TQ (Technical Quality) x C (Cultural Acceptance) = A (Achievement)
If you are going to do Six-Sigma, do not forget to champion the culture too.
Here are six facts you should know that can improve your success in six-sigma:
- Without a functionally supportive culture six sigma flounders. This is true not only for six-sigma but for every change management program ever invented. If you want to avoid embarking on another “flavor of the month” do not ignore this fact!
- Culture cannot be improved by technical quality alone. Six Sigma programs typically pursue technical quality (process capability) gains until they hit a cultural constraint, then they try to use either more technical quality or brute managerial force to overcome the constraint (metrics-data driven culture). This may overcome normal politics, but it will not overcome culture failure or its causes. It is a myth that six-sigma single-handedly creates a better culture! Six-sigma is great at discovering culture problems, but unfortunately is rather incapable of solving them.
- Technical quality and an effective culture depend on each other, yet are different things. The more one works in Six-Sigma, the more one comes to understand that process improvement and culture indeed go hand in hand. Ironically, while these are so closely related, they are also entirely different problems utilizing separate bodies of knowledge, causes, and problem solving methodologies. Attempting to use process improvement exclusively to improve culture, or culture exclusively to improve processes, is a non-sequitur error. Both need to be understood and practiced separately, and combined and balanced, to achieve either. Many organizational failures can be traced to management’s failure to properly separate and integrate “TQ” and “C”.
- Culture cannot be imposed, it must be nurtured across the participating social systems. Management cannot plan, direct, and control a culture in the same way that it manages other tasks and resources. Cultures are complex and powerful social systems that operate according to their own codes, aims, and checks and balances. Cultures are like software programming in many regards. To permanently change them one must first change their “codes” of conduct. In software this is LOC (lines of code). In operating culture this is ethics.
- Prevention is cheaper than failure and rework. It is cheaper to prevent culture failure, and program failure, than it is to fail first and then try to fix it. No matter how much hype a new management program professes, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. You can improve your chances of success in any change management program by diagnosing and addressing potential causes of culture failure at the beginning of the program.
- Culture mechanics are measurable and predictable. The supportive capability of an organization’s culture can be diagnosed using the survey method. See our Online Group Survey. By the way, our survey uses six-sigma metrics, making culture management a meaningful six-sigma project. We can show you how.