CEO Kills Six Sigma

Don't Let This Happen to You - Be a Money Belt

I just got this email from a master black belt that I greatly respect:

After months of waiting on a decision from our new CEO we were informed that our last day is near, but we have opportunity to apply for other jobs internally. The new CEO is not a supporter of Six Sigma and Innovation. We have saved over $20M in hard dollar savings, trained hundreds who have advanced their careers and made major improvements. It is very disappointing, but after multiple CEOs in a few years it was going to happen. The former CEOs have all been great supporters, so the new guy is going to do things differently. He uses "what works". No one knows what that is yet.

I am writing to see if you know any companies that may be looking for a Dedicated and Hard Worker!!! ME

This shows one of the great fallacies of the "get top level commitment for Six Sigma." When there's a change in leadership, Six Sigma can go bye bye, even if you have real savings.

According to executive recruiting firm Spenser Stuart, in 1980, CEO's served an average of eight years. By 2005, that number was seven and dropped to five years for the Fortune 500. My guess is that it is closer to three years now.

It Doesn't Matter How Many People You've Trained

Training lots of people in Lean Six Sigma isn't a measure of success.

Results are the only real measure of success. 

Be a Money Belt

Keep a record of your projects and the savings associated with them. If you can't measure the dollar savings, you're on the chopping block. If you can measure them, then you have leverage with the new leadership and a great resume even if the new leader doesn't care. 

Here's My Point
With the economy in trouble, every business leader is going to be looking at the bottom line: what contributes and what doesn't. The quality department has always been an easy target.

It would be great if we could convert every business to have a quality management system, but a new CEO isn't brought in to keep things the same; they are brought in to shake things up. And many times the good is thrown out with the bad.

Lean Six Sigma is one of the things that new CEOs kill in favor of innovation. When innovation fails, the next CEO will bring in some form of improvement methodology, maybe the next iteration of Lean Six Sigma.

I believe the best we can hope for is to create some Money Belts who can find and fix problems that contribute to lost profits. CEOs may come and go, but Money Belts are invaluable and can work their magic in any climate.

If the corporate culture matures to the point that it embraces a quality management system or some customer demands it as a condition of doing business, fantastic. Until then, be a Money Belt! Tell everyone stories of your improvements. Make yourself invaluable to the business. Then, even if the quality department goes away, you and the improvement methods will remain.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537,"

Free Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt TrainingTake our FREE Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training online.