Agility vs. Six Sigma

My response to the agilemanagement list:

I agree with David Anderson [the broken link was removed], in this thread [this broken link was also removed], as well as pretty much everything else actually. If I understand his writing correctly I am probably a bit more critical of how Six Sigma is actual practiced, but that is fairly minor difference of opinion.

I have posted a couple item on managing innovation

You manage processes, such as thinking up a new way to use computer technology, differently than you 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.

I think David is right to point to Clayton Christen’s work – people talking about managing innovation should read it. Others to read: Edward deBono (he especially has very defined processes to encourage innovative thinking) and Gary Hamel articles.

Previous post on Innovation in Organizations. Google also has good examples, on this topic:

Douglas Merrill, senior director, information technology at Google “Innovation doesn’t happen ‘on the way by,’ it must be design into everything we do,”

Some people dislike the idea of managing processes. In my experience they then invent the idea that slow, boring process improvement is an alternative to innovation. That is just wrong. Process improvement should be part of a well run system, as should innovation. Deming, who many believe focused only process improvement, knew the importance of both. See several of Deming’s ideas on innovation.

Because Deming talked about the importance of using data to improve processes some believe he only focused on “incremental improvement.” Deming continually stressed the need to innovate. And stressed that those who did not innovate but aimed for “zero defects” or continual improvement of an outdated product or service were doomed to fail.

I have long been an advocate of Deming’s ideas (which are the basis for much of lean thinking and a fair amount of Six Sigma also). So I do get annoyed when people try to paint the issue as process improvement v. innovation.

John Hunter

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