Following the Path to Victory

ImageDecember 15, 2013 Authored by Dr. Mikel J. Harry, The Great Discovery, LLC.

Introduction and Overivew

Through our discussion, you will discover a time-tested way of thinking that will better enable you to reach out and breakthrough to a higher quality of life – a proven path to your dreams.  You will also discover how to plan your journey by leveraging the strong spirit that is already within you. In addition, you will learn how to overcome roadblocks – and conquer obstacles along the way –  by using a SMART system.  To stay on track, you will discover how to employ a simple strategy that can better focus your daily actions.  Taken together, a mastery of these four objectives will greatly increase your odds of success – in everything you do – in your personal life, your home life and your work life.  It is a unified way of looking at the world – the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

If we were to travel back in time, we would find that many of the world’s great discoveries were made possible through the power of science.  It is through the power of science that we can gain a unique perspective of the world around us – perspectives that will better enable us to discover how to close the gaps between our life experiences and our expectations of life.  Through the power of science you can realize breakthrough to a higher quality of life – in everything you do, the Six Sigma Way.

We will begin our journey by examining the Six Sigma Way Of Thinking, or simply SWOT for short.  The Six Sigma Way is a systematic process of reasoning.  It is a way of thinking that empowers the ordinary, people like you and I, to reach out and achieve the extraordinary.  It is a universal way to achieve and amplify the results you get in the pursuit of your dreams – in your personal life, home life and work life.

For example, the Six Sigma Way Of Thinking is a vital tool for building personal and professional relationships – relationships that are more focused, highly synergistic and mutually rewarding.  The Six Sigma Way Of Thinking can help you manifest a stronger, more enriched foundation for your family – an environment that will foster greater unity, personal growth and satisfaction – within and between family members. The Six Sigma Way Of Thinking is a powerful set of leadership skills that can help you assemble, train and guide high performance work teams.  In other words, the Six Sigma Way Of Thinking is a systematic method for unifying work teams and focusing their efforts to better innovate and execute high quality solutions to business issues and problems.

Proven Path

Establishing Where You Are Going

Let us now turn our attention to the “Proven Path” – the roadmap to breakthrough.  At the heart of this discussion is the concept of Six Sigma, so let us now come to understand its practical meaning and how it can relate to our daily lives.  Perhaps we should begin by asking the question – “What is Six Sigma?”  Simply stated, Six Sigma is a better way to improve – everything you do.  So, what is a “Sigma”?  Well, it’s a measure of the goodness in something.  For example, we might ask – how many sigma’s are good enough to ensure a high quality life?  Well, generally speaking, a two or three sigma experience is normally considered to be poor – a low quality experience.  Through extensive benchmarking data, we also know that a four sigma experience is average; and five to six sigma is exceptional – world class performance – extraordinary in nature.

So as to gain a deeper and more personal understanding of this concept, let’s consider the quality of a commercial flight.  Of course, passenger safety is at the top of our list.  The hard data has revealed that passenger safety is about 6.4 sigma.  This means that the your odds of you being involved in a fatal incident are only about one in two million. However, the loss of your bags is another story.  The odds of your bags not showing up on the carousel are about 1 in 180, which translates to 4 sigma.

So what does this really mean to you on a personal level?  Simply stated, the next time you travel on a commercial airplane, your body is about 12,000 times more likely to get there when compared to the odds of your bags arriving.  Without a doubt, that’s an incredible difference.  Given this difference, we would naturally want to know if the odds of success can somehow be favorably biased or otherwise improved.  Yes, you can change the odds to your favor – by the way you play the game!

For example, when you check your bags, the likelihood of seeing them at the other end is 4 sigma, whereas putting those bags in an overhead bin near your seat is better than 6 sigma.  Thus, the odds of your bags arriving are the same as your body getting there; and that’s a 12,000 times improvement!  So the way you play the game can dramatically improve your odds of success.

To better grasp this big idea, let’s consider fishing by asking the question: “How do you catch more fish?”  Of course, many would say that to catch more fish, you need a faster boat, different bait, or better gear – maybe even a guide or better training.  After all, this would just be “common sense,” right?  Well, to dramatically change the odds of success, you must abandon “common sense” and adopt “extraordinary sense.”  Why?  Because common sense is just that, it’s common – you know, ordinary.  Common sense can only produce common results!  To get extraordinary results, you need extraordinary sense – you need the Six Sigma Way of Thinking. Rather than catching fish one at a time, why not catch the entire school of fish?  Do  it faster, more confidently and with less effort – the Six Sigma Way.

Focusing Your Attention on Thinking

To expand our understanding of what Six Sigma is, let us quickly review its evolution over the last two decades.  In the early 80’s, Motorola originally created Six Sigma as a way to make quantum improvements in the quality of its products.  Then, in the 90’s, General Electric ushered in the era of deploying Six Sigma as a business tool to reduce operating costs and enhance profitability.  Then, in the 2000’s, DuPont Corporation inaugurated the third generation of Six Sigma by reshaping its focus into a stimulant for corporate growth and increased shareholder value; thereby, enhancing the total value chain.  And now, after two decades of global success, Six Sigma has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Management Innovations in the last 150 years!

Across the 20 years of Six Sigma’s successful practice – within many fine corporations around the world, from many different industries, and from many different experiences, we gained priceless lessons in what it takes to create and sustain breakthrough improvement.  Over several months of research, our team of world-renowned subject-matter-experts carefully filtered these vital lessons to extract the essential leadership practices that are required to create breakthrough.  The results of this inspiring work revealed a pattern of thinking that was consistent across virtually all of the documented cases where a positive, quantum change was achieved.

The synergistic pattern associated with this extraordinary way of reasoning is characterized by the proven path to breakthrough and three supporting principles of success.  Quickly, it became obvious to all of the researchers that these four elements were at the core of sustainable breakthroughs; thereby, constituting The Great Discovery. This advance in leadership thinking has since been defined as the fourth generation of Six Sigma, which is focused on personal achievement and called the “The Six Sigma Way of Thinking,” or simply SWOT.  This great discovery means that you can now focus the power of Six Sigma on improving the quality of your life – in everything you do – and realize your dreams, at any level.

Breaking You Journey into Stages

Let’s now look at the Proven Path to breakthrough.  From 60,000 feet we can say that this path is underpinned by two key concepts.  First, we must understand that breakthrough begins with divergent thinking – exploring the realm of what “could be,” that is to say, “what might be possible” if the right conditions are present.  We must always stretch our thinking until we see a new horizon – to the point where others might say “that’s impossible.”  In other words, we must create a vision for our own life, the lives of our loved ones and our work teams that goes well beyond the walls of our current thinking.  This means that we must decisively expand the scope of what we believe is probable and mindfully explore what might be possible.  In other words, we must dream big and wide, and then stretch ourselves to raise the bar of expectation even higher.

Then, once your dream has been indelibly etched into every corner of your mind (and spirit), you must converge toward thinking about the way in which that dream can be realized – you know, how you will get from point “A” to point “B,” so to speak. Thus, by leveraging the exploratory process of divergence and then exercising the process of convergence, you can significantly increase your odds of success.  Essentially, this way of thinking involves four progressive stages of activity.

The first activity is called “Do The Dreaming,” which is followed by the stage “Dream the Doing.”  These two stages satisfy the need to engage divergent thinking, but done so in a cause and effect kind of way.  Stage three is all about planning the journey and; therefore, referenced as “Plan the Doing.”  The final stage of activity is focused on executing the plan; consequently, it is called “Do the Plan.”   Naturally, the latter two stages satisfy the need for decisive and timely execution.  Later on in our discussion, we will explore each of the four stages in greater detail to better understand their implications and applications.

However, at this point in our discussion, we must recognize that the process of divergence and convergence is both art and science.  Naturally, everyone thinks a little differently; however, regardless of such differences, we use two sides of our brain – the right-hand side and the left-hand side.  The right side is characterized by creative thinking. Of course, we call upon our inner creativity to support the two stages of divergence; namely, “Do the Dreaming” and “Dream the Doing.”  These activities require us to be innovative in our thinking.

The left side of our brain is driven by logic.  As a consequence, we use this side to help us “Plan the Doing” and “Do the Plan.” Consequently, the left side of our brain plays a dominant role during execution.  Since each of us has a dominant side, it is usually prudent to involve others in the pursuit of your dream.  For example, if you are predominantly “right brained,” you can increase your odds of success by getting a left-brained friend, colleague, or teammate to help you during the convergence activities, that is the stages of “Plan the Doing” and “Do the Plan.”

We will now turn our attention to the Three Principles of Success that supports the Proven Path.  First, we need a Strong Spirit to help us to envision the journey.  Second, we need a Smart System to help clear the path along the way.  Third, we need a Simple Strategy to help us stay on track.  And that’s the Six Sigma Way, which is a proven way of thinking that empowers the ordinary to achieve the extraordinary.

Strong Spirit

Exploring All of Your Possibilities

In this session, we will explore how a Strong Spirit can help us envision the journey to our dreams and how the human spirit can help guide us when creating the roadmap of realization.  Interestingly, this segment of our discussion will require you to think with the right-side of your brain (the creative side).  So, if you are left-brain dominant, you might need some additional interpretation and coaching from some of your right-brain friends or colleagues!

Perhaps the best place to begin is by asking the question: “What is the Six Sigma Spirit?”  Simply stated, the Six Sigma Spirit is a Strong Spirit.  Remember, you create dreams mostly with your spirit rather than rationality and logic.  Your spirit is the energy that will drive you to undertake the journey to breakthrough, regardless of whether that breakthrough is for your personal life, your home life or your work life.  While it takes a spirit to “Do the Dreaming,” it requires a strong spirit to “Dream the Doing.”  So what does this all mean anyway?  Well, “Do the Dreaming” is all about envisioning the destination, while “Dream the Doing, as you have probably already guessed, is all about envisioning the journey – how you will get there!

Many people don’t realize that the doorway to any dream is always present and that the keys to that door are always in your hand.  Your possibilities in life are virtually endless.  The door you choose unlock and pass through is just a matter of choice – and you can choose that door at any point in your life.  For example, consider the door called “Quality of Life.” Naturally, we all dream of how to achieve a high quality life, but sometimes we impose limits on our dream.  However, at all times, we must recognize that there are no limits on dreaming.  If so, they’re artificial and self-imposed.  So, to envision your breakthrough to a higher quality of life, you must ignore what you think is probable (that is, what you believe is likely).  You must expand your box and let your inner spirit explore what is possible.

For example, let’s consider the dream of a college education.  Many of us dream about getting a higher education and recognize the related benefits, not only to ourselves, but to those around us.  Well, remember that you always have a green light to explore what’s possible, regardless of whether or not you (or others) think it is probable.  You are always free to raise the bar at anytime you want.  So go ahead and seize the moment – dream bigger, dream wider and dream farther.  Unbridle your spirit and explore the possibilities for your personal life, your home life and your work life.

Recognizing the Needs that Drives Your Behvior

You can greatly enhance your chances of realizing a dream by aligning that dream to the needs of others.  To better understand this point, let’s consider the quest to realize a college education.  You can increase your odds of success and concurrently expand your sphere of influence by aligning your dream to the needs of others.  Why?  Because it is an empowering form of human psychology – people naturally seek to satisfy their needs and will migrate some of their energy to the realization of your dream if the realization of that dream will help them satisfy their needs (fully or partially).  Expressed differently, others will help you realize your dream if it will help them satisfy one or more of their pressing needs in life.

But what kind of needs are we talking about?  Well, at the lowest level (and arguably the most important) we are talking about survival needs – like food, shelter and clothing.  Naturally, when this set of lower order needs has been largely satisfied, we turn our attention to fulfilling our security needs – like having a safe living environment and workplace.  This pyramid-like structure of human need is called Maslow’s Hierarchy.  So, if you want to increase your odds of success, then be sure to link the vital elements of your dream to the needs of others.

Paying Attention to the Road Signs

Another tremendous tactic that will greatly increase your odds of success is to envision the details of your dream.  Not only does this practice bring clarity to your dream, it will also help others see how their knowledge, skills and assets can be used to help you along the way.  To better illustrate what is meant by this, let us return to our education example and just imagine some of the details associated with this dream.

We can well imagine some of the experiences that would be associated with graduation. By envisioning the details, you can begin to see yourself in the picture, so to speak – but in a vivid and detailed way.  You can then look through your mind’s eye and see the details of your commencement; envision yourself throwing the cap far into the air; see what your graduation cake will look like and how it will taste; as well as seeing and touching the official seal on your college diploma.  These are the ways you can increase the probability of fully realizing your dream – by envisioning the details, which is a Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Declaring Your Quest for the Best

To further increase your odds of our success, you must declare the quest.  To do this, you must write about it, talk about it, and share it with others.  In this way, you become increasingly committed to making the journey (in a highly visible way).  Naturally, through these types of communications, you will be consciously (and subconsciously) creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So, seal the deal with yourself and commit to the journey.  Share it with others, talk about it, write about it!  That’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Creating Your Roadmap to Victory

Once you are fully committed to the dream, you must set about creating a roadmap.  The pursuit of a big dream is often characterized by many uncertainties – like those uncertainties associated with traveling through unfamiliar lands.  Arguably, this is perhaps the biggest reason for failed dreams – the lack of a good map to show the way.  How can anyone undertake a journey to unfamiliar lands without a map?  Yes, it’s certainly possible without the benefit of a map, but not probable.  So, increase your odds of success by mapping the journey.

To do this, we must define a starting point and then declare the destination, also called our “dream.”  To help guide our way, we must establish milestones.  Of course, milestones are like checkpoints.  Milestones are a way to keep your journey on track and provide you (and others supporting you) with a level of confidence that you are steadily making progress (as scheduled). Of course, such milestones must be carefully chosen and then meaningfully aligned to your dream.  In this sense, milestones are like the key markers along an interstate highway.   When you establish clear indicators of progress, then all you have to do is follow the path – one step at a time.

For example, consider looking out to the future and foreseeing the realization of your dream – like a college education.  If you can immediately see your way clear to the realization of that dream, then your dream is way too small.  Why? Because your existing capabilities can get you there.  You don’t have to learn new ways or improve yourself in some way.  You don’t have to stretch!  You just tweak your existing system and then jump right to the dream.  Well, let me tell you, that’s not much of a dream.  It’s more like a goal or objective.  So, if you believe your current way of thinking can get you there, then make your dream bigger!  Stretch yourself to the limits and then stretch some more!  In this way, you force yourself to reexamine the way in which you get work done, not simply tweak the existing system.

Once you have a big dream in hand (so to speak) then you would naturally ask yourself: “How can I get there?”  The answer to this question lies embedded within a proven concept that is quite old and well tested – Divide and Conquer!

To illustrate how this concept can be applied to increase your odds of success, consider the dream of getting a college degree.  Rather than eat the whole cake in one setting, cut it up into bite-sized pieces – Divide and Conquer.  Break the journey into milestones – intermediate goals along the path.  Milestones are the meaningful short-term achievements that you are going to realize on your way to the dream.  For example, successfully completing a college application could be viewed as a major milestone.  To keep your spirits high and reinforce your efforts, you should celebrate your work and meaningfully reward yourself whenever a milestone is achieved.

At this point, you might ask how you are going to get from one milestone to the next.  The answer to this question should be fairly obvious – one step at a time.  However, what is not so obvious is the fact that 80% of your milestones will likely prove easy (just like eating a piece of cake), but 20% of those milestones will prove difficult or seemingly insurmountable.

We call the easy milestones “JDIT’s,” which is pronounced “Jay Ditz” and stands for Just-Do-It.   Remember, JDIT’s comprise the 80%, or “Trivial Many” as some would say.  Essentially, these are the “no brainers.” These are the types of milestones where you can intuitively define what activities must be accomplished; naturally recognize the order in which those steps must be taken; and know how to engage the forces underlying those steps.

For the more difficult or ambiguous milestones related to your dream (you know, those among the 20%), you need breakthrough.  You need to apply the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.  You need to SWOT those milestones to increase your odds of success – just remember the airline baggage example.  Very often, one or more of the critical milestones (Vital Few) will resist being conquered.  Avoid defeat and capture victory – The Six Sigma Way.

Smart System

Designing Your Own Opportunities

Engagingly, this particular segment of our discussion will require you to think with the left-side of your brain (the logical side).  So, if you’re right-brain dominant, you might need some additional interpretation and coaching from some of your left-brain friends or colleagues!

Let’s open this session with a big question:  What is the Six Sigma System?   Well, it’s a Smart System.  Whenever you accomplish your work through a proven system, you can achieve success in a consistent, reliable and repeatable way.  If you want to increase your odds of success, use a system and not your intuition.

The Six Sigma Way of Thinking relies on a proven system that is based on the Law of Determinism, which is a belief that every effect in this world has a root cause. You experience this concept every day of your life, in everything you do. For example, consider a common light bulb.  You throw the switch which, in turn, allows electricity to reach the bulb that makes the light.  This is clearly a case of cause-and-effect – the flow of electricity is provided to the bulb by way of the switch.

Now, we can simplify our understanding of this basic relationship by using three letters from the alphabet.  In this way, we create a simple visual icon that symbolizes what happens when a cause is engaged to create an effect.  Let’s use the letter “Y” to represent the effect, also known as the “outcome,” or “result” as some would say.  Next, we will assign the letter “f” and “X” to jointly signify the cause.  We can now use these three letters to say: “Y is a function of X.”  In other words, the effect “Y” is determined by the cause “f(X).”  In other words, these letters say that “Y” is the result and “f” is the way in which the “X’s” are blended together to result in the creation of “Y.”

Thus, we can now say that the light (Y) is the result of providing electricity to the bulb (f and X).  In this sense, the letter “f” represents “the way” that electricity (X) is delivered to the bulb so as to create light (Y).  So, you can use these three letters as a “mental filter” to help you better understand why things happen the way they do.  By incorporating this mental filter into your current pattern of reasoning, you can turbo-charge your thinking.  This means you will begin to look at life in a different, yet more natural way.  As you begin to think this way, your overall pattern of thinking will better align and harmonize with the laws of nature.  As this happens, you will naturally gain greater control over the forces that are needed to reshape your life – and do so in a more reliable and confident way.  After you have become accustomed to using this simple equation (as a mental filter), you will automatically begin to saying to yourself: “What are the Y’s that define success in this situation and what are the critical X’s that will create that success?”

In this way, the three letters (Y, f and X) can help you determine what “to do” in order to increase the odds of achieving your dreams!  In this sense, “f” and “X” is the “to do” and “Y” is “what you get.”  This deterministic system of cause-and-effect is telling you that the realization of your dreams, goals and aspirations is the direct result of the way you engage certain vital forces in your life – your personal life, home life and work life.  In other words, the quality of your life is the result of what you “do” in life – plain and simple.  While this may seem incredibly obvious, we often overlook what is right in front of us and, as a consequence, wind up missing out on many of the relate benefits.  Through a deterministic system, you can create a new perspective of the world around you.  By looking at the ordinary in an extra-ordinary way, you will gain new insights which, in turn, will drive fresh ideas on how to create breakthrough in your life – in everything you do.

For example, we all want to have “opportunities” in our life.  But far too many people associate opportunity with “luck,” which is the intersection of chance circumstances.  However, when we look at the idea of an “opportunity” (per say) through the lens of determinism, we come to realize that an opportunity is nothing more than a set of conditions (like forces) that are favorable to the realization of some end (i.e., result).  In this case, an opportunity (Y) can be intentionally created by designing and manifesting the prerequisite conditions (X’s).  When you do this, you create the opportunity rather than simply waiting on chance circumstances to create it for you – which might never happen!  In other words, by leveraging the law of determinism, you can design your own destiny – for your personal life, home life and work life.

So, how does this big idea of “Determinism” affect your daily life?  Stated differently, you might ask: “What is the chain of cause-and-effect relationships that determines my life experiences?”  Well, the answer to either form of this question is really very generic and quite simple.  According to the law of determinism, every outcome in your life is the direct result of actions (or forces), regardless of whether you or someone else (or something else) initiates those actions.  In turn, the law of determinism would further declare that every human action first begins as a conscious or subconscious thought.  Wow, let’s dwell on that last thought for just a second!  Humankind has never accomplished anything that did not first begin as a thought (such as an idea, question or concept).  Now that’s something to really think about!

So, the conclusion here should be fairly self-evident – What you think about, you bring about – and that’s a big idea.  As a matter of fact, that’s a profound idea that can change the course of your life and allow you to breakthrough to new levels of benefits for yourself, your family and your work.

Let’s now extend our understanding of determinism by considering the domino effect.  You know, where the falling of one domino is the result of another domino falling.  In this case, the chain of cause-and-effect events continues until the last domino topples. Like falling dominos, the law of determinism would edict that your life is no different – it is a series of events, where one event is the cause of the next until the final result comes to pass, which may (or may not) align to your expectations – unless you have carefully designed the chain-of-causation to produce the result you want, need or expect.  Well, here’s the great news – it’s never too late to alter the outcome.  All you have to do is break the existing chain-of-causation by altering your life forces and/or the way in which you engage those forces.

Once you begin to think this way and look at the world through the window of determinism, you will naturally begin to define a new path for your life – a new destiny – a destiny in which you control the forces (i.e., events) in your life and how those forces must be bundled and interconnected to create a desired result.  So, we can summarize all this with a simple chain of logic.  When you commit to continuously think about the actions that are needed to achieve a certain result, you will consciously and/or subconsciously work to bring about those actions if, and only if, you are equally committed to achieving the result.  As you manifest those actions (i.e., forces), you will bring about the results you expect or otherwise anticipate; and as you bring about those interlinking results, you will assuredly increase the odds of manifesting your dream.  That’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Making Your Actions Systematic

In order to further increase your odds of success, you can leverage the Law of Determinism by using a system to get things done.  So, what is the Six Sigma system?  Well, it’s a Smart System – the kind of system that can amplify the net effect of your efforts.  The term “SMART” is an acronym (i.e., a set of letters) that stands for simple, manageable, actionable, repeatable and teachable.

These five criteria are essential if you are going to create a system that will work for you.  Almost without saying, the use of a SMART system translates to “working smarter, not harder.”  Through a SMART system, you will become more effective, as well as more efficient – in everything you do.  Not only that, you will become better enabled to transfer your knowledge to others – like your coworkers, colleagues and loved ones – so they too can replicate your way of achieving success.  When that happens, your sphere of influence is greatly increased which, in turn, increases your odds of success!

When you accomplish your work through a SMART system, that system will multiply the net effect of your efforts and better synchronize those efforts toward the creation of a high quality outcome – time and time again.  So make your journey easy, effective, efficient and more economical, choose the Six Sigma Way – it’s the SMART way to go.

So what is a system anyway?   Well, consider your life.  You currently have certain driving and restraining forces in your life – you know, the X’s.  The X’s are the forces that you combine and engage (in various ways) to make things happen.  Naturally, these X’s are the “inputs” to your life (i.e., the forces that drive your life experiences).  When you process those inputs (i.e., forces) in a certain way “f,” you get a certain result “Y” (i.e., output).  Of course, the net effect of these outputs (i.e., experiences) is called your “life.”  In other words, the quality (and perhaps quantity) of your life is a function of how well you process inputs – how well you can transform inputs into outputs.  If you keep processing the same inputs in the same way, you will continue to create the same results.  In short, it can be said that “If you keep doing what you did, you’ll keep getting what you got.”  So it goes according to the laws of nature!

And every now and then, you stop along the path of life to check (or otherwise reflect on) the quality of those experiences.  In other words, you retrospectively evaluate those life experiences to assess whether or not they are meeting your expectations and whether or not those experiences will eventually lead you to the destination you have envisioned.  If the answer is yes, then don’t worry, be happy – keep your life moving in the same direction – keep doing the same thing.  If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it!

However, if the answer is “No,” then you have a limited number of options to improve your situation.  Based on the natural Law of Determinism, there are only three things that can be modified – the output, the process, and/or the inputs – that is, Y, f and/or X, respectively.  First, you might choose to enhance your aim by raising your bar of expectation, but at no time should you consider lowering your expectations, standards or aspirations – that’s simply out of the question.

Second, you can improve the way you get things done – you know, improve the process (the way you bundle and engage the driving and restraining forces in your life).  Third, you can increase or decrease the relative strength of any of the forces that can enable positive action or that could suppress negative action.  This would also include extending your span of control over those forces.

To innovate beneficial changes, you might want to start with the Y and progressively work your way back to X.  To do this, you must first reexamine the performance expectations you have for Y (such as the nature and scale of your dream).  That is, you might want to consider upping the ante by requiring a better result – a higher level of output (i.e., stretching your goals).  In turn, this would likely force you to reexamine the way in which you go about getting work done and, as a consequence, cause you to look for a better way to turn forces into actions.  Finally, you might want to consider introducing new forces into the mix of things.  In summary, you can create beneficial change in your life by one of three ways; A) introducing new elements into the system – fully or partially;  B) modifying certain elements of the existing system – fully or partially; or C) some combination thereof.

Well, that’s how a deterministic system works and how it can be improved – either through innovation (by reasoning from Y to X; and then introducing new elements) or through better execution (by reasoning from X to Y; and then improving the existing elements).  Regardless of your approach to improvement, you must always rely on the power of a deterministic system to help you realize your dreams.  That’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Envisioning the Results You Want

To better grasp the powerful nature of a deterministic system, let’s do a breakdown of its individual elements.  In this way, you can develop a much deeper and richer understanding of how to create breakthrough – in any aspect of your life.

We will begin by focusing on Y – the result.  Interestingly, the “result’ goes by many different names.  For example, “Y” is often referred to as; 1) an outcome, 2) a consequence, 3) an effect, 4) an answer, 5) a conclusion or 6) an output.  But regardless of how you might label Y, it must always be remembered that you cannot take any kind of direct action on Y. This is because Y is always the result of X; therefore, Y is always symptomatic of X – just like sneezing is a symptomatic reaction to the presence of certain pollen.  In this case, Y is the sneezing effect and X is pollen (i.e., the cause).  Eliminate the pollen and you eliminate the sneezing, but a symptomatic elimination of the sneezing (like using a nose spray) does not eliminate the pollen that causes the sneezing.  By the same token, you cannot manifest a dream by spraying your mind with a bottle of hope mixed with positive thoughts about dry sinuses.

Of interest, results can be defined at three different levels.  In the Six Sigma Way of Thinking, the highest level of Y is the realization of a “dream” and that’s usually considered to be a long-term result, or “big Y” as some would say.  At the next level down, we can achieve a “milestone,” which is normally thought of as a mid-term result.  And at the lowest level of the hierarchy is the completion of a “step,” which is usually considered to be a short-term result.  Thus, we plan top-down, but execute from the bottom-up.  In this sense, steps give way to milestones and milestones give way to the dream.

To increase the odds of successful planning, you should always strive to ensure that each milestone is within line-of-sight of the next.  In this way, you keep your confidence of success high by always having the next target within sight.  Like sailing on the ocean, keeping the next land mass (i.e., milestone) in your line-of-sight will greatly simplify your navigation to that point, especially when compared to navigating to some point over the horizon.

As a final caveat, watch out for any enticing “targets of opportunity” that will likely appear along your line-of-sight.  The urge to pursue these little “quick wins along the way” can easily sidetrack your efforts and pull you off the main course – to such an extent, you might find yourself lost in a forest of small opportunities, where your only option to get back on track is to go back to where you started – and perhaps holding a bag of benefits that is less than expected.  So, keep a clear line-of-sight all the way to your dream with the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Focusing on What Matters Most to You

Let’s now consider the X’s (i.e., forces) that are commonly associated with the use of a deterministic system.  As one might suspect, there are many labels for X other than “force.”  Some of these descriptors are inclusive of, but not limited to;  1) habit, 2) action, 3) factor, 4) reason, 5) condition and 6) circumstance, just to mention a few.  But regardless of labeling, we should be aware there are several basic types of forces that can drive or restrain us from realizing a dream, such as; 1) physical forces, 2) intellectual forces, 3) social forces, 4) economic forces, 5) legal forces, 6) spiritual forces, and 7) emotional forces, as well as many others.

Interesting, these forces might reside within us or be external to us and be manifested as habitual or periodic forces.  For example, consider the force called the “power of positive thinking.” This is an intellectual force that might reside within you (i.e., internal to you).  If you continually use the “power of positive thinking,” it would be said that your use of this force is habitual in nature – meaning you naturally use it all the time.  However, if you apply this force in some circumstantial kind of way, then your use of that force would be periodic in nature.  In some situations this force might be used by other people in support of your dream.  In this case, the “power of positive thinking” would be considered an external force, simply because it is being used by others, but not you.  Hence, the “power of positive thinking” is an active force that can be internal and/or external to you; and applied in a habitual or periodic manner.  Thus, it is quite easy to see that there are many types of forces that can be applied in many ways to increase your odds of success.

Let’s now turn our attention to how such forces can influence your dream, regardless of type.  In terms of influence power, forces can be broken down into two categories – the vital few forces and the trivial many.  The “vital few” will normally constitute about 20% of the total forces in any given situation, whereas 80% of forces will be among the trivial many.  So what does this mean?  Well, it is a well known fact that, in most situations, about 80% of any effect (i.e., result) can be explained by 20% of the forces that bring about that effect (i.e., the causes).  This is known as the “Pareto Principle,” which many refer to as the 80/20 rule.  In this sense, the “Pareto Principle” is commonly associated with the “Law of Leverage,” which will be discussed latter on in our discussion.

Essentially, the 80/20 rule holds that 80% of your success in this world can be explained by 20% of the things you accomplish day-to-day.  That’s a very powerful way to look at life.  To better illustrate how this point can be applied, let’s consider sailing.  For example, what forces influence sailing?  Well, there are a lot of them, such as wind speed, size of the sails, type of sails, knowledge of the crew, even the design of the boat, and the list goes on and on.  If our goal is to sail from point “A” to point “B,” then the 80/20 rule would hold that during 80% of the journey, only 20% the forces will prove to be “important”.

Thus, we can conclude that some forces are more powerful than others – not all forces are equal in their ability to influence an outcome.  This means that a few of the forces can significantly bias the odds of success, but do so in a disproportionate way – perhaps positively or negatively, as the case may be.  For example, if you’re sailing a boat from point “A” to point “B,” then wind speed would likely be among the “vital few” forces. However, depending on the wind direction, this particular force could be among the “vital few driving forces” or among the “vital few restraining forces.”  Even this could change across the course of a journey – which means your ability to improvise and adapt to changing circumstances is paramount to increasing your odds of success.  You must be able to capitalize on changing circumstances and always be leveraging the “vital few” forces.

Of course, when all of the forces balance out to a net effect of zero (i.e., when the sum of the driving forces equals the sum of the restraining forces), your “life boat” is dead in the water, so to speak.  In other words, if you sense that your life is going nowhere, it’s probably because there’s no momentum in your life – the driving and restraining forces are counterbalancing each other.  In order to create forward motion and begin sailing towards your dream, you’ve got to leverage the “vital few” forces and ignore the “trivial many.”  Remember the catch phrase: “What you think about, you bring about.”  So start thinking the 80/20 way – the Six Sigma way – and begin thinking about the “vital few” forces in your life.  Do this, and you will naturally begin to manifest those critical forces.  In turn, this will allow you to pick up momentum and sail your boat to the harbor of your dreams.

To better grasp the profound nature of this discussion, let us return to our education example.  Recall that you looked out from some point in your life and spotted a dream called “college degree.”  You then asked how you were going to get there.  At this point, you concluded that you could increase your odds of success through a powerful strategy called “Divide and Conquer.”  Well, to implement this strategy you established some milestones (i.e., deliverables) to mark the way.  In doing so, you recognized that the use of milestones made the journey more accountable and sustainable.  For the sake of discussion, we will say that you decided that “submitting a college application” should be the first milestone and the second milestone should be “receiving a letter of acceptance” from the university you applied to.

Well, at this point, you now pop the big question: “What steps must be taken to get to my next milestone?”  More precisely, this question can be reworded as: “What are the vital few forces that must be enabled and/or disabled to achieve the next milestone?”  By answering this question, you come to understand that a “step” is really nothing more than a short description of how you will engage your forces – how you will turn the forces “on” or turn those forces “off,” just like a light bulb. Thus, the forces are translated into “steps.”  Of course, some forces must be executed before others – which would suggest a natural or logical ordering of the steps.  Once you know what forces must be activated or deactivated; and the general order in which these things must be done, you are ready to commit your action plan to paper (like in the form of a sequenced to-do list).  You might even want to put a completion date beside each step on your to-do list.  Not only will this make your action plan more accountable (to yourself and perhaps others), it will also help ensure an optimal pace-of-execution.  At this point, you are ready to execute the plan.  And that’s how you get from one milestone to the next.  That’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Amplifying Your Driving Forces

Let’s now further dissect the deterministic system by taking a deeper look at the function (i.e, the letter “f”).  Recall that this letter signifies “the way” in which you engage the X’s (i.e., the way you leverage forces in your life or otherwise implement those forces).  Its the way your X’s are transformed into Y.  To better understand all of this, we must first learn about the Principle of Synergy and the Principle of Leverage, as well as how these two principles can be combined to greatly increase your odds of success.

The Principle of Synergy holds that you can amplify the effect of two or more forces if those forces can “play” together.  In other words, their combined effect will be more powerful when implemented concurrently.  This is to say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  For example, consider two typical forces.  We will say that the first force (F1) is “committing the time to do something.”  We will now say the second force (F2) is “thinking positively about getting the work done.”  Naturally, it is easy to see how each force could independently increase your odds of success.  However, when you commit the time to do a task (F1) and, at the same time, you think positively about getting that task done (F2), the net effect would likely be far greater than deploying these two forces at different points in time.  Thus, you can amplify the total applied force through the Principle of Synergy.

Let’s now consider the Principle of Leverage.  This principle holds that you can amplify your efforts by the “way” in which you engage those forces.  In this sense, elements of the Leverage Principle are related to certain elements of the Synergy Principle.  For example, consider a high-jumper.  Such a jumper uses a sequence of certain carefully orchestrated body motions to maximize the height of a jump.  Well, to leverage your efforts, you must carefully orchestrate certain forces in a predefined sequence in order.  Doing so will maximize your odds of success.

To do this, you must first identify the forces you need to activate or deactivate to reach your target milestone.  There are a number of ways to effectively do this (like using brainstorming techniques or asking others who have successfully negotiated the same type of milestone).  Next, you must prioritize those forces from strongest to weakest.  This is usually accomplished by assigning a numerical value to each force, where that numerical value describes the strength of each force and the span-of-control you have over each force.

Once you have prioritized the forces by way of your ratings, you must select the “Vital Few.”  This is most often accomplished by peeling off the top 10 forces.  Yet another strategy would be to select the top 5 drivers and top 5 restrainers.  Thus, you develop more than 80% of the power you need to achieve the target milestone.

With the vital-few forces in hand, you must now sequence those forces in accordance to the order in which they should be applied.  In other words, you must determine which forces should be brought “on-line” first, second, third and so on.  As the old saying goes, “timing is everything.”  Also, remember that you might want to bring two or more of the forces on-line at the same time, so as to create a synergistic effect.

Following this, you must now determine how each of vital few forces can be activated or deactivated, as the case may be – how you will “turn’em on” and/or “turn’em off” at will.  When you do this, you will have successfully defined the “steps” of your action plan.  You will have leveraged their full potential through judicious planning.

Finally, you must activate the forces in accordance to the plan and then monitor the relative effectiveness of your efforts.  In this “way,” you are able to engage the forces in a SMART way – in a way that leverages their effectiveness and maximizes any synergies that might exist.  This is the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Simple Strategy

Simplifying Your Strategy for Success

Let’s open this session with a key question:  What is the Six Sigma Strategy?  Well, it’s a simple strategy, for sure.  We’ve all heard the old, but wise saying: “A journey is never made until the first step is taken.”  This morsel of wisdom is so simple, yet so profound.

For every milestone along the path, you must continually think about how you will get from one milestone to the next.  When compared to a more sophisticated strategy, a simple strategy will increase your odds of success – will maximize your chances of successfully achieving each milestone.  Why?  Because a simpler strategy means there are fewer things that can go wrong!  Owing to the Principle of Simplicity, you have more time to focus on each element of your plan; therein, enabling you to devote more “quality time” to each detail of your planning process.

Consequently, the Simple Strategy is defined by only four steps.  The first step is to continually think about how the deterministic system can leverage and synergize your efforts.  The second step is to plan the forces that will enable you to gain positive momentum.  The third step is to do the plan in an accountable way, which means you will stay on track and accomplish the right things.  The fourth step is to check the results of what you just did and look at where you’re going.  So, for each milestone along the path to your dream, you must complete the Cycle of Execution –Think-Plan-Do-Check, or TPDC for short.  Doing so will increase your odds of success – the Six Sigma Way.

Thinking About How to Best Do Your Work

Let’s now turn our attention to thinking about the system itself. From the highest level, we can say that we should always strive to think about the world in a systematic and deterministic way, as this will allow you to better understand how the world really works – better understand the how’s and why’s things happen – how to better get things done.  Consequently, you must look at the achievement of each milestone in a systematic and deterministic way.  When you do, you will better complete each segment of your journey in a better way – which means that it will be easier, more effective and more efficient, not to mention more economical.

Hence, the first step of the Cycle of Execution is to “Think System.”  Through systematic thinking, your efforts will likely be more consistent with the laws of nature; and this means you won’t find yourself “swimming upstream,” so to speak.  When you are continually thinking about the design and execution of a deterministic system, you will come to continually ask yourself: “What results must I produce today (to get closer to my next milestone)?  In the same breath, you will be asking yourself: “What forces must be engaged today (to keep driving me in the right direction)?

So, of the total time you spend thinking about what’s in front of you, focus on the result 20% of the time and spend 80% of your time focused on the forces that must be engaged to create positive progress.  So why take such a disciplined approach to the realization of your dream?  Because you want a Six Sigma level of confidence when reaching for each milestone.  Just like the airline passenger safety – when your life is on the line, you want maximum confidence of getting to your destination.  You want the highest odds of success that all things will go “right.”  That’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.

Leveraging Your Vital Forces

The second step of the Cycle of Execution is to “Plan Forces.”  This means you must think through the potential cause-and-effect relationships that could synergistically leverage you to your next milestone – the forces that will give you momentum.  At all times you must remember that a plan is just that, it’s a plan, not a rat maze that will guarantee a hard path to the cheese, so to speak.

So, your plan must be “robust.”  This is to say that your plan must be resilient or otherwise impervious to the types of ever-changing conditions that can be reasonably anticipated in advance of execution.  For example, it would be reasonable to expect that a few of the forces might not be engaged to the extent you initially expected. So, you should always have one or more “substitute forces” can that be quickly engaged to pick up the slack and keep things on track.

Let’s now consider the key planning questions that you should consider prior to executing the next milestone.  In this sense, the planning questions are like a set of guidelines that will better steer your preparatory activities.

The first question is:  What forces must be engaged?  This question aims at the vital few drivers and restrainers that will transport you to next milestone.

The second question is:  Who must engage the forces?  Remember the old Beatles song: “We all get by with a little help from our friends”.  In many cases, you may not be the only one that is engaging your forces – others might need to activate one or more of the forces for you.  In such cases, they too should be apart of the planning process (i.e., they must be aware of the coordination points and signals during execution.

The third question is: When must the forces be engaged? As the old saying goes: “Timing is everything.”  You must always remember that the right forces applied at the wrong time will likely produce nothing. So, the moral to this story is simple – carefully think about the timing of your forces – when each force should be activated (or deactivated) to optimize its effect.

The fourth question is: Where must the forces be engaged?  As any real estate agent will tell you – “location, location, location.”  Apply the right forces at the right time from the wrong location and you will likely produce little or nothing.  So, you should give due consideration to the location from which a force should be activated.

The fifth question is: How should the forces be activated?  For example, some forces might be best introduced in a serial kind of way – one at a time.  However, other forces should be introduced in tandem so as to maximize their synergistic (i.e., interactive) effect.  How you combine and integrate the forces can make a huge difference in your results.  And remember – translate your forces into action items that are logically catalogued on a to-do list.

To illustrate this point, let’s return to our education example.  Consider the submission of a college application.  In order to submit a college application in a way that increases the odds of success, you must translate the vital few driving and restraining forces into action items.  For example, “having ready access to key documents” could be a driving force when submitting a college application.  So, you would want to translate this force into a step.  When you make a force actionable, it becomes a required step in your milestone plan – like “get a certified copy of my high school transcript.” Of course, each such action item should appear on your “Milestone To Do” list – in the proper order of execution.

Planning Your Course of Action

The third step of the Cycle of Execution is “Do Plan.”  As the title of this step would infer, you must now take action – execute the plan.  As you begin to execute your plan, you should keep one thought at the forefront of your mind – a daily thought!  Everyday you wake up, you should ask yourself: “Will today’s activities lead me farther from or closer to my next milestone.”

Therefore, keep your “Milestone To Do” list close at hand – like on a 3×5 card you can carry around in your pocket or purse. Maybe even keep it as a screen saver on your computer.  Then, throughout the day, review the list and think about execution. Always remember that what you think about, you bring about.   So, continuously think about the next step you must take to bring about your current milestone. It’s that simple. In this way, you increase your odds of success – The Six Sigma Way.

Checking the Results You Get

The fourth and last step of the Cycle of Execution is “Check Results.”  Essentially, this step advocates that, every now and then, you must take an assessment of where you’ve been.  Like looking at the wake of a boat, a review of your accomplishments will give you a clear idea of the course you’ve been on and the general direction you’re headed.  So, always look over your shoulder at the wake of your efforts – where you’ve been.  Next, check on where you are going – use your intuition like radar.  As you look at the facts of where you’ve been, also listen to what your gut is telling you about where you’re going.  In this way, you’ll have a fairly good idea about whether or not you’re on track.

Just as important, you must always consider the level of noise you encounter along the path.  For example, you will likely have people you know – like friends, coworkers, colleagues or family members – saying your journey is a “pipe dream,” is “impossible,” or “you’re in way over your head.”  Well, these are just a few types of background noise that can easily blur your vision of the road ahead.  So, to keep a clear view of the road in front of you, learn how to dismiss what naysayer’s might be saying – and quit hanging around those that offer negative advice or belittle your efforts. Hold firm to your dream and keep a steady hand on the wheel.  Doing so will help you to eliminate the noise and sustain your progress which, in turn, increases your odds of success.  And that’s the Six Sigma Way of Thinking.


Let’s now take a look at a quick look where we’ve been.  Through the Six Sigma Way of Thinking you have discovered how the ordinary can achieve extraordinary.  How you can realize breakthrough in your personal life, your home life and your work life.  We have also learned how this extraordinary way of thinking can deliver you the results you want and increase your odds of success.

Recall that we use a 4 stage process called the “Proven Path” to create breakthrough – to realize our dreams.  First, you do the dreaming, then you dream the doing, followed by plan the doing and finish with do the plan.  When you do the dreaming, your goal is to explore the possibilities around you, look out to the horizon, increase your vision, dream big and dream wide.  Then you must dream the doing, which means that you must define milestones to mark the journey in front of you.  To increase the odds of success, you must make every effort to align your dream (and milestones) to the needs of others, after which you seek to envision the details of that dream followed by a personal declaration of quest.  As you have learned, the implementation of these guidelines requires a Strong Spirit.

In order to “Plan the Doing,” you must continually think about the deterministic system that structures and guide your efforts.  In this way, your thinking is better aligned to the laws of nature, especially when you reason deterministically when systematically planning your forces.  For these reasons, you need a Smart System.

Then, to help you “Do the Plan” for each milestone, you employ a simple checklist of action items (like a to-do list), after which you check on the results of your efforts by looking at where you’ve been and where you’re going, as well eliminating any sources of noise that can blur or otherwise mask the road ahead.

Then, after achieving a milestone, you meaningfully reward yourself.  That’s the Simple Strategy.  And that’s a proven way of thinking that empowers the ordinary, people like you and I, to achieve the extraordinary.  That’s a Great Discovery for your personal life, your home life and your work life.  And that’s a gift that will keep on giving.  Why? Because once you achieve your dream, you will have exercised the Six Sigma Way of Thinking to such an extent that it’s a way of life for you.  This is of far more value that the realization of any single dream – simply because you can now realize as many dreams as you want!  Perhaps even more importantly, you are now experienced with a system that is repeatable and teachable, which means you can show others the path to breakthrough – how to increase their odds of success.  And that’s certainly worth far more than the realization of any single dream. It’s an incredible gift that you can give to others.  Thank you for your kindness and attention during this presentation.

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Dr. Mikel J. Harry Biography & Professional Vita

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Copyright 2013 Dr. Mikel J. Harry, Ltd.

About Mikel Harry

Dr. Harry has been widely recognized in many of today's notable publications as the Co-Creator of Six Sigma and the world's leading authority within this field. His book entitled Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations has been on the best seller list of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and He has been a consultant to many of the world’s top senior executives, such as Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric Corporation. Dr. Harry has also been a featured guest on popular television programs, such as the premier NBC show "Power Lunch." He is often quoted in newspapers like USA Today and interviewed by the media, such as The Economic Times. In addition, Dr. Harry has received many distinguished awards in recognition of his contributions to industry and society. At the present time, Dr. Harry is Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute and CEO of The Great Discovery, LLC.
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