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Six Sigma 'Killed' Innovation in 3M

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  • #54332

    BBme
    Participant

    An article was posted today on ZDnet.com by Ryan Huang, assistant editor.

    The title is “Six Sigma ‘Killed’ Innovation in 3M”.

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.zdnet.com/six-sigma-killed-innovation-in-3m-7000012593/

    An excerpt from the main interviewee:
    “The Six Sigma process killed innovation at 3M,” said Nicholson. “Initially what would happen in 3M with Six Sigma people, they would say they need a five-year business plan for [a new idea]. Come on, we don’t know yet because we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how many customers [will take it up], we haven’t taken it out to the customer yet.”

    The article lists Geoff Nicholson as the former vice president for international technical operations and the “father” of the Post-It note initiative.

    In my opinion, this is analogous to saying that people don’t kill people, guns kill people. Was it really the Six Sigma process that killed innovation, or was it the leadership in place and the management structure and decisions about innovation at the company that killed innovation?

    I also find it frustrating that associate editor Ryan Huang didn’t go into any detail on the article with respect to this point. It seems like pop-culture journalism, where the most sensational headline runs regardless of truth. What happened to investigative journalism? Was it really Six Sigma, or was it their application of DFSS (design for six sigma) that failed?

    In a November 2010 article published at ASQ entitled “Quality Revolution Reduces Defects, Drives Sales Growth at 3M,” 3M cited “The improvement team reduced defects in parts per million by a factor of 28 times as sales increased by 54 percent.”

    Their 2003 Annual Report states that 3M’s initiatives increased operating income by more than $500 million in 2002, and by an additional $400 million in 2003.The annual report projected $400 million in the year 2004. Patrick Campbell, CFO, stated in the Prudential Financial Conference on September 24, 2004, that indeed they did meet that projection.

    What do you think?

    Truth? Sensational journalism? Bad management?

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    #194852

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    I can’t imagine how Six Sigma would destroy innovation.

    However, an innovation, once created, must be predictably produced. If a product can’t be reliably produced, then consumers will reject the product or service. Using Lean Six Sigma to produce a capable product that passes a well run stage gate process is quite appropriate.

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    #194856

    Ali
    Participant

    I don’t agree that Six Sigma kills innovations . On the contrary , today organizations use Lean Six Sigma to foster innovations driven by strategic goals . A six sigma project , bring people from cross-functional processes to define , measure , analyze ,and bring innovative ideas to make products and services better , cheaper and faster .

    Six Sigma is the mean that organizations transform their data to information ,and their information to knowledge . The new realized knowledge provide along with the team’s tacit knowledge and experience, may lead to innovative solutions .

    Saying that , innovation is the process of utilizing an organization Intellectual Capital (ability to think) and turn it into solutions that add value and improve an organization competitive positions.

    It depends on how organizations perceive ” Innovations” and the culture that drive it .

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    #194859

    MBBinWI
    Participant

    Organizations should be using Marketing for Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma on the front end. These methods include more rigorous approaches to market research and quantification of market size/needs/values, also tools like TRIZ to find innovative ways for solving problems and compromises.

    Anyone who says that “six sigma” killed innovation was solely applying DMAIC to everything – which would be the same as using a hammer to turn a screw or thread a pipe. Wrong tool for the job – ignorant application.

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    #194861

    Mintabber
    Guest

    Eston Martz of Minitab (I think) wrote a nice article yesterday. In it, he made a good point that I think the ZDNet.com editor and Geoff Nicholson need to consider.

    “Successful quality improvement needs data analysis to succeed, but analyzing data aimlessly is not the same thing as doing data-driven quailty improvement. Similarly, asserting “Six Sigma doesn’t work” because it’s not always done properly is like saying “Pianos don’t work” because they don’t sound good if you play them with mittens on. “

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    #194863

    Andy U
    Guest

    Does innovation require repetition? I mean how many innovative moments do you need to achieve a breakthrough? I can give an example. When I worked at Fujifilm, one of the mechanical engineers believed he could not desensitize a mechanical system.

    Later, after he developed a ‘cardboard model’ of a film handling system, he found a way to eliminate a family of defects – skew film, stuck film, jammed film, etc.

    To my mind, the breakthrough came as a single moment, and since the moment is not repetitive for the same problem I don’t see how innovation has any bearing on Six Sigma, Lean, or any other method.

    Perhaps what I consider to be innovative is different to what others may think.

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    #194864

    Ali
    Participant

    Andy , Do you think that your co-worker would reach the same result faster if he work with team ,SixSigma and specifically DFSS for your story provide framework than guide the project’s team to leverage thier knowledge to reach to thier breakthrough ideas . Break through process require indepth tacit knowledge in the improved subject. I would say six sigma accelarate and leverage the knowledge across an organization.

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    #194865

    Robert Butler
    Participant

    I think it should be expressed the other way – how many repetitions do you need before you arrive at an innovative moment which points the way to a breakthrough? To be sure, there are the one-shot-out-of-the-blue Eureka moments that are part and parcel of the lore and legend of science and engineering but for every one of those my experience says there are far more instances where, in order for that innovative moment to occur, one needs a lot of repetition.

    If you don’t have a framework to guide that repetition what you get is the old wonder-guess-putter-guess again approach with its associated maximum expenditure of time/money/effort for a minimum return with respect to gains or results.

    As an example consider trying to develop a new plastic compound when you have a minimum of 151 possible things you could combine in order to build it. There were originally 300 plus possible additives but after a lot of problem definition refinement/planning/assessment of existing data the engineers got the list down to 151 but they couldn’t justify any further reduction in the list. We built a series of large restricted screening designs and were able to quickly reduce the list to 40 or so and after another series of designs we got it down to 12. We ran an optimal design with curvilinear and interaction effects for the 12 and identified the composition of the new compound.

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    #194867

    Andy U
    Guest

    Ali,

    To answer your question, we must first clarify a few things. To my mind,Innovation is not the same as Development. For me, Innovation is not repetitious and Development is not Maintenance. In other words, innovation seems to be about new ideas and development is more about improvement. Further, I do not believe DOE is the same as Six Sigma. My understanding is Six Sigma is a performance metric and not a method of statistical experimental design. Accordingly, the use of DOE is not innovative in itself – well at least since Fisher’s original experiments, a short distance up the road.

    Let me give a practical example. Take the situation described by Robert, where following a Situation Appraisal Management decide one of their products requires urgent performance improvement. The product in question, a miniature, high dielectric, quadrifilar antenna, can resolve a person’s position on a golf course to within five meters. In order to achieve this level of performance it is necessary to optimize over five hundred process variables, out of which perhaps eighty are ‘resolution’ critical.

    Clearly, the quickest way to achieve an improvement is to use some form of statistical experimental design, such as Taguchi Methods (the second version) or the once innovative method devised by Dorian Shainin known as Component Search.

    Even after parameter optimization, there may be other problems requiring other methods, such as an innovative de-soldering and re-soldering of the antenna five times to confirm build and breakdown repeat-ability and a further ten times to isolate the problem component – no mean feat! Yet, the truly innovative aspect of the antenna is the quadrifilar design, but this ‘breakthrough’ can only happen once, which is what I implied earlier. If we now ask did any of the earlier parameter optimizations on other antennas suggest the innovation, then the answer must be a resounding no.

    Here is another example. Many years ago, Motorola performed many DOE experiment with great success, but none of the so-called ‘characterizations’ suggested how one might reduce the reticle set from seventeen to fifteen. Motorola achieved this using an innovation in transistor structure.

    Similarly, when my Japanese colleague started investigating the film-handling system, even though he had considerable experience of DOE and Taguchi Methods,having studied directly under Dr. Taguchi, who was a Fujifilm consultant at the time, his close observation and hands-on manipulation of the model suggested an innovative way of controlling the correlation of one side of the web to the other. (As I am sure you appreciate, any lack of correlation across a web of film would lead to a potential skew film, stuck film, etc.

    This is why I believe Innovation is different to Development.

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    #194868

    Ali
    Participant

    Andy ,
    Thank you for the provided examples , clearly we understand innovation differently . I believe it covers both new ideas and product developments unless you are talking about Invention which is totally different aspect.

    Here is wikipedia definitions of Innovation and invention :

    “Innovation is the development of new values through solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways.
    This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments, and society.
    Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.
    Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.” Source :(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation”

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    #194869

    Andy U
    Guest

    Ali,

    I do not regard innovation the same as invention. As someone who trained as one of Motorola’s patent engineers, I think understand the difference. While I accept the Latin root of the word innovation implies ‘change,’ I believe in a technical sense, innovation does not imply repetition.

    Let me give another example. Many years ago, low pressure in the load end of furnaces caused considerable problems for p-well drive processes. When our diffusion section manager contacted his buddy at AMD across town, they told him they used quartz scavenger liners. Now how would parameter optimization suggest using a quartz liner? Indeed, although the subsequent improvement suggested a level of innovation within Motorola, relative to AMD; it was ‘old hat.’

    I this example explains my position …

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    #194876

    Andy U
    Guest

    Ali,

    Have you considered publishing your articles on this site? This would give you the benefit of a peer review. If you don’t feel you need a peer review – in other words you are only expressing your own opinions; what about uploading on to Scribd. Last but not least, why don’t you author your own ‘Ali’ website using a free WYSIWYG WordPress site. (I tried Weebly previously, but I couldn’t even find my own material!!!

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    #194885

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    Here’s a genuinely innocent question. Why no profile for Andy U? What prevents other people from using that moniker and not giving consistent advice from you or to ruin your reputation on here.

    @katiebarry can advise on setting up a profile and get your reputation points and to protect your perspective.

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    #194889

    Andy U
    Guest

    I’m retired Chris .. so it doesn’t really matter. As Darth will tell you I honed by debating skills on this site – not that I claim to be any good at it – but I owe Mike a debt of thanks. So I drop by from time to time, usually without making any comments, but the discussion on complementary variables – sparked by interest. I then because interested in the complements (Innovation/Repetition) and (Development / Maintenance.)

    PS: I don’t feel comfortable providing links to my website here, but I have given them to Katie in the past.

    Thanks for your concern …

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    #194890

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    Wish Darth would post more….grats on retirement.

    LOL, debating skills via posting on a website is a stretch ;)

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    #194892

    Andy U
    Guest

    Chris,

    Why do you think it is not possible to debate on this website? Mike’s original isixsigma website was a great place to debate a point of view. Yes, I agree it is more challenging live, but a website is a good place to practice trying to defend a particular point of view.

    Now I accept some people may not think there is anything to debate in Six Sigma. If that is the case why is the world’s economy such a mess. Why did we have fake claims about global warming. Why has most of America – except Texas apparently given up on the Constitution? Are these not Quality issues?

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    #194893

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    Debate is tough because of a lack of back and forth with the time management of those involved.

    Interesting statements in your 2nd paragraph but they are deep subjects! :)

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    #194894

    Ali
    Participant

    @Andy For some reason , someone removed two of my comments .no reason was given . It look like this website run on different control limits than others

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    #194896

    Andy U
    Guest

    Chris, I hadn’t thought of that. I obviously have too much time on my hands to quote one of my favorite songs by Styx.

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    #194897

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @Andy U :)

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    #194960

    Mike K.
    Guest

    Six Sigma is a rigorous methodology for “doing the right thing right”.
    This rigour does not always combine well with breakthrough improvement.

    However, let me say that Six Sigma has personally led me to some of the greatest innovations in the history of my company.
    One of these innovations is a systematic test automation tool which permits people to reliably repeat server-side software tests in continually changing environments.
    Another is a pro-active 2nd level support tool with self-heal capabiltiy based on smart metric analysis, which went a long way in furthering corporate goals of zero-incident, zero-downtime for our clients.

    On the other hand, if you really “do the Six Sigma dance” of throwing ideas into a DfSS pot and push them through the rigour for like two or three years before throwing the idea on the market, chances are that it’s overcooked, overpriced and outdated before it’s ready.

    It always depends on what you’re looking at.
    Six Sigma is a godsend in innovation, just don’t over-do it.

    But here I would really put the onus on management failure: There should be a decision making process defining which projects undergo a Six Sigma rigour and which ones are simply “Go-Do”.

    A manager who insists on putting the question “Should I get a coffee or an espresso” through a 2-year DMADV process at Starbucks before placing his order is simply incompetent.

    That’s not the fault of Six Sigma.

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    #194963

    John Babina
    Guest

    There are four steps to R&D . . . Basic research, exploratory development, advanced development and engineering development. The first two are basically proof of concept and do not need Six Sigma at that time . . . the last two create the product as it will look in final form and that is the perfect time to inject Six Sigma, to avoid wasting money. In non-critical products it has become common practice to rush these products to market before they are ready because of the allure to be first to market. A difficult choice. For critical products it is more important than ever to inject six sigma. Avionics, medical products, chemical processing, etc. Well trained management is the key. [email protected].

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    #194966

    Anonymous
    Guest

    I watched the video and got the impression there are two issues. The first issue relates to ‘creativity’ in the Far East, and the second to innovation in general.

    Several years ago I met a professor of economics from Tokyo University who came to Cambridge to try to discover why some Brits are so innovative. During our conversation, he raised the issue of conformance within Japanese society in contrast to the eccentricity exhibited by many at the University of Cambridge.

    In general, as I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between innovation and development. From memory, didn’t 3M use DOE to optimize the adhesive for the Post-it note during development.

    Is there a method or process for innovation? Yes, I think there are some rules, but I don’t feel comfortable mentioning them here. Suffice to say, I only slightly agree with the conclusion in the video, we can use DOE and some Six Sigma during development – prototyping, etc. However, we cannot always Design for Six Sigma performance because if we did, we would sell very few components, as evidenced in electro-optical system design and in the semiconductor industry. (For example, we can’t use Six Sigma performance transistor channel lengths and achieve super fast switching speeds.)

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    #194986

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @everybody This is a pretty cool thread. We have some of the best posters on iSS back and putting up some great stuff. Just a little deja vu (Not Crosby Stills and Nash but we will consider the Hollies).

    Not sure about the rest of you but Andy has been posting here long enough that it would be difficult for anyone to successfully pull off impersonating him. I am voting that regardless of what Andy does Mike and Katie protect the name just for consistence with all the posts from the past.

    I think all the noise about innovation is nonsense. The first problem is nobody really can define it. The ownership of this website had, in the past, owned a innovation website. The name escapes me. I assembled a list of 29 definitions of innovation and posted it on the site for all the “inovation experts” to help me understand which was correct, what it really was, etc. NOTHING. Nobody said a thing. It has become another one of those Global Business Touretts syndrome comments “There is no such thing as a silver bullet”, “flavor of the day”, “Have you seen what the Dow has done today”, etc. and now we add “Six Sigma Killed innovation.”

    What a load of crap. Management kills inovation. Culture kills innovation. Toxic middle management kills innovation. GE was a huge benchmark for GE success. The Research Center for GE in Schenectady NY was a place for serious innovation. What does the data say. I have never seen any data but if SS kills innovation then the Research Center should be shut down but I have money it is still doing fine.

    Aside from nobody really knowing what it is besides Thomas Edison (innovated repeatedly) the problem with innovation is that there has been no innovation in innovation. Same old sh*t. You talk innovation the Innovation Tourettes kicks in and everyone in the room starts chirping “TRIZ.” Now there’s a program that has taken off with a bullet. Anyone who doesn’t chirp TRIZ just wants to run out and buy a bunch of different colored hats. This whole thing comes down to simply does your culture support innovation or not. As a guy told me (his name escapes me right now) “If you want innovation, hire innovative people.” Our greatest inventor ever never even heard of TRIZ. Fix your culture – unfortunately the innovators live on the fringe primarily. They make people uncomfortable because they don’t conform so the culture does what it always does – it runs them off.

    The only person I see out there innovating innovation is Watts Wacker. Take a look at this clip (I am a big fan of his work): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBpZIRKQVQ4

    I think he has this thing dead on. You need to read and watch several clips to get it.

    Just my opinion. Glad to see all of you guys back.

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    #194987

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @everybody Just as a benchmark. 3M for some reason seem to believe that innovation sprung forth from the breast of 3M. For those of us that remember when we were asked to bid the 3M deployment the key to a bunch of us was that the training was specifically not to include projects with the training. Some of us chose to no bid the RFQ. Some responded wearing their 6 inch stilletto heels because it is only about money for them. I have no idea what they actually did but with this type of innovative leadership decision making I have a pretty clear opinion on what kills what at 3M.

    Just my opinion.

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    #194989

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Mike: The approach I took was to consider ‘what is’ and ‘what is not.’ In the case of innovation, I asked myself what is innovative and what is not innovative using a simple example. I hope no one finds my example offensive, but I considered the example of the German flying bomb.

    Frank Whittle’s invention of the rocket engine in 1930 led to an innovation in remote controlled aircraft and along with other inventions and innovations, led to the development of the flying bomb.

    Perhaps my use of the word repetition isn’t correct, because I don’t doubt some people can innovate repeatably. What I tried to point out was it seems self-evident innovations cannot be recycled (repeated)otherwise they cease to be innovative. In this sense, I believe innovation is similar to novelty, but less stringent, because novel ideas can still be patented as ‘inventions.’

    In summary, yes I agree it is possible to innovate repeatably, but I hope you agree an innovation by definition must be a new method, a new approach, or a new application of what is known.

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    #194992

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @Mike-Carnell Loved the video…a very good speaker.

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    #194995

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    @Andy-U I do agree. That is exactly what I think it is. I do believe it can have a theme. Edison was basically looking for uses of electricity but his inventions were very different from each other.

    @cseider He is a very interesting person. I have exchanged some emails with him and I am not really prepared/qualified to keep up. He stretches you just in conversation.

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    #194999

    Andy U
    Guest

    Mike: Coincidently, I found an interesting book in a second-hand bookshop recently containing the following quote from a speech given in 1792.

    “The first thing which presents itself in the discussion of any subject is to state distinctly, and with precision, what the question is, and where prejudice and misrepresentation have been exerted, to distinguish it accurately from what is not.

    Ref: The Liberty of the Press (Defence of Tom Paine) by Henry Erskine 18th Dec. 1792.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is a great deal of fuss over here now about the freedom of the press!

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    #196017

    Martin K. Hutchison
    Participant

    There is a place for Lean, there is a place for Six Sigma. Sometimes both. But when any methodology is not linked to the right strategy, the results will be bad. If a goal is “maximize innovation”, Lean is probably the way to go. If the goal is to reduce variation, then 6 Sigma tools work. Innovation is by definition variation. I would say the 6 Sigma effort was a successful ACTIVITY with glorious PowerPoint presentations, but as it was not aligned to the Innovation function, it hurt the company.

    I also suspect that if employees were interviewed about what went wrong, the word “dogmatic” would appear enough to warrant a drinking game.

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    #196032

    Chris Seider
    Participant

    @martinkh , I guess you were part of a poor lean six sigma deployment? That’s too bad.

    I’ve personally seen lean six sigma do great strides to turn around lines, facilities, regions, and companies.

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    #196033

    Martin K. Hutchison
    Participant

    I have yet to see a top-down successful lean deployment. I see lines improved to meet marketing fantasies of new work, but then in the end the line never operated to plan nor contributed to the bottom line due to management foolishness. I see imaginary cost savings used to boost careers, but not profits. I see internal organizations call for events just to show their bosses that they are “doing something”. The only successful Lean that I have seen is when it was in my own functional departments (engineering and quality), but at the same time the other functions resisted and got in the way.

    Why?
    Tribal Knowledge leaders feel real threatened when you try to simplify their functions, it turns out that many of them have created systems that only they can navigate.
    Management metrics that count events to gauge success.
    Not Invented Here syndrome, often people resist just to resist.
    Upper Management thinking that saying “just do it” is all it takes to be a good manager.
    Lack of accountability in the culture (federal government case here), which makes sustainment impossible.
    Most importantly, a lack of Strategic Alignment of Lean Efforts.

    I would love to get a chance to do lean right.

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