Six Sigma Relevancy Question and Corresponding White Paper Continues to Stimulate “Active” Debate

Posted on February 11, 2009


In my previous post, I talked about the potential impact that a particular article or paper might have in terms of stimulating readership discussion.    

It seems that the subject of Six Sigma, Lean and similar-type program effectiveness is a hot button.  Perhaps it is a result of the tough economic times, which can cause organizations to re-examine or scrutinize their current practices and related improvement strategies more closely.  Perhaps it is also due to the fact that the issue of relevance and/or effectiveness has been brewing beneath the surface for some time, and therefore coupled with the circumstance of market vagaries created a perfect opportunity for laying the proverbial cards on the table.

Regardless, the ongoing discussions pertaining to my latest white paper in a rapidly expanding list of forums and groups, collectively provides a diversity of perspectives that seems to transcend the question itself.

One such exchange that was of particular interest centered on Dr. John P. Kotter’s 8 steps for organizational transformation.  Rather than paraphrase my dialogue with a forum member from the Superfactory Group on LinkedIn, I thought that it would be more interesting and beneficial to provide an actual account.  That said I am pleased to share the following with you.

Member Comment:

“Just like to share my experience regarding the 8 steps of transforming your organization developed by Prof. John P. Kotter and my belief that it is very, very relevant and logical.

I would suggest referencing his publication of the Harvard Business Review titled “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” plus the theory “E” and “O” of Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria in his article titled “Cracking the Code of Change.”

My personal view and experience is if you couple both effectively you have a high chance of adopting and converting Lean or Six Sigma or TPM as your culture.

Chan Dy, Total Productive Management Team Leader, Cambodia Brewery

My Response:

Hello Chan.

I did an extensive study of Dr. Kotter’s work in 2004 and 2005, which resulted in several articles and even a popular seminar series titled “The Change Management Myth.”

Referencing Gleicher’s Formula, which is based upon the concept that “the combination of organizational dissatisfaction, vision for the future and the possibility of immediate, tactical action must be stronger than the resistance within the organization in order for meaningful changes to occur,” Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher’s “Formula for Change” should certainly set off a few alarms relative to the sustainable effectiveness of Dr. Kotter’s 8 steps.

In fact even Kotter acknowledged the fact that it is imperative for any change management strategy to gain the necessary traction or “buy-in” within the first six months of being launched.  He concluded that the longer it takes for a change management initiative to gain acceptance within the enterprise the likelihood of success diminishes exponentially.

Now whether Kotter’s assertion that six months is the actual point of criticality, or a longer or shorter variance of the same applies, the key point is that most initiatives are structured around a considerably longer implementation period.

My research, which was partially funded by the Government of Canada’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program, identified this chasm between the timeline for acceptance and the average implementation period as one of the main reasons for the high rate of initiative failure.

What’s the answer?

Given the limited confines of this venue, I will conclude by saying that a good starting point for any initiative can be found in Jim Collins’ book “Good To Great,” and in particular the differences between the Flywheel and Doom Loop principles.”


As you will note from the above exchange, the interest in the subject is wide and global, attracting significant responses from stakeholders on all sides of the issue including those within the corporate ranks that are charged with making their organization’s process improvement initiatives successful.

The only thing I would add, besides of course downloading the white paper itself (refer to the link below), is to get a copy of Forrest Breyfogle’s series of books.  Just to be clear, and in line with Procurement Insights’ tenet of total neutrality, I do not receive any form of compensation for recommending Breyfogle’s books.  I honestly believe that the principles reflected in his work goes a long way towards explaining the consistently strong results of his Integrated Enterprise Excellence methodology.  

That said if you would like to get into the discussion to add your proverbial “two cents” but have not yet had the opportunity to download the IEE white paper, here is the link to obtain your free copy:   


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