This may be a revelation to some, but there is nothing new in the toolsets of Continuous Improvement (OpEx, Lean, Six Sigma or whatever you want to call it). The newest tools have their derivation at least two decades prior to anyone giving the current label. There are two really valuable aspects of current approaches:
1. The logical roadmap for the application of the tools
2. All of the really bright people out there trying to advance the practice of change management.
I will tell you some stories about the current practitioners, but first I want to ground us in the real pioneers that led us to this point. I am certain that each of the people I will mention here had a similar group of mentors. My journey began in the early 70’s and I can only tell the story from there.
I believe I am putting these in chronological order of their impact on my development.
My personal giants and why:
Dr. Lee Weaver – Lee is probably the best professor I have met and he instilled in me a passion for statistics. Lee also worked for Honeywell and so, from the beginning, I was taught the practical side of what was typically a very theoretical subject.
Bill Mitchell – A Scottish gentleman (and I mean gentleman in the finest sense of the word) who NCR had the foresight to make my boss very early in my career. Bill was the first boss I knew who believed his job was to coach and mentor. He taught me that all these decisions we make with increasingly complex toolsets had to be, first and foremost, sound business decisions. He also taught me about truly supporting your people. He said to me the day I went to work for him –
“I will always support you publicly no matter what you do. If I believe you have done something wrong, I will call you behind closed doors and discuss it with you. I will listen to your perspective; you will listen to mine and we will decide what to do. We will both own the decision and never walk out of my office saying that we are doing anything other than what we think is right. Anything else will weaken both of us.”
I can tell you that Bill was the best boss and mentor I ever had and he lived up to his words. I have honestly tried to structure the same relationship with all of my bosses and all that I have influenced since that day. I can tell you that Bill’s methods caused him considerable pain because I certainly tested the limits. I can also tell you that I have experienced considerable pain because I support people in the same way. Nonetheless, I grew and learned under Bill’s wing and I have seen hundreds of people really blossom and grow when allowed to have freedom to do their job. There is a small minority of people who do not use this freedom to grow. That is too bad for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bill also gave me the job of defining the Quality System at a point in time when I did not have a clue what that meant. It was the greatest gift I ever received because now I understand that all of the wonderful “silver bullets” that are sold today have to logically fit into a system or they have no long-term value. Remember that the “silver bullets” are not the system.
Joseph Juran – I was first exposed to Juran in two ways. I inherited a copy of his Quality Control Handbook early in my career and had the opportunity to lead a group going through “Juran on Quality Improvement”, a videotape series meant to teach people a structured approach to problem solving. I got a copy of Juran’s Managerial Breakthrough as part of that. That book is the basis of what is now known as Lean and Six Sigma. I learned two significant lessons from the book: 1) all change happens project by project and 2) breakthrough has to be approached by first taking the time to understand the underlying process (Journey from Symptom to Cause in Juran’s words) before ever trying to solve the problem. Juran’s thoughts on the Quality System expressed in his Trilogy are right. I can still pass ASQ’s CQE’s or CSSBB’s exam with Juran’s Handbook as my only reference.
Bob Galvin – Bob is the son of the founder of Motorola and was CEO of Motorola when I joined them in 1983. Bob brought participative management (PMP) to Motorola a few years before I joined and began a serious push toward improving quality the year before I joined. I will tell you that Motorola was the most exciting place I ever worked and that for the eight years I worked there, I learned something new everyday. I attribute to Bob the opportunity to learn and be excited about my job. Participative Management made us understand differences in people and to respect everyone in the organization. The push for improved quality forced us to find useable tools. It was not acceptable NOT to have real improvement on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. It WAS acceptable to try new things, but fail, at Motorola (we were just expected to learn from these failures).
Bob also introduced Cycle Time Reduction (what we called Lean before Womack) in 1985 and, although it is not publicized, time was the real catalyst that made all of the defect reduction tools real. Go look at the corporate metrics from 1986 forward and you will find that time reduction was right there, equal to defect reduction. In simple terms, we found we could reduce defects without impacting the basic flow (read that as real cost), but we could not truly impact flow without addressing defects. So by linking time and defects, we found the defect reduction tools useful and also discovered their impact to the bottom line.
Bob changed the measurement system, which gave people who truly believed in this an umbrella under which to operate with complete freedom. I believe Bob will be recognized over time as the greatest corporate champion of all time (sorry Jack but I knew someone greater than you). Bob is also the model for training the workforce. Motorola has required a minimum of 40 hours per employee per year (that is all employees, not just some) for more than twenty years.
Mike Carnell – Simply the finest learner and the finest practitioner of Change Management I have ever met. He is brave and loyal and continues to make me better every day.
W. Edwards Deming – The only thing I want to tell you is that Deming was right and if you do not understand that – go read Deming. If your only takeaway is to embrace his 14 points in how you behave as a leader, your organization will improve dramatically. I have read everything Deming ever published and I think the best was Quality, Productivity, and the Competitive Position because it was pure Deming – no editing. Remember that he did not say, “Drive out training and institute fear;” he said just the opposite. Also, remember that he did not say NOT to set goals, he said don’t set goals without also providing methods and tools to achieve them.
John Lupienski – In my opinion, John was, and still is, the most influential force on what Motorola calls Lean and Six Sigma today. For example, John and myself first documented the roadmap that is used by most providers of Black Belt training back in 1988. John recognized the need for the roadmap. Those who are claiming all of the credit for the roadmap and all of the buzzwords around it did not even have it right when it was sold to AlliedSignal and GE. This point is easy to prove by researching all of the “intellectual property” sold to these two companies. John has always known the next logical step to take in this journey and has driven it regardless of the opposition he confronts. He is also a great teacher who has been sharing his knowledge with Motorola and everyone involved with ASQ in the Buffalo, N.Y. area for at least twenty-five years. John remained loyal to Motorola and Buffalo even though it is clear he could have advanced his career, his fortune, and his personal notoriety by following the path taken by many of us. John is where I would still go if I wondered about direction and next steps.
Marty Rayl – Marty is simply the best champion I have ever experienced. Most who have had to deal with Marty would tell you some very unpleasant stories. If you did not cooperate with Marty’s folks at Motorola in the late 80’s, Marty would provide you with one of the most unpleasant experiences you would ever hope to avoid in corporate America. His message? Cooperate with my people or you get to deal with me! The Automotive group of Motorola made outstanding improvements in cycle time and defect levels during Marty’s time there. Marty also taught me to have a “book budget” – to give away books to anyone who would obligate himself or herself to use them. I maintain the model to this day.
Steve Zinkgraf – Steve made this consulting model work. The intellectual property sold to AlliedSignal and GE was unusable and Steve created the backbone of all the training materials that resulted from those efforts while he was an employee of AlliedSignal. Most of you were probably trained using a derivation of AlliedSignal’s intellectual property. Steve taught me to teach DOE in simple useable language. Steve’s work with Minitab in the late 80’s through 1995 set the stage for much of the functionality that exists in Minitab that is specifically geared toward the Black Belt community.
Richard Schroeder – Equal to John Lupienski in knowing what to do. Equal to Marty Rayl in supporting people. He is unrivaled at challenging the thinking of the C-suite. Rich has had unprecedented influence in corporate America with Galvin, Bossidy, and Welch at the top of the list of persons he has affected. His influence continues today.
Jack Welch – I do not worship at the feet of Jack Welch like many do, but it has to be noted that he created the largest culture of grasping change and driving it ever seen in the history of the business world. What is called Lean and Six Sigma at GE today is the culmination of twenty-five years of groundwork laid by Jack and his staff. Every leader in business should hope to have a fraction of the influence Jack has had.
Are there others? Absolutely. There are brave people through this whole thing that contributed tools, contributed leadership, or both. They are not the ones claiming ownership or to be creators of all this (imagine the ego of a guy who takes credit for the work of so many at Motorola – no way did a single person create this). They are just people who did some great things at the right time. I thought you might want to know about them.