“If there are twelve clowns in a ring, you can jump in the middle and start reciting Shakespeare, but to the audience, you'll just be the thirteenth clown” -- Adam Walinsky
In your organizations, is it getting to the point where executive reaction to what they perceive as yet another unremarkable result for their massive investment in improvement is pretty much, “Any clown could have gotten that result!”?
Most initial – and many times dramatic – success in Lean and Six Sigma results from working on the classic "low hanging fruit." In process terms, much of this waste has been exposed through value stream mapping and is only consists of special causes that have been hidden and tolerated. Dr. Deming did not consider such beneficial results improvement, and would say it is only now that true improvement can begin! Also, this rate of alleged improvement will not
From Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon?
Since the early 1980s, quality has been evolving from its former entrenched quality assurance mindset to more of a quality improvement mindset. Think of it as humans’ beneficial mutation from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon.
I certainly remember the Neanderthal days of:
- "What part of 'the goal is 100 percent!' don't you understand?"
- "We said 'no child left behind.' What could be simpler? That school principal must be held accountable!"
- "I don't like those lousy numbers – do something about it!"
- More quality! Better quality! QUALITY! Take pride to do it right the first time!" (or else)
But despite this progress, lean conferences bemoan consistent 70 to 95 percent failure rates and many marginal 1-1/2 to 2 year alleged successes that fade – no doubt due to an executive mindset that lags in its evolution while accelerating its attention deficit tendencies.
But quality improvement mindset is also lagging -- Isn't it time to evolve to the 21st century?
Many improvement practitioners have settled into and gotten stuck in Cro-Magnon mode. Isn't it time to go beyond tolerating the “pretty good” Cro-Magnon mediocrity of "bolt-on quality
?" My eyes glaze over at the unnecessary ubiquitous use of the use of the words awesome, incredible, fantastic,
to describe results and work cultures that are, in terms of
moving organizations' “big dots,” unremarkable
...and perfectly designed to stay
that way. Moratorium on those words, please
(And there are indeed many truly awesome, incredible, fantastic, amazing people, but, as Dale Dauten,
The Corporate Curmudgeon, says, "What's another way of saying 'workaholic'? Employee of the Year.")
It's time for the rubber to meet the road, not the sky!
Don’t today’s times require the revolutionary mindset of “getting better faster and staying better” as originally promised by most modern improvement approaches – at least in theory? Let's call it built-in improvement, hardwired into organizational DNA, versus bolt-on 'quality' to the status quo.
Natural selection is ticking and there is no time to lose. The next all too easy mass bolt-on quality panacea and its unique sub-industry of formal training (Agile Lean Six Sigma?) are no doubt mutating out of the current improvement ooze even as I'm writing this – getting ready in their newer, shinier gas-guzzling clown cars to steamroll our smaller, more modest improvement-efficient vehicles by keeping us being seen as ridiculous 13th clowns and part of the act.
Start with some simple applications – perhaps by addressing a red / yellow / green indicator
that causes a dreaded monthly meeting or quarterly review? Quietly move a big dot!
Print out and post the following quotes by two authors and read them at the beginning of each working day:
Jim Verzino: Nobody plans for poor quality management solutions. But over time, harmless little decisions can derail a quality management system.
Each time we choose to sacrifice the good of the system for one person, or allow an ineffective, outdated legacy practice to continue, we take small steps toward lower and lower standards.
When we have a culture that puts quality and environmental attainment at a lower priority than feelings and keeping the status quo, slowly we make the hundreds of decisions that eat away at total performance...
Every week tens, if not hundreds, of little decisions like these are made in a large company. Any one decision will not make or break the system. However, hundreds of decisions being made with a priority on entrenched personnel or ideas rather than the higher goals of continuous improvement will bring the system to its knees over time...
In the end, nobody plans to have poor quality or environmental performance. It sneaks up on us...[as] the sum of so many bad decisions.
Mariela Dabbah: Enough of attending meetings that lead to building a bridge to nowhere, enough of asking what I'm supposed to ask rather than what needs to be asked, enough of praising people who are undeserving of praise, enough of valuing form over substance, enough of accepting good when what is needed is outstanding, enough of enabling people to act as victims when they need to take personal
Inevitably, this kind of shift doesn't happen unless a substantial number of leaders put their collective foot down and say 'Enough!' in unison.
get "mad as h*ll
" to say "Enough!"?
Create a "built-in" culture by reducing confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos
Click here for a podcast interview I did with Lean expert Mark Graban.
[If you scroll to the very bottom of the blog page, Mark appended Dr. Donald Berwick's 3-minute video endorsement of my work
for the Iowa Hospital Association]
Chapters 1 to 4
of my book Data Sanity
teach an improvement mindset
(not tool set), common language, and leadership skills to create productive dialogue with executives -- use the 10 examples of Chapter 2 as a guide to get results that will truly engage them while moving their "big dots" on key goals.
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, or public speaking
-- or just about any other reason!
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