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Lean Six Sigma Strikes a Balance for Process Excellence


First Look with IQPC's Bob Carter

Listen to the entire podcast Download file

Featured Speaker:
 Bob Carter, Senior Consultant for Innovation and Growth, Six Sigma & Business Excellence at The Raytheon Company
Moderator: Gian Trotta

Gian Trotta: Welcome to another ebizQ podcast; I'm your host, ebizQ's Gian Trotta. In the wake of our recent "Aligning Process Improvement Initiatives with BPM Webinar" we'd like to follow up with a principal and very relevant speaker Bob Carter, Senior Consultant for Innovation and Growth, Six Sigma & Business Excellence at The Raytheon Company, will be appearing at the IQPC's Upcoming 7th Annual Business Process Conference. Today, he’ll talk about the special mindset that’s needed for what he calls "balanced innovation."

Welcome, Bob and thanks for joining us today.

Bob Carter: My pleasure, Gian, thanks for inviting me.

GT: Bob, you note that process excellence demands precision, consistency, and repetition and that innovation calls for variation, failure, and serendipity. How do you reconcile the two in the context of Business Process Management?

BC: I believe that the front end of innovation calls for variation. It allows and embraces both failure and serendipity. But at some stage in the innovation cycle, the idea needs to become reality. I define innovation as the introduction of something new that adds value. Innovation occurs when the idea becomes something real. Business Process Management offers effective ways to bring that value and turn an idea into reality.

GT: OK, Bob. What specific role can Lean Six Sigma play?

BC: There are many ways. Some Six Sigma tools, Lean Six Sigma tools, can help to affinitize the wide variety of ideas and to help to prioritize those to the critical few that can make a difference. Once the critical few ideas have been identified, Lean Six Sigma can help to reduce time to market. If you think about Lean Six Sigma as being the bridge between the current state and the desired future state, innovation’s really the same thing. It’s the bridge between the current state and the desired future state. The only main difference between the two is that Lean Six Sigma solves problems and innovation helps to introduce something new, it develops the opportunity.

GT: That’s understood. Can you cite some real-world examples you'll be addressing in your presentation of this?

BC: Yeah, I’m addressing the what/how/why balance of the intellectual, organizational and human factors of innovation. That’s the basis of my research and some of the examples I’ll be using during the presentation. One of these is called channels strategy, which turns early, quality, voice-of-the customer information into ideas that we can actually go on and build our business with. It’s called channels strategy because we channel the idea into the part of the organization that can really go do something to make a customer successful. I’m also looking at the what/how/why balance in terms of major proposals and new product development, where we invest our money and what I’ve found is that when we have a balance, we tend to be successful and when we don’t have a balance, we tend to fail. And finally, I’ll be going externally into companies like Dell and Disney and showing how their what/how/why balance is helping them to be successful.

GT: One source of confusion is your use of using channel as a verb here, not as a noun. Other companies pursuing a channel strategy may have a different understanding. Do see a disconnect here?

BC: I don’t think so, no, as long as it’s understood that we’re using channel as a verb and I do know that, you know, certainly in the retail industry they may have a different understanding of what channel strategy is, but in this case, if you can just assume that it’s a way of channeling information from somebody who hears it to somebody who can do something about it.

GT: Right, I think that’s apparent? What is your take on the human vs. process-oriented BPM.

BC: Well, they’re both very important and I think that Business Process Management is another example of the need for what/how/why balance. You might know what to do, you might even know how to do it, but if for some reason, you don’t really understand the reasons why, if you haven’t made the emotional connection with the people that you’re helping, then it’s unlikely really that you’ll be addressing the right issues for them. So, I think that the balance of the what, the how, the why of the intellectual, organizational and human factors is key to success and it’s key to success in Business Process Management as well as in new program development.

GT: Bob, you answered that very nicely and without taking sides. One other question, I see the emergency of a new acronym, I know just the last thing an industry needs, TPM, Team Process Management. Does your approach gibe with that at all?

BC: It’s all about the team, you know, any team is only as good as it’s weakest link so , yeah, the approach is all about team players. It’s about diversity, not in the traditional sense, although that’s important, but diversity of thought and there’s a lot of thought leaders and authors who are talking about right brain and left brain. The right brain, the right side of the brain being the creative side and the left side of the brain being the, you know, more analytical and logical side. And what I’ve found…

GT: I’m a left-handed Gemini so I can very much appreciate that.

BC: What I find is that teams that have a mixture of both left brain and right brain oriented thinkers tend to be more successful because, yeah, you’ve got the creativity on the one hand, but you’ve also got the logical, analytical folks who are reeling them in and not letting them get too far ahead. So, I find that anything that involves teams has to have the right balance and Team Process Management is certainly, the success depends on the right diversity of people within the team.

GT: Bob, where do you see the future of BPM going, and it's relationship with BI?

BC: I think BPM has to address the strategic needs of the business or organization. BPM leaders need to be able to think strategically and act tactically. I think the future of BPM will address top line and bottom line growth, not just the bottom line growth as it has tended to focus on in the past and it will be focused on customer success and BPM used in a strategic manner will make sure that the innovations are being focused on the needs of the customer and if they’re focused on the needs of the customer both from a macro and in a micro, viewpoint, I believe that BPM has got a great role to play, innovation has got a great role to play and through customer success our organizations will become more successful.

GT: Wonderful, Bob, I mean you’ve been very spot-on throughout this but I would ask you to give us an ideal 50-word summary with the key points readers can take away from your presentation today and your presentation at the show?

BC: Yeah, I’d love to, thanks. I think by achieving the right what/why/how balance, organizations can focus their new business investments on the right projects and innovations. Lean Six Sigma is a powerful methodology to enable this balance, especially in innovation where success depends not only on finding the critical idea but in turning it into reality.

GT: OK, wonderful. Where can readers, whose interest you may have piqued, go for more information on this topic?

BC: I actually have a web page which is www.in2thestratosphere.com and “into the stratosphere” is all one word and it’s n the number 2 thestratosphere and I’ve also got a book coming out in the late fall called “The Balanced Innovator” where many of these ideas and thoughts are, form the basis of that book. So “The Balanced Innovator” will be coming out in the late fall.

GT: OK, wonderful, Bob, you certainly did give us a rich trove talking to you today. We look forward to covering the show, we hope you’ll join us again once the book is published, the website is running and the show has taken place.

BC: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you very much.

GT: Thank you, Bob. In the meantime, listeners can read full transcript of the podcast at www.ebizq.net/firstlook. There you can also submit follow-up questions that Bob will be glad to answer. And for more cutting edge virtual conferences -- including our October 8-9th SOA in Action Virtual Conference, podcasts, Webinars and more, the address is www.ebizq.net.

This is Gian Trotta signing off and wishing you all well until next podcast.

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