Vol. 8, No. 7

July 2006

PQ Systems

SQCpack real-time charting

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:
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 line?
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 outliers.

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 perspective:

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 success?
4. How well do our decision-making systems support the Six Sigma effort?
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 effort

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 support@pqsystems.com

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