Is Six Sigma, Lean and SCOR Still Relevant in A Dynamically Changing World? (A 2009 Procurement Insights White Paper Revisited)

Posted on September 3, 2022


Editor’s Note: Since May 2007, I have written approximately five weekly posts on this blog – that’s a lot of writing. So, when posts – such as the reprint of the one below from January 2009 generate interest today, I am curious why.

For example, I wonder if the writing has stood the test of time in which the observations and insights are as relevant now as they were back then. In short, have we learned from history, or are we doomed to repeat it? To this end, I have highlighted in bold the key points I believe still carry some weight today. After you read it, let me know what you think.

Originally posted on January 29, 2009

“With the growing level of dissatisfaction with programs such as Six Sigma, the question we need to ask and answer is quite simply this . . . what are the critical elements of a successful process improvement initiative?

This white paper focuses on the possible reasons behind the alarming number of failed or struggling programs and provides insight into why Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge establishes a meaningful foundation upon which Forrest Breyfogle’s Integrated Enterprise Excellence methodology consistently delivers superior results.”

Excerpt from “The Key Principles behind the Integrated Enterprise Excellence” White Paper (January 2009).

When I first began work on this white paper, I intended to discover why, beneath the veneer of excellence, there appeared to be a growing disenchantment with programs such as Six Sigma, Lean and even closer to home relative to supply chain practice, SCOR.

As I began peeling back the proverbial onion, it became evident that the above methodologies shared many of the same characteristics “linked” to the challenges in the enterprise software and outsourcing industries. More specifically, I am talking about the “long on promise, short on delivery” dilemma that is usually tied to a “just fix it” executive mindset. In short, an approach based more on expedience than practical application.

Don’t get me wrong; there are, of course, Six Sigma successes. But as my past research has consistently demonstrated, said success had little to do with the actual methodology or technology employed and more with the people charged with the program’s execution. One such example is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s eVA initiative. While Virginia had utilized Ariba as the platform for the program, their success would have been the same regardless of the enterprise vendor with whom they chose to work. The fact that Ariba, like most other vendors, experiences a high initiative failure rate gives testimony to this fact.

The absence of a scalable success model results from putting too great an emphasis on compliance with a formulaic approach to widespread adoption instead of an active engagement between key stakeholders. Given the findings, the myopic adherence to user adoption rate is at the heart of the growing disenchantment with Six Sigma, Lean and other similar-type programs.

This seeming disconnect brings me back to the fundamental question; what are the key or critical elements of a successful initiative? I believe this paper on Integrated Enterprise Excellence represents the first step toward answering that question.    

Use the following link to access the paper in its entirety:

Posted in: Commentary