Six Sigma and more:
An integral assessment approach
You may remember that I introduced an integral approach
to Six Sigma in my April column. Because I continue to believe in
the value of that approach to improvement, I thought you might find
a self-assessment tool using that approach useful.
As a reminder, the integral approach, among other
things, views everything from four perspectives or quadrants. The
upper right quadrant focuses on an external view or the physical
dimensions of the parts of the organization. Shorthand for that
quadrant would be "assets." The upper left quadrant focuses on the
variability of perspectives, world views, and internal intents among
all the people involved; we'll call that the "people" quadrant.
The lower left quadrant focuses on the internal dimensions of the
collective; we'll use the shorthand of "culture" for this one. The
lower right quadrant is the realm of systems and systems approaches
(e.g., Six Sigma); hence, the "systems" quadrant. In the April column,
I discussed this four quadrant approach to looking at your Six Sigma
effort. As I said there, a realistic analysis won't fit neatly into
a simple quadrant. Despite that oversimplification, I still find
it to be a useful tool. So here we go.
We'll start with the Asset quadrant. In this quadrant,
we focus on the individual accomplishments of the Six Sigma program.
You might ask questions such as:
1. How much money have we really saved (as opposed
to what gets booked)? What is really contributing to the bottom
2. How many projects have we completed?
3. How many people have been trained …to what level?
Next, let's look at the People quadrant. The focus
here is on the variability of individual perspectives. I'm reminded
of a story from my days at Ford. Phil Caldwell, the then chairman
of the board, had a son who was driving a Cougar. The son had a
tire problem. I was in the world headquarters quality staff at the
time and anything that came through the office of the CEO regarding
quality came to us. We briefly investigated the problem and concluded
that the problem was an outlier…a one in a million happenstance.
We sent a note to Mr. Caldwell and got a note back to dig a little
deeper…after all it was his son. We dug a little deeper and, sure
enough, we found an unreported problem out in the field. You see,
Mr. Caldwell knew what all good CEO's know; that the quality of
the information they receive can be pretty lousy. So how might the
People quadrant help to assess your Six Sigma effort? Ask EVERYONE
or, at least a robust microcosm of the people, in the organization
what they think of your Six Sigma effort. Then ask the customers,
the suppliers, the funders, the communities in which you operate,
and any other significant stakeholders, for their perspectives.
Analyze the responses from those questions with an eye toward the
variability among the responses and a special sensitivity to the
The third consideration is the Culture quadrant.
Culture is what people generally believe to be true in the aggregate.
It includes world view, ethics, values, and codes of conduct. So
here are two questions I think capture the essence of this quadrant's
1. How well does people's understanding of our
documented cultural code support our Six Sigma effort?
2. How well does the de facto cultural code of our organization
support our Six Sigma effort?
The last area is the Systems quadrant. It's hard
to be involved in Six Sigma and not have some understanding of systems,
so I'll just dive right into the proposed questions you might consider:
1. How well does our learning system support
our Six Sigma?
2. How well do the systems in place motivate everyone to contribute
to the Six Sigma effort?
3. How closely do people collaborate to contribute to Six Sigma
4. How well do our decision-making systems support the Six Sigma
5. How sharp is our Six Sigma perspective on what is going on
outside the organization?
As you do this self-assessment, it might be good
to attach a five-point scale to the answers as a starting point.
We all know the limitations of quantification, especially quantification
that is based on clearly subjective assessment, but, in this case,
I believe the simplification that the scale gives us helps get us
beyond the complexity that purely qualitative results will likely
yield. Here is a proposed scale:
0-No information found
1-Detracts from the Six Sigma effort
2-Is neutral toward the Six Sigma effort
3-Helps the Six Sigma effort
4-Contributes in a surprisingly significant way to the Six Sigma
The result of this little self-assessment may help
you dig a little deeper to improve or reinvigorate your Six Sigma
effort. Where to focus your attention should be obvious from the
numbers, but remember that this particular approach is particularly
sensitive to differences within and across quadrants.
Please try it out. I'd love to learn what you learn
as always. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org
2006 PQ Systems.
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