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June 20, 2007

Comments

Moncler France Boutique

It's so nice to have you do all of the research for us. It makes our decision making so much easier!! Thanks.

Victor Howard

B. West - Great comment! You are absolutely right about experience and passion. The knowledge developed through years of experience can never be duplicated by the application of a tool or a process improvement methodology. Passion is required to deliver excellence in all we do..whether a service, product, relationship, etc...

B. East

6-Sigma can never replace the seasoned wisdom of an experienced worker operating under the watchful eye of sage mamagement. 6-Sigma seeks to incorporate all the right build/service decisions into the process without explictly stating the work paradigm.

6-Sigma will always build a cheaper product but seldom a better product. Slap some paint on it, print a snazzy sales brochure and push service to keep it functional.

The best products are produced as a result of passion for ultimate quality. 6-Sigma products are the result of cost cutting procedures and satisfy minimum quality expectations. Cheaper parts do not perform better or last as long.

You want something cheaply made then 6-Sigma is your tool. All your data collections, charts, perspectives, trends and whatnot will lead you straight to cheaply made products.

Which camera would you rather own, the Canon Rebel AOS or the GE brand? You say my argument is incomplete? You say that the choices I've offered are in different classes. One is meant to be inexpensive and yet provide satifying features and performance. The other cost so much more but offers a spectacular performance difference and far more latitude in use. You are right! One camera is purely 6-Sigma and the other camera is about passion.

But hold on, doesn't Canon produce a camera the cost equivalent of the GE camera? Why yes! But which one will you choose over the other? I'll take the Canon everytime.

But let's look at this. What Tom Foolery fool in GE management decided to pit GE against Canon. I'll bet you that manager had to prove his point via 6-Sigma. And everybody in managment bought into it!

Bah 6-Sigma.

Jerry Wittig

Is 6-Sigma falling from grace? The question is a bit like asking if statistics is no longer a valid branch of mathematics. However the fact that many companies fail to prepare themselves for a launch into 6-Sigma is a very valid point. As an 18 year veteran of GE, I know first hand how much workforce development went into creating a set of values and behaviors that enabled the science of 6-Sigma to be introduced. Unfortunately this is not the flashy stuff that gets the press. Sure we had our share of zealots that wanted to jump in head first and perform correlation analysis on every piece of data they could get their hands on. But as anyone with experience doing process reengineer knows, that’s a small part of the overall change equation.

Take just the simple task of running an effective team meeting. I continue to be amazed by how few companies have provided employee training on even these most foundational behaviors. Is there an agenda? Was it and the objective sent out well before the meeting? Who is taking notes? All these behaviors are critical to building a high performance culture that can grapple with the technical complexities of 6-Sigma.

Other one that has struck me since leaving GE is the lack of best practice sharing (and searching). I have found this particularly problematic in the technology and financial services sectors. Why would you waste time inventing a solution when you could, with much less energy, adopt and adapt a best practices as a starting point. 6-Sigma at least teaches people to make decisions based on data versus opinions, but it does not magically provide the innovations you need to excel beyond the benchmark standard.

By my best estimate, I recall at least 4 mandatory all-employee training programs in the area of collaborative problem solving before being introduced to 6-Sigma at GE. It was a natural progress from ad-hoc to structured and collaborative. 6-Sigma add the statistical science along with many other operation management strategies such as simulation. I think any company looking to embrace 6-Sigma should first review (and I mean perform audits) of their workforce competencies in the areas of:

• Effective meetings
• Cross-cultural communications
• Basic problem solving methods
• Benchmarking and best practice sharing
• Understanding customer driven value-chains
• Recognizing and rewarding others

Once a company has mastered these, it will be well prepared to embrace what 6-Sigma has to offer at its fullest. Without these foundations, I would predict the outcome would be a small community of Black Belts struggling to promote their cause by keeping track of how much money they have saved the company. Has anyone else seen this?

Lastly, on the topic of complex problems I must disagree that 6-Sigma is a mismatch for “wicked problems” and that DMAIC is a linear methodology. I think this is simply a matter of understanding the context in which DMAIC is applied within the broad corporate setting. One has to keep in mind that the vast majority of process improvements don’t even require 6-Sigma to make significant gains. If the process is at level 0-1 maturity, get your people into a meeting room and document the as-is. The rest is not rocket science. But if the problem truly is complex then the use of systems dynamics to map the non-linear relationship between outcomes is a great place to start. Eventually you will break the problem down to a fixable element and that is where DMAIC comes into play. Most people don’t look at tools like 6-Sigma at an enterprise level and we should not expect them to. But the individuals in the company that are accountable for methodology development and training should be asking themselves:

• Overall, how mature are our business models and processes?
• What percentage could be improved via simple process improvement methods?
• What process areas demand additional rigor of 6-Sigma and systems dynamics?

With these questions answer, workforce training and hiring can proceed with the tools and talents matched to the needs of the company. Assign the heavy guns to the hard problems while empowering the rest of the workforce to begin a journey of continuous improvement.

Is 6-Sigma falling from grace? I don’t think so. It is simply a structured approach that will be called upon when the need arises. Is 6-Sigma falling from grace as a company-wide mantra is perhaps the more appropriate question. This is something only senior management and HR can answer. High performance companies continuously invest in training their people to have the best tools for what ever problem comes along. As a GE manager answered when asked if 6-Sigma was dead he replied: “no, it’s just part of our daily job now. We really don’t feel the need to call it out as something special.”

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