Posts Tagged ‘Six Sigma’

It is time to reinvent management – You can help

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 Performance Architect update 45/2011

An interesting question I came across this week got me thinking. The question, rather rhetorical was along the lines of: “Why follow some model developed by a consultant when hundreds of smart people from hundreds of companies have spend tens of years developing and refining models line Baldrige and EFQM?”

The long answer to such a question, from my perspective is the following:

  • For the same reason the several of the dozen companies involved in the Nolan Norton Institute study experimented in 1990 with Balanced Scorecard prototypes expanded from Art Schneiderman’s original “Corporate Scorecard” piloted at Analog Devices. It is a classic tale of practitioner insight, mixed with academic rigour and consulting acumen and embraced by organizations willing to innovate while contributing to the enrichment of management as a discipline. (Details in the preface of Kaplan and Norton’s 1996 book.)
  • For the same reason Motorola’s CEO Bob Galvin embraced in 1985 the quality improvement ideas expressed in a research report by two of its employees: Mikel Harry, PhD. (academic rigour) and Bill Smith (practitioner insight, with 35 years of experience in engineering and quality assurance). Their proposed MAIC problem-solving approach became a stepping stone in the evolution of  Six Sigma. The D was added by IBM and other early adopters after Motorola winning the Baldrige Award in 1988.
  • For the same reason why after being presented in an efficiency report to the Executive Committee, Donaldson Brown’s return on investment formula was adopted by Du Pont in 1912. Brown was a 27 years old engineering graduate at the time. The subsequent work done by Brown at Du Pont and General Motors is legendary, with many cost accounting techniques and principles such as Return on Investment, Return on Equity, Forecasting and Flexible being established and used in a corporate context. They were gradually adopted by corporate America and grew to became part of the financial fabric of today’s corporate environment.


The importance of learning from practice

Saturday, April 24th, 2010 Performance Architect update 16/2010

DuPont, Toyota, Xerox, Analog Devices, Motorola…

What do they have in common?

Abstract reasoning and introspection enabled humans to advance scientific knowledge at an ever accelerating rate over the last 2500 years. As opposed to other natural sciences such as physics and chemistry, human organization or administration is more loosely defined, some considering it a science and others an art. However, both proponents of management as a science and as an art agree on its ultimate function – the one of getting things done or accomplishing desired goals.

While administrative science is one of the oldest fields of human inquiry, it is still behind in terms of maturity and impact, especially when compared to other fields. Scientific management is less than 100 years old and reporting the level of advancement in this field to others, one might consider it as being in its embryonic stage. It is ironic, as it is perhaps one of the most important aspects of human life – how as people on Earth we organize ourselves to live harmoniously and keep a balance between so many conflicting forces and priorities at so many levels.

So what can be done to accelerate the progress of administrative science, better known in practice as management, at both theoretical and practical level?

While there are many avenues to be explored, one of them is simple and with a considerable impact on both short and long term: Learning from practice.


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