We are using Six Sigma for internal process improvement while at the same time I’m reading The Power of Pull. I found myself wondering if we these two theories can co-exist.
Six Sigma is deeply rooted in process improvement; finding cost savings through innovation and iterative improvements. Sounds great in theory and has substantial research to show its worth in delivering. But The Power of Pull throws some serious threats at that foundation – accelerating change disrupts iterative cost improvements.
The book the Power of Pull suggests that the way we think, relate, and work have all been dramatically changed. The old model of building something, then pushing it out, just can’t keep pace with the rapid pace of change we now face. As I was reading the book I was also reading content on Six Sigma. I couldn’t help but feel like the Six Sigma content was solely focused on how to live in a PUSH-world of incremental optimization.
If the big shift described in The Power of Pull has occurred, then we need to rethink how we focus on improvements as well. We need to learn from Six Sigma, but apply it in a deeply interconnected web of people and information that allows us all to respond faster. The results may still be cost savings, but more likely those cost savings will be a result of some disruptive, or breakthrough, innovation discovered through serendipity.
We need to break the mold, start connecting with a broad audience of people, so we can improve ourselves and our organizations we work for by utilizing the Power of Pull. Only with that big shift can some of the content of Six Sigma still remain. Otherwise Six Sigma must suffer the same demise as push – it must die a slow death from becoming obsolete, isolated, and ineffective.
Here is a video of authors John Hagel III and John Seely Brown discussing The Power of Pull: