Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Suffering from Sick Sigma?
My good friend, Jonathan Sands, a Director of Operational Excellence for a large firm, recently told me about his experience with a company six sigma effort years ago. At first go around, he and other leaders undertook their black belt training with a huge burst of energy. Everyone was passionate about their six sigma projects and making huge improvements to their operational performance. The six sigma excitement was as hot as the burning fever with the winter flu.
As the six sigma virus started running its course, management interested grew less interested in dealing with real, significant problems and focused on just adding to the roster the number of people with colored belts. Training was done for training sake.
Anytime a complex problem with no solution known (which you would think is the perfect type for a six sigma black belt to attack) was made visible, it was pushed back and ignored. No real reason why, it just happened.
In just a short time, the six sigma update meetings were held less frequent and attendance started dropping.
Six Sigma projects were just done to get certified. And it seemed that the projects were less and less focused on the customer.
It did not take long for the six sigma fever to break and things started getting back to normal (a return to the status quo).
The six sigma program, left to wither and die, became known around this company as their sick sigma program.
This is not to be critical of the six sigma approach. I know many attempts using lean have met the same fate. Each program starts out with such promise for a bright future only to be found DOA in the morgue a few years later.
And they were so young, such a needless tragedy.