Dumb Leaders Destroy Six Sigma

Posted on 12 Nov 2008 by The Manufacturer

Rob Thompson lays an egg over misconceptions of six sigma and lean...

Here’s a question:

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a Six Sigma exercise to measure a person’s innate aptitude and passion for a customer-facing role from pre-sales, to sales, through service, at all management levels?”

Erm, not to me but possibly to some (but not all) dumb leaders. They may read in a book, understand what R-Squared is and then think they get the concept of variation. Whilst I’m all for a bit of guidance I’m a great believer in “education through action”. Learn the basics from a great sensi, roll-up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand” – that’s what its about!!

Some companies believe that existing lean six sigma initiatives are not good enough and others stress that six sigma reduces innovation and as innovation relies on variation (what Six Sigma is supposed to remove), so therefore organisations who adopt six sigma are doomed never to product innovative products or services. This is baloney of the highest order and I’m sick of hearing this. What all of this shows is that some companies clearly don’t get six sigma while some do.

I stress again: six sigma is not about tools or even statistics its about adopting the right philosophy in the business. This is about training, understanding its fundamental principles and avoiding the most common types of failure.

In fact, lean six sigma, applied successfully, is being increasingly adopted outside of manufacturing. In healthcare for example:

You could say that, where a manufacturer seeks to produce quality products, a hospital seeks to produce healthy patients. If a patient falls victim to an infection while in the hospital, that is a defect that undermines the hospital’s mission and causes rework (having to cure the infection, in addition to the original illness). Therefore, reducing or eliminating infections is equivalent to eliminating waste in the form of defects and rework. And that is fundamentally lean.

By Rob Thompson of LearnSigma blog.

What’s your perception of six sigma and lean? Liberating or restrictive? Or either, depending on the context? Leave a comment below or email [email protected].