Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How ‘Failure’ Can Be A Good Thing

April 8th, 2010 by Candy Medina | Tags: | Posted in Uncategorized |

April, 2010

“Failure is not an option”. That phrase has been instilled in me for many years, and has served as a personal mantra through many initiative launches. But, what if it’s wrong? What if failure is actually an expected, ‘good’ thing that helps drive positive change? I never thought about it this way until I read the book ‘Switch’, by Chip and Dan Heath (the same guys who wrote ‘Made to Stick’ – another favorite).

Of course we’re not talking about failures that are a result of inattention or incompetence here . . . we’re talking about well-intentioned misses that just didn’t have the positive consequences we envisioned. In their book, the Heath brothers make a strong case for a different approach to successfully creating change. In fact, this book is really a playbook for change, with a very compelling model for how to do it well. It’s their view of the framework in which the change occurs that is so interesting. Typically, the reason WHY the change needs to happen is pretty well understood (at least by the change leader). And, the ultimate goal, or ‘vision for success’ has some level of definition. It’s the space in between these bookends that is the focus here. In my linear, engineering brain, you know the start and stop points and you map the steps in between – each being a milestone of ever-increasing success, performance, whatever – until the ultimate goal is reached. However, this is NOT the way most successful change occurs! In fact, the between-bookends space is a nebulous, gray zone of two steps forward, one step back. The backwards steps are the ‘failures’ (in most people’s view) – but, in reality, they are what make the change stick.

I’m working with a team right now, developing a rather innovative scorecard that will help them pulse the health of their organization on a monthly basis. The first six weeks went great – everyone knew the mission and the goal, and the knowledge-gathering phase was fun and informative. After the second iteration of the work product emerged, discord was evident. The process owner was impatient and the team members disagreed on elements that had been in harmony only a few weeks previous. It was depressing, and I felt like it was a personal failure on my part. Fortunately, I finished reading ‘Switch’ shortly thereafter, and it completely changed my viewpoint. I know now that the key to this is perseverance, and focus on the positive. Change that sticks is incremental, not monumental. It takes digestion time.

Well-intentioned failure is learning that benefits the mission. In fact, the ‘failures’ let you clearly see what DOES work. “Follow the bright spots – investigate what’s working and clone it” – page 259.

Six Sigma and ‘Customer Capitalism’

January 22nd, 2010 by Candy Medina | Posted in Uncategorized |

In the latest edition of Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2010), an article titled “The Age of Customer Capitalism” by Roger Martin is both thought-provoking and exciting. You may be questioning how I could consider such a topic exciting, but it truly is. This article provides support and maybe even vindication for the fundamental message that has been preached by me and other Six Sigma professionals for 15 years now: that the ultimate focus of any process improvement endeavor must be to ‘satisfy customers profitably’. Mr. Martin provides an historical context for capitalism that begins in the early part of the 20th century with a call for ‘professional’ business management, then shifts in the 1970’s to a mandate for ‘shareholder value capitalism’: the premise that the primary purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder wealth. This is what I learned in business school in the 1980’s, and what an entire generation has been brought up to believe. The Six Sigma methodology ran somewhat counter to the ‘maximize shareholder wealth’ philosophy, because it required the improvement team to start with the Voice of the Customer and establish effectiveness criteria before moving into efficiency improvements. I saw the incongruity when I began working in the Sales organization, where the number one customer requirement was ‘on time delivery’. However, we were not initially allowed to work on improvement projects in this area because better delivery performance could not be validated by Finance as improving the ‘bottom line’ (i.e., cost reduction). It was a frustrating time.
The HBR article claims that we are on the verge of a new business era in which customer value must be the top priority, with shareholder value as a sub-tier deliverable. By revising management philosophies in this way, the oft-repeated scenarios where CEOs make decisions that hurt the business in pursuit of ‘shareholder value’ would be avoided. In this new era, business leaders would first be rewarded on how well they met customer needs, then on the financial metrics. What an amazing future awaits, if this message is taken seriously. Dr. Deming, Peter Drucker and the other visionaries will finally have their concepts put into practice. Improvement projects will finally be prioritized and aligned to customer needs. This is why I’m excited!