasn’t it you who recomended “A Whack on the side of the Head.” It seems appropriate for this string. The book is great. Chapter 2 is “That’s not Logical.” It sounds like our post it note guy and the author are victims of what this chapter describes. They have a predetermined idea of how it works and can’t see any alternative.

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    #76912

    Sinnicks
    Participant

    The culture of spending 10-20% of your time pursuing any interest you want is probably more threatened by the general business climate and trend these days.  That unstructured time can be viewed at opposite extremes as an investment or institutionalized waste.  There are undoubtably people that would look for “How can we focus that time to waste less and return more?”  There are probably some lessons from the Bell Labs transition of another decade.  I won’t go down that alley.
    But, if we expand on what someone stated in a reply above, Six Sigma is about reducing unwanted waste… 
    Why stay caught in the cost accounting trap of only thinking about cost and waste?  Shouldn’t we be saying that Six Sigma is about profit improvement.  By limiting ourselves to cost reduction we are bounding our possibilities at zero cost.  With an attitude of profitability improvement we are limited only by innovative vision and our ability to implement!
    Conversely, I realize that can be harder when people see themselves as a block in the much bigger universe and they have little impact outside their immediate area. 

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    #76924

    Sean McAfee
    Member

    I work for 3M and have just become a BB in the last month. The discussions related to Six Sigma and 3M have been very interesting. Just a few comments…. overall the analysts have received 3M’s SS drive very enthusiastically. They have recognised the tremendous steps that Jim McNerney has taken in adding a cutting edge to 3M’s traditional strengths of innovation and creativity. Within the company we see SS as a framework within which creativity can thrive. The market place is a battlefield at the moment and 3M will come out as victor… we have no doubt. In years to come Jim McNerney will be seen as the person who implemented the most successful Six Sigma program in the industrial sector. These comments may seem brash but they reflect how 3M and its employees have embraced Six Sigma. Further evidence is in the speed of implementation. Six Sigma is a very quantitative discipline by nature, which is well suited to 3M given our R&D culture and a workforce trained in quantitative analysis. Our goal is to have every employee to be trained to Green Belt level. So far we have over 7,000 trained. It is an exciting time in 3M.

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    #76928

    Birgit
    Participant

    in my opinion, there was a risk over the past 2-3 yrs. that people saw 6S as the magic forumla for quality or even management in general. However, as this year´s AQC of the American Society for Quality in Denver showed, no the hype of 6S is gone, it fits in well with all other quality methods. For me there is no contradiction between 6S and innovation/creativity: once you have decided what and how to produce and sell, it pays to reduce variation (=6S). But you will need all your creativity and a culture of change and “allowed grey areas of inventiveness” when inventing new products, processes or searching for new markets and customers. (= creativity tools). There is no either or but only the two of them. And that is the fun of it!

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    #76930

    Matthews
    Participant

    I feel Six Sigma can drive true innovation by using the DMADV methodology. Creating new processes first, then reducing the variation or opprertunities for defects in the process. People tend to see the heavy statistical side of Six Sigma and brush over the simple tools that make good ideas foolproof . From FMEA to Process mapping ,Fishbone diagrams , Critical To Matrix ,Pugh Matrix and Value added analysis you ensue that your innovation or new process is robust and customer driven. Following the Six Sigma methodology drives true success in inovation. I feel people who comment that reduction of variation will reduce inovation probably do not understand the methodology. We as Six Sigma proffessionals are truly out of the box thinkers and when your outside the box thats where true innovation starts.
    Regards,
    John  

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    #76933

    Sinnicks
    Participant

    Six Sigma does not in anyway reduce creativity or innovation. In Dmaic and DMEDI there is space for finding a new way of doing things. The best part is we are not just trying new things for the sake of it, all over the place, we are trying new things at exactly the point or place in the process that we need them.
    Six Sigma is not in the box thinking….yes it is structured, but you have to be to find the needle in the haystack,once you find it you can innovate think creatively and do basically what you like to come up with possible solutions….and then you check if they fit, you dont just apply them and hope for the best.
     Just my thoughts…
    Mark
     

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    #76934

    Johan
    Participant

    To create a Post-It from an failed experiment with manufacturing glue that is Innovative and Creative. Mastering the manufacturing of Post-It’s that stick where they have to and do no stick where they are not supposed to, that is Six Sigma to me.Johan 

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    #76947

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Annonymous,
    So now can we tune into NPR and your rebuttal to the other comment?

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    #76962

    Patrick Bauer
    Participant

    I was concerned when 3M began 6 Sigma efforts as well. Having worked with 3M, they are truly an innovative company. However, utilizing 6 Sigma tools to remove process variation is something that 3M has done for years. 6 Sigma is merely a label to put on efforts that already exist. Fancy titles, positions and political clout are all that I see coming out of this country wide acceptance of 6 Sigma. To me, leaders in todays manufacturing firms should have been utilizing statistical control and the basic DMAIC methods prior to this 6 Sigma “BUZZ”. But hey, if companies need an offical program to change their culture to move in the right direction then 6 Sigma may be the answer. 3M has been and will continue to be an innovator with or without 6 Sigma. It is the culture and people that make 3M unique, not a canned program. Lets get back to basics people!!!

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