Six Sigma and More:
Some thoughts about terrorism and communication
by David R. Schwinn
"The world economy is without substance;
its structural fragility, created by speculation, indebtedness and a long
period of high interest rates, cannot withstand any shocks, large or small
(decreased consumption, for instance). The flow of money from poor countries
to rich countries and from poor people to the giant fortunes of the 'capital
collectors' in the developed countries have brought to light the basic
injustices inherent in the existing economic system. Here lies a
self-timed bomb ticking; the more evident the injustices become, the closer
Rolf Osterberg, Corporate Renaissance
(Mill Valley, CA: Nataraz Publishing,
. . . and the towers came tumbling down. With them came more than
6,000 of our
brothers and sisters, killed for reasons we may never fully understand.
Perhaps in a world where people are feeling more physically and
electronically connected without feeling more emotionally and spiritually
interconnected, the September 11 disaster was inevitable. I believe
that once the streets of New York are swept clean, and when the grief begins
to subside, we will still be facing a monumental, global crisis of
communication and understanding.
I am told that the creators of the World Trade Center thought they would
increase commerce, which would make a better life for everyone, everywhere.
But others in the world believe that world commerce, as it is currently
conceived, organized, and managed, has exaggerated the worldwide gap between
the haves and have-nots, stolen the natural resources of Third World
countries, and created slave labor conditions in those and other countries.
Most Americans believe that the Pentagon was conceived as the necessary
center of our defense against those who want to harm us just because we are
too free, too democratic, too rich, too Christian, too powerful, too greedy,
or just too happy. Of course, many people think there are just evil
people who think we're an easy target. Others in the world think the
Pentagon is the mastermind of the missiles, bombs, napalm, tear gas, and
bullets that needlessly kill, maim and destroy their brothers, sisters,
mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. As I reflect on the
tragedy that happened to the whole world on September 11, 2001, I wonder if
what we humans have created is a crisis of communication and understanding.
Evidence of that crisis exists everywhere, even within our organizational
relationships. Too many supervisors believe their subordinates to be
stupid, lazy, or otherwise incapable and/or unwilling to do their jobs.
Employees believe their supervisors to be incompetent, mean-spirited, and
out of touch with reality.
Frequently, we believe our suppliers are incapable of providing on-time,
high quality goods and services, and that they are trying to figure out any
way they can to increase their prices and generally rip us off. Our
suppliers think we don't know what we want, and are committed to demanding
so much that we continually force them to the edge of bankruptcy. Many of
our plant managers believe our material control managers enjoy constantly
jerking around the production schedules in order to keep unreasonably low
inventories. At the same time, our material control managers think our plant
managers are arrogant and unresponsive, because they resist the kind of
flexible production schedules the real world requires. And on it goes.
In many cases, not all, these beliefs are the result of systems we have put
in place that create unnecessary conflict. In every case, I suggest, the
situation could be made better by communicating for understanding.
The beliefs and assumptions out of which we have created our organizations
are not clearly articulated, so we are not sure what other people believe to
be true. Some of us have forgotten what we believed to be true when we
created our organizations and industries. Did we deliberately set out to
create factories and schools and governments and hospitals where there is so
much dissension and, if I may use the word, hatred? How is it that we
expect to understand people halfway across the world, when we don't
understand the people in our own backyard?
There are no simple solutions to the complexities of the global economy or
to the level of separation and hatred that exists in so many places around
the world. But perhaps we can begin by communicating for understanding in
our own families and organizations and communities. Maybe we can:
- Let others know what we believe to be true
as the basis for our actions, and ask them what they believe.
- Pause. This is not a debate. It is a
conversation intended to seek common understanding, not a contest
decide who's right and who's wrong.
- Ask clarifying questions to understand the
other person's point of view.
- State what we believe to be the other
person's point of view and ask if we've gotten it right.
- Continue the conversation until we can
state the other's viewpoint. We may be surprised how little difference
there is between us after that dialogue.
With a common understanding, we can move
forward quickly and powerfully. There will still, inevitably, be areas
of disagreement, but we can still move forward with a better understanding
of each other and with shared intentions. Without communicating for
understanding, we fire people for no good reason, withhold resources, miss
deadlines, develop ulcers and mental illness, create unreasonable goals, and
generally create cultures of distrust.
Six Sigma with communication for understanding can be a very powerful
process. Six Sigma without communication for understanding is not worth the
paper it's written on. A world without communication for understanding
destroys the lives of thousands upon thousands of people all over the world
every year. In a world with communication for understanding, peace
just might break out all over.
May God (or whatever name you choose) bless our lost brothers and sisters,
their loved ones, and all life. And may we remember the words, "Let
there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
always, let me know what you think. You
can reach me at email@example.com.