In today’s fluid business environment, leaders must have the freedom, knowledge and tools to continually improvise and adapt to changing conditions. In this sense, change is not the occasional clash of cymbals, it’s the melody.
To illustrate the profoundness of this idea, consider the practice of Six Sigma. From days gone by, Six Sigma was treated as a constant in the “formula for business success.” Back then, the strategic purpose of Six Sigma was singular. Even way back then the deployment and implementation strategy for Six Sigma was was treated like a set of GPS coordinates. Of course, such a rigid and highly disciplined view of Six Sigma was easily justified owing to its tremendous success across many well respected companies. Nonetheless, the hands of time move on.
Within the present, Six Sigma (as a singular discipline) is failing to produce workable solutions for many of today’s mid-sized and small companies, as well as a few large-scale enterprises. Owing to this drawback, the practice of Six Sigma must become more modular so as to better align itself to new and exciting challenges. Only through modularity of design can Six Sigma be made to exploit the full power other types of improvement programs in a synergistic way. Thus, the power of Six Sigma can be greatly extended and more deeply embedded within the culture of an organization.
Six Sigma is no longer driving change, but rather change is now driving Six Sigma. In this context, Six Sigma should no longer be organized like a formal army whose strategic purpose is to storm the beaches in a massive frontal assault; and then push inland to capture the city of profitability. Rather, the practice of Six Sigma must now emulate the purpose and structure of Special Forces Units, where the highly specialized teams can be collectively scaled and orchestrated to achieve victory for virtually any type of mission.
So what competencies are needed for a leader to effectively organize and coordinate an array of diverse improvement teams? Essentially, such leaders must have the ability to improvise and adapt. They must be able to speak the language of management and know what technical skills are required to move the needle of business (from an operations perspective). With this in mind, they must then be able to cross match their arsenal of available tools and people to the key features of the business terrain upon which the battles of profitability will occur, so to speak.
It also means that such leaders must be exceptional communicators and know how to build strong and lasting relationships within and among the different types of improvement teams. Of course, this translates to a leader that can effectively merge the roles of a Six Sigma Champion with those of a Black Belt, Master Black Belt and Business Manager, all of which need to be set in the context of Integrated Continuous Improvement.
No longer can the world afford the tubular, near independent roles of a Black Belt, Master Black Belt and Champion. Now and in the foreseeable future, this role must be opened to include the an array of competencies (hard and soft) that fosters the integration and purposeful sequencing of competing yet supportive ideas and different ways of doing things.