Why Some Lean Six Sigma Programs Fail – Part 2

In part 1 of “Why Lean Sigma Programs Fail” I discussed “activity centered programs.” Now I will introduce the alternative to ACP’s – results driven programs. Very simply stated RDP’s, as I will call them, aim for measurable gains within a very short time frame (preferably days or weeks) without worrying about all the hoopla the ACP’s seem to thrive on.

Schaffer and Thomson state that there are four primary benefits to RDP’s.

  1. Companies introduce managerial and process innovations only as needed
  2. Empirical testing reveals what works
  3. Frequent successes energize the improvement process
  4. Continuous learning results strengthening the program as it evolves

I am especially drawn to number 3. I firmly believe that the true power of the 3~5 day Kaizen event is how quickly the team sees results (when done properly of course). Even modest improvements can be highly addictive when they are achieved in short time frames driving the teams to do it again, and again, and again. Along the same lines, number 4 naturally occurs during these quick improvement events. Success begets more success.

As good as this study is, I do think Schaffer and Thomson missed on one rather significant thing. Instead of calling them “results driven programs” they would have been better served calling them “results driven journeys.” You see, companies like Toyota never began a “program” per se. Instead they began a life long, never ending journey toward perfection. Programs, by definition, start and stop while journeys to perfection never end.

So to summarize things, activity based programs are all about training for the sake of training, saying people are empowered when they really aren’t, and not focusing on the bottom line when choosing projects.

Conversely, activity centered programs are about quick wins that bring bottom line savings to the company while educating their entire workforce along the way which results in the true empowerment of people.

Until next time, I wish you all the best on your journey towards continuous improvement.