TQM, ISO 9000, Six Sigma: Do Process Management Programs Discourage Innovation?
“In the appropriate setting, process management activities can help companies improve efficiency, but the risk is that you misapply these programs, in particular in areas where people are supposed to be innovative,” notes Benner. “Brand new technologies to produce products that don’t exist are difficult to measure. This kind of innovation may be crowded out when you focus too much on processes you can measure.”
Well I don’t think the idea that innovation is needed was not understood decades ago. It seems to be one of the typical refrains when people want to change – oh that old stuff was only about x and now we need to focus on Y.
I commented on this before: Fast Company Interview: Jeff Immelt
As to focusing only on measurable items: yeah that has been recognized as bad, again for decades.
Says Benner: “Our message is this: Companies that have process management in one area must realize that it can bleed into other areas of the company, and you must prevent that from happening. Use these approaches where they make sense — and deliberately do not have them in areas that are focused on innovation.”
I disagree. Managing processes is a good idea. You manage appropriately to the process, of course.
Google has a very well known management commitment to allowing engineering one day a week to work on personal projects:
Google engineers all have ’20 percent time’ in which they’re free to pursue projects they’re passionate about. This freedom has already produced Google News, Google Suggest, AdSense for Content, and Orkut – products which might otherwise have taken an entire start-up to launch.
You manage processes such as thinking up a new way to use computer technology differently than you manage a process to manufacture tires. But the idea that you don’t manage and improve the process just because the process seems discontinuous is a mistake.
Some thoughts on managing innovation: