Six Sigma

Why Six Sigma Won’t Make You Skinny

I’m sure most of you have seen thousands of infomercials over the years of “get fit quick” gimmicks.

The man on the TV that I call the “Circus Barker” that excitedly tells you of a way to lose weight and get fit in seven days. We fall for these gimmicks time after time with the same result … a new contraption that sits in a closet or in the middle of the room as a clothes hanger.

Why does this happen? Because we want the Quick Fix with minimal investment.

Let’s correlate the above example with an organization’s investment in Process Improvement.

When I am asked by people “Kevin, what do you do?”… I answer “I am like a fitness trainer for your organization except that I focus on the health of your processes, not necessarily the people.”

Organizations that invest in Process Improvement are investing in the health of their company. For those of you that have significantly improved your health and sustained that improvement know that this takes time and discipline.

I can tell you story after story of companies that start with good intentions; but because of the need for “the quick fix” and the inherent lack of focus, discipline and buy in, they change direction.

They listen to the “Circus Barker” and opt for the quick fix. I often follow up on these companies to get some data on the result of their new “quick fix” direction.

The outcome is often the same as those fitness contraptions that are now in the closet, are clothes hangers in the middle of the bedroom, or sold at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar.

Einstein said “we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that got us into them.”

My interpretation of Einstein’s quote is that we have to change the way we think when our current path does not result in the required outcome.

When using this quote in my classes, I often follow with “what is the definition of insanity?” Someone will eventually answer “to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.”

I have a good friend that was overweight and had declining health. She was on several medications including blood pressure medications. She smoked, drank alcohol often, among many other bad habits. She tried many of the quick fixes to regain her health but nothing worked. Why?

Because she didn’t change her culture. She didn’t change her habits. One afternoon, she had a mild heart attack which happened in part because of diet pills and also because of her declining health.

This was the “burning platform” that altered her way of thinking. Fast forward to a year after the heart attack. She is now running several miles a week, she has made the choice to be a vegetarian, she has lost over 50 pounds, and she is off all medication.

In our workshops and courses we often talk about the House of Lean and Six Sigma. We discuss the structure of the house and what it takes to have a house that sustains over time.

The class discovers that the strongest part of the house must be the foundation. Without a strong foundation, the house will quickly weaken and collapse.

This is the fate of many company’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) endeavors. For the want of a house to be built quickly, the “quick-fix” route is taken. In this case, the foundation is either weak or not built at all and invariably the house will fall.

The next obvious question is “what makes a strong and sustainable foundation?”

I have seen through my career as a Contract Instructor that the inputs that result in a good foundation vary by provider. I have seen implementations succeed and fail. Most failures come from the lack of understanding the target or goal in terms that we can all understand equally.

Another key input is what I call “The Stomach.”

This is the plan and the discipline to get to that target with measurable results. Many companies lose their “stomach” at the first sign of adversity or hierarchical push back (another sign of a weak foundation).

We all know that to make a true, positive alteration to your health takes work, perseverance, and discipline. For most of us, it also takes a good support system. It is no different for an organization.