Whatever became of Six Sigma? | Alfred Kieser | brand eins


Alfred Kieser

“TQM and Six Sigma are management fads that obey similar laws to clothing fashions. There are fashion designers who create the trend, and multipliers who disseminate and popularize it. These primarily include business consultants, but also scientists, managers, non-fiction authors or journalists. And there is the customer base that hopes to benefit from going with the fashion without having to think about it or take responsibility.”

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Michel Baudin‘s comments: Thanks to Ferdinand Grah for drawing my attention on LinkedIn to this interview of German management thinker Alfred Kieser. The article is in German. In it, Kieser paints a bleak picture of Six Sigma at GE and how former CEO Jack Welch leveraged it to his own benefit while wrecking the organization with rank-and-yank management. As for agility, he sees it as “just as content-free as the Balanced Scorecard.”

Some of the comments on LinkedIn dismiss Kieser as an old curmudgeon who thinks he has seen it all. In my experience, shorter than his, fads affect management just as Kieser describes. There have been fads in the past,  there are today, and there will be in the future. We can deplore it but it’s pointless. With objectivity, we should instead figure out how to leverage fads to make progress.

It’s not quite as nefarious as Kieser describes. If we start from the principle that managers must not just to run operations but also improve them, we find that they cannot use the same methods forever, regardless of how effective they are. When first introduced in an organization, small-group activity, individual suggestions, Kaizen events, or Katas are perceived by the workforce as new and possibly exciting. Five years later, they are stale rituals and managers need something new to rekindle interest.

#managementfad, #sixsigma, #agility