3M CEO on Six Sigma

3M in building spree to end capacity constraints

3M should complete the first of an 18-factory build-out in the third quarter, said its chief executive late Tuesday, as it makes up for years of underinvestment on the factory floor – even in its well-known household products. “Our major challenge will be getting all these plants launched,” said 3M CEO George Buckley at a Lehman Brothers conference. Buckley, who joined the St. Paul, Minn. company just over a year ago, has embarked on a global physical expansion program… Buckley said he realized the company was facing manufacturing constraints in several of its product lines.

In the past, a 3M culture that viewed new investment with circumspection and an over-reliance on the Six Sigma management technique made it shy of building some needed capacity, Buckley said. “We got ourselves into a position in which we thought Six Sigma would come to our rescue. We all known that in reality it’s something that runs out of steam,” he said.

Well if you “know” that you are not properly executing a six sigma management system. Previous posts on this topic: Management Advice FailuresChange is not ImprovementLeaving Quality Behind?Going lean Brings Long-term Payoffs. Often six sigma programs amount to cost cutting programs (which can easily run out of steam); but that is so far from effective six sigma management. It isn’t fair to equate a programing calling itself “six sigma” but not using six sigma methods with the actual practice of six sigma management.

Still the CEO still seems to believe in lean six sigma [the broken link was removed]:

“We will continue to drive our growth agenda, which will be funded via aggressive productivity improvement efforts, such as global strategic sourcing and lean six sigma.”

CEO’s speak a great deal, so I might be taking too close a look at what might have been a poorly worded statement (with so many comments available I can understand slip ups). But I find the attitude conveyed by his words widespread – and wrong. The value gained from a good adoption of a management system should grow over time. To me this is a very important point. If your management system is not providing greater and greater advantages over time you should see that as a serious problem. And the adoption of a newly branded management fad (from MBO to TQM to BPR to Six Sigma to Lean Six Sigma…) as the “solution” to this problem is doomed to fail (just like the last 5 times it was done) and rightfully make managers adopting such a re-branding solution the subject to ridicule by Dilbert readers. Adopt a management system. Make it yours. Incorporate good ideas from the outside but incorporate them into a long term management system that remains stable.

If “new management ideas” actually result in minor changes that amount mainly to new slogans that are fit into the same way business has always been done don’t bother wasting time having everyone learn new ways to include new terms in meetings. If each year (with of course an understanding of variation – the overall trend should be…) you don’t feel you are significantly improved take that as a sign of serious problems and spend management time fixing and improving the management system.

Related: How to Practice Six Sigma ManagementWill Six Sigma Fix Bad Management?Deming and Six SigmaSix Sigma Portallean manufacturing articles

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