When “6” is just not enough

When “Six” is not enough

For the last decade we have been taken through the learning curve of various initiatives whose names started with “six”. From Hats to Sigma, Lean variants and so it goes on.

From Deming’s original work of the 1960’s and 70’s, Organisations have been preoccupied with studying and optimising process. This work is worthwhile as we seek out and define the elements of our organisational workings that work more efficiently when the work is both formally stated and put into a format that is repeatable. By doing this we start to reduce and seek to eliminate variations in our working lives. This in turn reduces mistakes and errors and so makes us more efficient.

As technology advances accelerate at breakneck speed, many of us are starting to feel left behind, out of control, a slave to the systems that we have made. The technology has advanced to a level that ordinary workers can no longer control or change, and instead have to call upon technologists and computer people, who by the nature of their training and knowledge, examine the process and map it to find out how to make it more automated, less intervention that may cause errors.

And all of this is very fine, except we appear to have come full circle, from the days of the industrial revolution, where machines ruled our time, made us do things to suit the process, and removed the human element, which according to the process people, was the cause of the errors.

The answer of course is not to move away from process, but to find a balance between automation and our own people.

We call this “staff engagement” and build initiatives to try to find ways to communicate, engage, embrace the Human side of our organisations, that which if harnessed correctly can give us advantage.

Reading a definition of a “Leader” recently, it suggested that Leaders are people who will choose to ignore rules, move past the statement of “not possible” and make it happen anyway. So where is the “6” in that?

Rebalancing the fixation of process, and believing that our own people have something unique, different and contributory has long been accepted as a route to success, but the path is rarely trodden successfully in today’s complex, systems led world.

If we step outside of our Organisational model for a minute, and look at it as a Leader would, we might conclude that to move forwards one must first of all break the mold that we are currently in; the “process mold”.

Once this is released, and our people are involved once more, we may be able to find ways to do things that for a while, step outside of the “6”‘, outside of the technology straight jacket that once sought to improve us, and now so often stifles us.

Like ripples in a pond following a dysfunctional stone, disrupting the status quo, we are able to reach out, find new ways, optimise our market and customer focus and fix old habits. We will then re-apply the “6”, in order to efficiently operate and reset our mold in our Organisations.

So how do we cause the ripple? How do we disrupt the here and now and enable the tomorrow to be found?

To make any change happen, there has to be a reason, a statement of intent, a vision of new things. This statement has to come from the top, the CEO, nobody else can do this.

This intention must be communicated to all who take part in the Organisation, all Staff and all stakeholders.

Then we do something so very simple, we just ask the most powerful open question known to mankind- “what do you think?” this question has no boundaries, no limits, no timescales, no taboos or restrictions.

To avoid the human fear of recriminations following an honest answer to the question – it is imperative that we operate a process of anonymity.

In asking the question we must be prepared to accept the answers in all of their forms. We need to accept that some of the answers may not be what we want to hear. They may criticise, suggest, offer unqualified opinion.

They will certainly offer things that disrupt the “6”. The psychology of fairness must be established and prevail during this exercise, to reassure people that this is indeed anonymous but also that there will be no comeback on the individual for responding. . The exercise needs to be both controlled but also understood by those providing the feedback.

If the Organisation can achieve this, the feedback will be both abundant and rich in information. They will step outside of the “6” and offer great insight for those at senior management level. The ripple in the pond will be seen, and the great opportunity to make positive change with the unfettered support of all staff and stakeholders will provide a new energy and commitment to the Organisational vision.

This can never be achieved only with a “6” approach, as to intentionally create understanding of the possibility of variation for a while is an anathema to the “process”.

“6” is here to stay, it is the bedrock of an efficient Organisation.

But where innovation, engagement and people are needed to perform at their best, enlightened CEO’s may come to understand that to create a truly great organisation, we need our people, their emotions, unpredictability and their naive thinking in order to innovate.

It is only then that we know and understand that “6” is simply not enough.

For more information, call Philip at TAM on 07711 008350, or email philip@tamplc.com  

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About philiptamplc

Accomplished Change Management Leader, delivering Leadership and Change Advisory to Clients ranging from mid sized SME, to public sector. Published author and coach. I have built, grown, sold or floated 6 companies over 22 years providing that experience to our Clients that other providers just read about.
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