Vol. 8, No. 6

June 2006

PQ Systems

In-depth on dashboards

Quality Quiz: With a video!

Six Sigma

Data in everyday life

Bytes and pieces

FYI: Current releases


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Six Sigma and more:
A new generation, creating
something new

A research paper that one of my students submitted this term was on entrepreneurship. It began, "Since the only way to get a secure, stable job today is to create it yourself…"

Whether or not that assertion is true is an interesting and provocative issue, but what struck me about it was that it is so counter to the way I have historically viewed the workplace. The assertion must seem obvious to at least one of my students of a younger generation. It is certainly true that most of the jobs have, for some time, been created by small businesses. Let's explore this idea a little further by starting with a word that we are all familiar with, innovation. Dr. Deming began talking about the need for innovation late in his career, although he did not provide much guidance for making it happen. Despite that, those of us doing his work and the work of Six Sigma know that innovation is a key element of a successful improvement effort. In continual improvement and Six Sigma, that innovation is usually limited to changing or redesigning a process, product, or service that currently exists in our organization. I want to go beyond that experience because I think it is not enough. I want to explore creating something new.

People frequently call up the word entrepreneurship when thinking of creating something new in the world of business…a new business. It seems to me we should know more about that. But we should also know about and encourage intrepreneurship within our organizations. Intrepreneurship is a word that has been coined to describe the creation of a new business within an existing organization. An example of this kind of thinking comes in a well-known west Michigan story about a small company who made overhead conveyors. They were having a tough time competing in their industry. They looked around and saw many screw machines and lathes. They decided that they knew how to make round things. And so, they generated a new mission to "make round things." As you can imagine, that changed their whole marketing and product development focus and took them to a whole new world of customers. They were very successful. With that background, I'd like to share some things I learned from a few valued friends and colleagues last week.

As you may remember, my wife, Carole, and I were learning advisors to the Fellows and Scholars Program at the Fetzer Institute. Although the program no longer exists, the program members get together from time to time just to stay connected. Last week was one of those get togethers. The members of this community are doing what I consider to be heroic work that fits nicely within the frame of entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial work. Let me share samples of this work.

One member has become sensitized to all the bad effects of our dependence on non-renewable (in the short term), fossil fuel including the likely global warming and pollution effects of that dependence. She is organizing a large, regional exposition this fall to explore alternatives to the use of non-renewable fossil fuel for personal transportation.

Another member, given the plight of poor rural communities these days, has begun creating community coalitions to share the abundance they find rather than competing over the miniscule resources that flow into their communities. The early results are positive.

Since our federal government seems to have trouble taking a long view, another member of this community is focusing on making the community of place in which they reside become self-sustaining from an ecological or whole systems perspective.

Yet another member of this community, seeing a world suffering from war, genocide, and terrorism, has begun taking U.S young people to war-torn countries around the world just to understand first hand who these people really are and what's happening to them.

And I could go on and on. I am in awe when I think of these amazing human beings and their work. I hold these people up as heroic people doing important work. I contrast that with many of my students who feel as though they are doing work that doesn't much matter in environments that are usually not personally rewarding and sometimes much worse. I think Six Sigma is noble work to the extent that it very efficiently uses resources to create things and services that people want. You deserve noble work, however you define it. Six Sigma in your organization may be that work. It may not be. If it is not, become an intrepreneur or an entrepreneur and generate work that is noble for you. You, your organization, and the world will be better for it.

As always, I treasure your thoughts and questions. I'm at support@pqsystems.com

Copyright 2006 PQ Systems.
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