Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six Sigma and More - Think about the whole system

by David Schwinn
a full-time professor of management at Lansing Community College and a part-time consultant in the college’s Small Business and Technology Development Center. He is also a consultant in systems and organizational development with InGenius and INTERACT Associates, and an associate of PQ Systems (www.pqsystems.com).
Schwinn worked at Ford’s corporate quality office and worked with W. Edwards Deming beginning in the early 1980s until Deming’s death. Schwinn is a professional engineer with an MBA from Wright State University. You can reach him at support@pqsystems.com
It may seem dangerous to ask questions, especially in an environment that is hostile to change. The heart of improvement often lies in listening to many viewpoints in order to involve people affected by the outcome. In an environment of trust, it’s okay to disagree with the boss. W. Edwards Deming would agree, as his 14 Points for Management indicates.

My wife, Carole, was recently surfing the net and serendipitously came across a short YouTube video of Dr. Russell Ackoff from a teleconference we helped produce in 1994. Who knew? It took us back to the brilliance of Russ. What he said bears repeating.

His topic was “Beyond Continual Improvement.” He began by citing a study concluding that two-thirds of managers who started programs in continual improvement said the programs failed. He thought they failed because they were not embedded in systems thinking. He then described systems thinking in his characteristic profound, insightful, and funny way, reminding us that only the system can perform its functions. None of its parts can. The products and services an organization provides and the functions it performs are all the “product of their interactions.” Setting out to improve the parts independently will not improve the whole system.

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