Look Out For Programs
Systems improvement programs such as Six Sigma have a few critical flaws. The biggest of these flaws is also the most obvious. The programs are implemented as just that--programs. Six Sigma, Lean, and before them, Deming and TQM, are not something we do. They are something we become. At Toyota, you won’t find a quality program. What you find at Toyota is a way of being, a systems-based way of leading, managing and doing work.
Painting Over A Poor Foundation
In western companies, we don’t find ourselves being Six Sigma and the like. We see an overlay of quality and systems over the same old leadership and management methodologies that caused the problems in the first place. This is both a program and flavor of the month strategy that falls far short of becoming a way of being in the workplace.
Even when the programs are marginally successful, all it takes is a champion of the program to leave or become disengaged and the whole thing falls apart. On top of that, because people close to the work (especially middle managers) aren’t really changing, they tend to appear as if they are going along with the program while conducting business mostly as usual. Non-systems thinking leaders, on the other hand, always seem to tout the great successes of the latest program, regardless of actual performance or sustainability.
When Six Sigma and similar efforts are implemented as programs that require no significant growth in leaders and managers, it is a fatal flaw. In part III of this article, we will look specifically at what leaders and managers must become in order to sustainably improve quality and performance of the organization while setting their people up to be optimally successful in their jobs. After all, aren’t these primary roles of good leaders and managers?