Six Sigma and more:
David Schwinn reflects on deepening the dream
Once upon a time, a wise person whose name I cannot remember gave me a piece of advice: If you want to create a climate that encourages motivation, assure that the actions to be taken by the employees are personally rewarding, provide immediate feedback, and make the mission larger than the people doing the work…the larger the better. That advice makes sense to me.
There may, however, be another reason I have remembered it. Growing up in the auto industry, building cars and making a profit were never large enough missions for me. Betty Sue Flowers, in her essay, “The American Dream and the Economic Myth” (Essays on Deepening the American Dream, a series sponsored by the Fetzer Institute, spring 2007, Number 12), suggests a way to deepen the American dream. It just might work for deepening our Six Sigma missions.
Flowers suggests that we Americans operate from four myths, or perspectives. She is using the Random House Dictionary’s definition of myth: “a belief or a subject of belief whose truth is accepted uncritically.” They are:
- The religious myth
- The hero myth
- The democratic myth
- The economic myth
While all the myths still seem relevant, the economic myth seems most powerful today. She argues:
Joseph Campbell used to say that you could always tell what the dominant myth of a culture was by looking at its tallest buildings (The Power of Myth, New York: Doubleday, 1988). In medieval times, the tallest buildings in any city were the cathedrals; later, princely palaces and government buildings dominated the landscape; now the tallest buildings are commercial, reflecting the economic myth within we live…The economic myth is potentially the first truly global myth.”
I remember James Carville, President Clinton’s political advisor, allegedly stating and restating, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Flowers further suggests that if we want to “deepen the dream,” we must start where we are. That is certainly my experience. We cannot dishonor our past or our present as we change direction. We must build on what we have. We then only need point out that the environment in which we live and work is changing and that if we do not change with it, our pain will increase.
Assuming the economic myth is, in fact, predominant in our organizations, Flowers has identified potential opportunities for building on that myth as we deepen our dream or enlarge our mission. Her opportunities provide some ideas for deepening the dream of your Six Sigma effort, as well. I’ve summarized them below:
- “The economic myth supports a systems view of the world.” Our Six Sigma effort should consider mission, vision, values, products, services, structure, and throughput, decision-making, and learning processes. It should also remember that in a global economy, everyone’s in the game and that “It’s the connections, stupid.”
- The economic myth is just a myth. It is only one way of looking at a very complex world. It can and, in fact, has changed and evolved over time as have the other myths we hold to be true.
So if we want to improve our Six Sigma efforts we might try making them:
- More personal by, for example, finding out what the folks who have to make it happen care about;
- More immediate, with both short term and long term participative goals, feedback, and learning systems;
- Larger and deeper, by examining and illuminating what our larger Six Sigma missions are, beyond making more money.
As always, I look forward to your comments and questions. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007 PQ Systems.
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