Six Sigma and more:
Hope may not be enough,
In the midst of perhaps the worst time in my lifetime for our country, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States last month based on, among other things, a message of hope and a tag line of, “Yes, we can.” I think it was the right message. But I also agree with one of our generation’s wise leaders, Meg Wheatley, when she suggests that hope may not be enough.
In, “Journeying Beyond Hope and Fear,” Wheatley describes the hope that most of us understand, hope for results. But our hope, even with all the work that might accompany it, may not yield the results we desire. Why? Because, according to Wheatley, “Hope and fear are intimate and ever-present companions. If I hope to accomplish something, I’m also afraid I’ll fail. And when confronted with the truth of failure, such as we are now, we become depressed and overwhelmed.”
But even as she describes the results-oriented hope that many us feel today, she offers another way to think about hope, which is most succinctly captured in a quote by the poet-playwright-activist-leader, Vaclav Havel.
“Hope is a dimension of the soul... an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons... It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how well it turns out.”
That is the kind of hope we need today, a conviction that we can bring about the kind of changes that are needed in these difficult times, and a vision of what is possible that goes beyond our current experience.
I think the vision must be big enough. Marianne Williamson reminds us of who we are in A Return to Love:
“We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
David Whyte further reminds us in “What to Remember When Waking” that “What you can plan is too small for you to live.” (David Whyte, The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press, Langley, WA: 1999). So dream big... big enough for who you are and who we all are. Then trust the universe to help you.
But trusting the universe actually takes a little work... and a lot of courage... and letting go of the need to see results, as Meg Wheatley reminded us earlier. Here’s the work. Write down your vision. Your personal vision is where a shared vision begins. A shared vision is what our organizations and institutions need. Keep your vision close by and look at it periodically. This little ritual will help change your perspective. It will help you see opportunities that will help you achieve your dream. Next comes the courage. Share your dream with others. Let them know what you are dreaming. Remember what Marianne said about letting your light shine. You will help them shine their own light and you will be surprised how often they will help you with your own dream even if you forget to ask. And don’t forget to act when the opportunities come.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of a Six Sigma company. This week one of my students arranged for Bill Demmer, owner of the Demmer Corporation, to speak to one of my classes. His company is wildly successful in Michigan, a state that is perhaps the worst of the worst in our current economic situation. Although Bill did not specifically articulate a vision, it was clear from his message that he is driven by the desire to continually lead his company to thrive.
The Demmer Corporation started as a tool and die supplier to the auto industry. When cash flow became an issue, Demmer began to also make parts from the tools and dies they created. They also began to move out of the auto industry. As they began making parts from their tools and dies, they saw an opportunity to weld those parts together to make higher value-added assemblies. All the while, Demmer began embracing total quality management, Toyota Lean, and Six Sigma. Demmer now finds himself a primary supplier of welded assemblies for military vehicles and the aerospace industry. The company can hardly keep up with demand. I asked Bill what was next. He is already looking at opportunities that Demmer could uniquely take advantage of in the growing renewable energy industry. Bill has been constantly reinventing Demmer for the last 40 years. I noticed, in him, courage to risk, a lack of need to be right, and a continual commitment to change. I recognized that lack of a need to be right to be humbleness. That's what I’m talking about!
Let me leave you with a couple of final thoughts. Most of us in this country have been on a slow, steady, almost unperceivable economic decline for the last 30 years. Unless we make some fundamental changes, that trend will continue or, more likely, get worse. Our children and their children will pay the real price. Barack Obama, I believe, will try to help. While I think that is good, it is not nearly enough. WE need to take ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our organizations in a very different direction. That will require changes beyond what I’ve already described. We will have to give up something. We are already stretched, but change is required. We must find resources and perhaps most importantly, time. We may need to watch a little less TV, play fewer computer games, reallocate how we spend some of our money, and play fewer rounds of golf. But most important, we must share our dreams for the future and trust the universe to help. I want to close with something significant I ran across as I was preparing to write this month’s column.
“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to make the world better.” - Anne Frank
Please do not wait. As always, I treasure your comments and questions. I’m at email@example.com.
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