Tag Archives: Process Improvement

Process Keepers Hold the Keys to Change

Process Keepers Hold the Keys to Change

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you want to improve the work, ask the people who do the work. They know the tools and templates. They know the ins and outs of the process. They know when and how to circumvent the process. And they know what will break if you try to change the process. And what breaks is the behavior of the people that use the process.

When a process changes, people’s behavior does not. Once people learn the process, they want to continue to work that way. It’s like their bodies know what to do without even thinking about it. But on the other hand, when a process doesn’t meet the need, people naturally modify their behavior to address the shortcomings of the process. And in this case, people’s behavior doesn’t match the process yet they standardize their behavior on circumventing the process. Both of these realities – people like to do what they did last time and people modify their behavior to address shortcomings of the process – make it difficult for people to change their behavior when the process changes.

When the process doesn’t work but the modified behavior does, change the process to match the modified behavior. When that’s not possible, ask the people why they modified their behavior and ask them to come up with a process that is respectful of their on-the-fly improvements and respectful of the company’s minimum requirements for their processes.

When the process doesn’t work but the people are following it anyway, ask them to come up with ways to improve the process and listen to their ideas. Then, run a pilot of their new process on the smallest scale and see what happens. If it makes things better, adopt the process on a larger scale and standardize on the new way to work. If it makes things worse, stop the pilot and try another improvement suggested by the team, again on a small scale. Repeat this process until the process performs satisfactorily.

When the people responsible for doing the work are given the opportunity to change their processes for the better, there’s a good chance the broader population that uses the process will ultimately align their behavior to the new process. But the change will not be immediate and there may be some backsliding. But, because the keepers of the process feel ownership of the new process and benefit from the change, they will continue to reinforce the new behavior until it becomes new behavior. And if it turns out the new process needs to be modified further, the keepers of the process will make those changes and slowly align the behavior to match the process.

When the new process is better than the old one, people will ultimately follow the new process. And the best way to make the new process better than the old one is to ask the people who do the work.

Image credit: Old Photo Profile

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Exploring the Benefits of AI Automation in Streamlining Business Processes

Exploring the Benefits of AI Automation in Streamlining Business Processes

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

In today’s rapidly advancing digital landscape, businesses are constantly seeking new ways to streamline their operations, reduce costs, and enhance efficiency. One of the most promising solutions to emerge is AI automation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies offer incredible potential in different industries by automating tasks that were once performed by humans, resulting in improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction. This thought leadership article delves into the various benefits of AI automation, showcasing two impactful case studies that exemplify its transformative power in streamlining business processes.

Case Study 1: Customer Service Reinvented

The customer service industry has witnessed a seismic shift as AI automation revolutionizes the way businesses engage with their customers. Before the adoption of AI, customer service teams often struggled to handle the increasing volume of queries and faced challenges in delivering consistent responses round the clock. However, implementing AI-powered chatbots has transformed the customer service landscape.

Consider the case of Company X, a leading e-commerce platform. By deploying an AI-powered chatbot to handle customer inquiries, they experienced a substantial decrease in response time, thereby improving customer satisfaction. The chatbot employs natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, enabling it to understand and respond to customer queries accurately and promptly. As a result, Company X not only reduced the workload on its customer service agents but also provided real-time assistance, leading to higher customer engagement and retention rates.

Case Study 2: Amplifying Predictive Analytics in Supply Chain Management

Another sector benefiting greatly from AI automation is supply chain management. The ability of AI algorithms to analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns has significantly improved supply chain efficiency.

Company Y, a global logistics provider, employed AI-powered predictive analytics to optimize its supply chain network. By leveraging historical data, the AI system analyzed variables like weather conditions, transport capacity, and demand patterns. As a result, Company Y was able to predict demand fluctuations accurately and optimize inventory, reducing stockouts and overstocking issues. These predictive capabilities also allowed them to optimize their fleet routes and minimize transportation costs, resulting in substantial savings.

Benefits of AI Automation:

1. Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity:
AI automation eliminates repetitive, time-consuming tasks, enabling employees to focus on more complex and strategic activities. This leads to increased productivity, improved efficiency, and the ability to allocate resources judiciously.

2. Improved Decision-Making:
AI algorithms analyze big data sets, extracting valuable insights that aid in decision-making. Through data-driven analytics, businesses can make informed decisions quickly and accurately, resulting in improved outcomes and a competitive edge.

3. Cost Reduction:
Automation reduces the need for manual intervention, lowering labor costs and improving resource allocation. Companies can redirect funds towards innovation, research, and development activities, driving future growth.

4. Enhanced Customer Experience:
By leveraging AI solutions like chatbots, companies can enhance customer experiences by providing personalized and timely support. AI-powered systems assist in anticipating customer needs, resulting in improved satisfaction and higher retention rates.


The benefits of AI automation in streamlining business processes are indisputable. By employing AI technologies, companies across various sectors can witness increased efficiency, improved productivity, and enhanced decision-making capabilities. The case studies of Company X and Company Y demonstrate the transformative power of AI in customer service and supply chain management, respectively. As AI continues to evolve, organizations that embrace it as a strategic asset will gain a competitive advantage that propels them into a future driven by innovation and efficiency.

SPECIAL BONUS: The very best change planners use a visual, collaborative approach to create their deliverables. A methodology and tools like those in Change Planning Toolkit™ can empower anyone to become great change planners themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Exploring the Potential of Automated Business Processes

Exploring the Potential of Automated Business Processes

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Business automation is increasingly becoming an important part of enterprise operations and is being used for a wide range of activities from payroll to customer service. Automating business processes is essentially a way for organizations to make their procedures faster, more efficient and reduce cost of operations. With so much potential for cost savings and efficiency, it is understandable why businesses are exploring automated business processes more and more.

By replacing labor-intensive processes with automated systems, businesses are finding cost savings and improved service levels that would have been difficult to achieve before. Additionally, these solutions can offer additional benefits such as better accuracy and optimization of business processes. With these potential benefits in mind, let’s explore some of the potential uses and case study examples of automated business processes.

Case Study 1 – Automated Payroll

One of the most common uses for automated processes is in the areas of employee administration and payroll. Automated systems can handle everything from on-boarding and benefits administration to payroll and taxes. This type of automation can reduce the amount of time and cost spent on administrative tasks while also ensuring that all processes are in compliance with applicable regulations.

For example, Canadian fashion retailer Reitmans recently implemented an automated payroll process that streamlined their processes and introduced cost savings of $50,000. The company was able to achieve this cost saving while still ensuring compliance with the government’s labor standards.

Case Study 1 – Order Processing

Another area where automated processes can be beneficial is order processing. Automated solutions can help manage order processing from taking an order to delivering it, furthering cost savings and faster turnover. Automation can reduce the manual effort to process orders which can lead to more orders being processed without the need to increase staffing.

One such example is from digital retailer Mabel’s Labels. The company is using an automated order processing system to automatically generate orders, check them, and ship them out within 24 hours. This automation has enabled the company to reduce order processing time from seven days to 24 hours.


With so much potential to automate business processes, it appears organizations are just starting to explore the potential of automation. As more organizations become comfortable with automation solutions, it’s likely we’ll see an increasing number of companies taking advantage of these solutions in the near future. Companies interested in taking advantage of automated processes should be sure to fully research the options available before implementing a solution.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Join Me at the Virtual Change Management Summit 2017

Virtual Change Management Conference

On July 12, 2017 I will be speaking at Change Management Review’s Virtual Change Management Summit 2017™, a curated collection of brand new pre-recorded global webinars bringing thought leaders and senior practitioners in the change management profession together.

The purpose of the event is to help participants discover, learn, and reinforce how change management practices and principles are applied in today’s business world.

Click here for more information and to register for this outstanding event

Why is the Virtual Change Management Summit 2017™ important to change management professionals today?

Our profession is currently fragmented and formalizing at different rates across the globe resulting in confusion about how to take part in professional development for those who have just joined the profession and for those who are in the mid-range of their career as a change management practitioner. Aside from formal certification training, there really isn’t a tangible mode to learn more about what is going on and what works unless one attends a conference or an in-person seminar.

The Virtual Change Management Summit 2017™ is an inexpensive means for change management professionals to learn, grow, and understand the business world around them from the perspective of well known experts and senior change management practitioners.

(from the Change Management Review web site)

In addition to myself, the rest of the speaking lineup will include:

  • Theresa Moulton, Editor-in-Chief, Change Management Review™
  • Dr. Dean Ackerman and Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson, Co-Founders, Being First Inc.
  • Tim Creasey, Chief Innovation Officer, Prosci
  • Jason Little, Agile Management Consultant, Coach and Trainer
  • Kimberlee Williams, President, Center for Strategy Realization
  • Linda Hoopes, President, Resilience Alliance

The title of my presentation will be:

The Future of Project Management is… Change!

… and I will be exploring the intersections and relationships between project management, innovation management, change management, lean, six sigma, agile, lean startup, and design thinking and how organizations can fundamentally transform how they plan and execute what matters most.

I hope you’ll join us on July 12th!
(or watch the sessions on demand after their scheduled times)

Click here for more information and to register for this outstanding event

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Service Redesign – Lost T-Mobile Smartphone

Service Redesign - Lost T-Mobile Smartphone

Given the health risks of carrying a smartphone (or any kind of mobile device) too close to the body for extended periods, I try to always remove electronic devices from my pockets whenever I can. For ten years this has never caused a problem until Saturday. This marked the first time in more than a decade that I walked off and forgot my smartphone.

Now I’ve had the joy of reporting my lost phone to T-Mobile and getting a less than helpful response. Not because the agent I spoke with didn’t try to be helpful, but because the customer service representative was trapped inside of a service experience that wasn’t designed to meet the goals of the customer.

First I must mention that I don’t have a find my phone type app installed on my phone because I don’t like the idea of someone tracking me all the time. Second, yes, I know that even with location awareness or GPS turned off that my phone is being tracked anyways, but I still like to maintain the illusion that my every move isn’t being tracked. So, please humor me.

The fact is that T-Mobile could tell me exactly where my phone is even without such an app, but then they would have to breach the illusion and admit that they’re always tracking where every phone is at all times. Not such a good customer experience.

Redesigning the Lost Smartphone Experience

I’m only one person so this list won’t be as good as if I was working on this with a small team and prototyping with customers, but let’s ignore that for now and try to come up with a list of customer goals (and thus opportunities to delight) in the lost smartphone scenario:

  1. I don’t want someone to use my phone after I lose it to make calls that I’ll have to pay for (international calls, premium calls, etc.)
  2. I don’t want someone to buy anything (apps, music or other content that I’ll have to pay for)
  3. I don’t want someone to call my contacts
  4. I don’t want someone to use my apps and make in app purchases
  5. I don’t want someone to use my texting function (SMS) – read, send, etc.
  6. I don’t want someone to use my email – read, send, etc.
  7. I don’t want someone accessing my photos
  8. I don’t want someone to steal information about my contacts
  9. I want to be able to call my phone to try and speak with the person who found it so I can try and get it back
  10. I want the person to be able to call me or T-Mobile to let me know that they’ve found my phone

In short, I don’t want someone who finds my phone to be able to do anything other than contact me to let me know when and where I can come pick it up.

But, when I called to T-Mobile to report my phone lost the only option was to have the phone disabled. Prior to doing so, calling my phone was going straight to voicemail, and maybe I should have left a voicemail, but I didn’t, I thought I would try again later. After they disabled my phone, instead of getting voicemail I got a message saying the phone has been reported lost and that I wouldn’t be able to leave a voicemail. This is partially helpful, but not completely. Now I can’t call the phone and if someone has found the phone, they can’t try to contact anyone to arrange a pickup.

T-Mobile has met goal #1 (and possibly #2-4), but likely they could access #5-8 (able to read but probably not to send).

But, there are many other goals that have not been met. Most importantly, T-Mobile has actually made it less likely that I will get my phone back because I have no way of communicating with the person who may have my phone.

What could T-Mobile do to make this experience better?


When a phone is reported lost, T-Mobile should make it so that the phone can only call T-Mobile. If the person calls, then T-Mobile knows which number is calling, can get information from the caller to connect the two parties to arrange a pickup, and pass on the contact details to the subscriber via pre-arranged methods.

Second, T-Mobile should allow designated numbers to call the phone, so that the subscriber can try to get in touch with whoever found the phone.

Third, T-Mobile could call the phone every 15-30min with a robot until someone answers and connect them with a T-Mobile representative.

These three small changes to their lost phone service design would make an immediate positive impact in the customer experience for thousands of customers.

How else could T-Mobile make the experience better?

Image credit: easyhacker.com

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

DMAIC for Innovation

DMAIC for InnovationBelow is a rough draft of an article I wrote for the current issue of iSixSigma magazine.

Can the popular Six Sigma framework be adapted to look at innovation?

Much has been written about how a formal Six Sigma approach and a formal approach to innovation cannot co-exist. But is that really true?

On the surface these two formal approaches personify the natural tension between exploitation and exploration activities within any organization. Six Sigma is generally thought of as an exploitation activity, while innovation is usually associated with exploration. When I speak of exploitation, I’m not speaking of child labor and deforestation, but of optimizing the transformation of organization’s inputs into profitable outputs under its existing business model. And when I speak of exploration, I’m referring to the organization’s efforts to pursue new potential business models, new product or service areas, or both.

Let’s look back before we look forward.

Continue reading the rest of this article on Innovation Excellence

A Brief History

The Six Sigma methodology is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year after being developed by Motorola back in 1986 and popularized by GE and others. As many of you know, Six Sigma began as a methodology focused on improving quality, but over time organizations have adopted and adapted the methodology to encompass activities focused on continuous improvement and on cutting costs.

Innovation meanwhile, dates back nearly 500 years as a term to the Latin innovare which is often interpreted to mean “to renew or change” and the most often referenced godfather of innovation is Joseph Schumpeter (1930). So despite being focused on the new, the philosophy of innovation is actually older than that of Six Sigma.

But, so what?

The people who see innovation and Six Sigma as compatriots and not combatants are correct. This is because in some cases Six Sigma can actually be seen as an innovation approach – but not in every instance.

Say what?

Let’s look at my definition for innovation and then dig a little deeper, and this ambiguity will make more sense:

“Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into widely adopted solutions valued above every existing alternative.”

Shared Goals, Different Outcomes

I think we can all agree that both Six Sigma and innovation are focused on creating improvement. However, while Six Sigma is focused on achieving improvement by decreasing variability, innovation is focused on achieving improvement by increasing value. Sometimes an increase in quality through a decrease in variability does create increased value for the customer and sometimes it doesn’t.

Say what?

When would an increase in quality through a decrease in variability not lead to an increase in value for the customer?

Well, one important component of my innovation definition above was the end bit – “valued above every existing alternative – and widely adopted” – which is the real key. New solutions have an obvious increase in value that the inventor always sees, but at the same time they generally have an accompanying decrease in value for the customer that often an inventor fails to see that prevents their solution from being widely adopted (and thus staying an invention instead of graduating to become an innovation).

It is therefore possible for a new solution to deliver increased quality but actually destroy value for the customer – and not be widely adopted as a result. This is why things like the incandescent light bulb and traditional mousetrap stay around for so long despite the introduction of other potential solutions.

Natural Conflict

You should see by now that while Six Sigma and innovation are not mortal enemies at their cores, there are differences that create natural conflicts. This requires managers to be aware and to consciously manage how they are going to use these two approaches together (if at all) in their organizations.

The main tension between the two approaches is that Six Sigma at its core requires accurate measurement. How else will you know whether a Six Sigma project has resulted in decreased variability and a sustainable improvement? On the flip side, the more radical or disruptive an innovation project is attempting to be, the more difficult it will be to accurately measure both the expected risk of the project and the expected profitability and adoption possibilities. A great example of the difficulties of forecasting risk and outcomes is the Segway. Imagine you were in charge of the project back in 2000. How would you size the market for personal transporters? How would you forecast what the media response would be? How would estimate the risks to the project posed by sidewalk regulations? How would you measure consumer readiness accurately? We all know that most forecasts for the new are based on the old, and that this measurement approach is flawed, but it loses all credibility when applied to disruptive innovation projects – and we have to accept that. This inherent uncertainty is why successful innovation is often the result of finding the right questions, while success at Six Sigma is often the result of finding the right measurements.

The mindset created by the need for accurate measurement is congruent with the executive mindset, which brings me to another of my favorite tensions in business – that between the executive mindset and the entrepreneurial mindset. Often not effectively managing this tension, more than any other, prevents organizations from being able to successfully innovate in a sustainable manner. Let’s compare these two mindsets:

  • The Executive Mindset – Executives typically are focused on what they can do to avoid failure. Executives tend to focus on doing everything they can to make the trains run on time (so to speak).
  • The Entrepreneurial Mindset – Entrepreneurs typically are focused on trying to do whatever they can to create success. Entrepreneurs tend to ask questions like, “Why a train?”

These natural tensions mean that managers have to be careful not to make adoption of Six Sigma methodologies too widespread. Otherwise, there is a real possibility of stifling the un-structured thinking in the more creative areas of the business, such as Design and R&D. This is especially true where the initial stages of idea discovery take place – when partial ideas need to be collected and connected to form strong innovation candidates.

Linking Six Sigma to Innovation

In organizations using Six Sigma and Innovation, there are real opportunities to use the two together. Maybe it is in using Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) in the later stages of your innovation process to ensure that your new products and services deliver the same level of quality as your existing product or service portfolio. Or, with open lines of communication between your innovation and Six Sigma groups, maybe there are opportunities for:

  • Six Sigma groups using an expanded methodology focused on continuous improvement to pass interesting improvement ideas that are a bit too radical to be accurately measured, or just a bit too variable. The innovation group, on the other hand, might be able to collect and connect the dots, or to challenge the right other areas of the organization or its partner/supplier/customer ecosystem to find a workable solution.
  • Innovation groups enhancing, evaluating or developing ideas might be able to reach out to people in the Six Sigma group for help in either identifying better ways of measuring potential performance of different ideas, or possibly even for help in knocking down certain obstacles that might arise in the commercialization of ideas.
  • Six Sigma groups to leverage the innovation group to help them identify solutions that can achieve six sigma results when they can’t identify potential solutions internally capable of producing the requisite level of quality within accompanying tolerances for variability.

DMAIC for Innovation

Given that people have expanded the use of the DMAIC methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) beyond strict use on improving quality and reducing variability to be used on continuous improvement projects, I thought why not stretch it a bit further and create a DMAIC for Innovation. Let’s have a look at what such a creature might look like.


Imagine that you work for an automobile manufacturer and I were to task you with solving the following technical challenge: “How would you make our automobiles use less gasoline?” Think about what your approach would be. Now, some of you might focus on making the automobile lighter, others might focus on making the engine more efficient, still others would focus on making it more aerodynamic, and a few of you would think about ways to make an automobile that ran on something other than gasoline altogether. Ask the innovation question in the wrong way and you will get different innovation results than you expect. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Any successful innovation effort begins with a cross-functional innovation leadership team sitting down and defining what innovation means for the organization, establishing a common language, and communicating this out to the organization in a clear manner.
  • While it may be good sometimes to have people going off in lots of different directions, that needs to be a conscious choice, otherwise the innovation energy of your organization will dissipate and little will be achieved. You must focus the innovation energy of your organization and that is done by defining what innovation means to your organization and what the common language around innovation will be. At the same time it is important to establish an innovation vision and strategy.
  • An innovation vision provides the focus employees need and a vision is about the “where” and the “why,” not the “what” or the “how.” Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” An innovation vision can help employees answer questions like – “What kind of innovation are we pursuing as an organization?” or “Why should employees, suppliers, partners, and customers be excited to participate?”
  • An innovation strategy is not merely agenda for new product development or a technology roadmap from R & D. Instead, an innovation strategy identifies who will drive a company’s profitable revenue growth and sets the innovation direction for an organization toward the achievement of its innovation vision. A well-defined innovation strategy helps the organization define which innovation challenges to focus on and what tactics will best help the organization conquer those challenges. At the same time, it serves as a map to refer back to as projects and ideas are being evaluated, so that ideally a link can be maintained between the organizational strategy and the innovation strategy.


While it is often harder to estimate the market size for true innovations than it is for line extensions or product improvement projects, it is still important to measure certain things related to innovation. When looking to begin a formal approach to innovation, here are some key measurement questions that need to be asked:

  • What are the organizations innovation goals?
  • What is the capacity for innovation in your organization?
  • What is the organization’s appetite for risk?
  • What is the organizations ability to finance innovation projects?
  • What is the ability of the organization to be flexible and adaptable?
  • How will we measure the success of our innovation program?
  • How will we instrument our innovation projects for learning?


Innovation requires a great deal of analysis. This includes analyzing what the key insights are that you can drive your ideations off of, analysis of the brand equity and capabilities of the organization that can be leveraged, and analysis of what direct and adjacent competitors are doing now, and analysis of the future strategic actions that we expect our competitors to take. In coming up with these key insights it is useful to use a methodology like Rowan Gibson’s four lenses from Innovation to the Core:

  • Challenging orthodoxies: Questioning deeply held dogmas inside companies and inside industries about what drives success.
  • Harnessing discontinuities: Spotting unnoticed patterns of trends that could substantially change the rules of the game.
  • Leveraging competencies and strategic assets: Thinking of a company as a portfolio of skills and assets rather than as a provider of products or services for specific markets.
  • Understanding unarticulated needs: Learning to live inside the customer’s skin, empathizing with unarticulated feelings and identifying unmet needs.

The analysis phase is not, of course, just about generating the insights, but also about generating the ideas. And when it comes to ideas, people don’t realize that often their great idea is actually only a partial idea. So, another important and often underappreciated part of the analysis phase when it comes to innovation is the collection and connection of partial ideas to create potential complete solutions. And, there is also a great opportunity for collaboration during this phase to take the raw ideas and make them better BEFORE the final part of the analysis phase. The crescendo of this phase is the analysis of all of the potential ideas that you could fund, evaluating them using cross-functional teams, and picking which to fund.


The improve phase is about actually creating the innovation. It’s about getting down to business and beginning to develop the selected ideas. This includes prototyping, market testing, customer feedback, and most importantly – learning and iterating. A key part of this iteration as we discussed earlier is finding the right questions to highlight reasons for potential market success or failure. Embedded in this of course is finding the right answers that will turn a potential invention into a widely adopted innovation success.

But there is another part of innovation that is often under-appreciated, and that is the role of communications. If you are truly bringing an innovation to market, then you are bringing new value to customers that they may not intuitively understand that they have the need for. Too often companies fail at innovation because they ignore the importance of communications:

  • Internally to make people inside the organization passionate believers and supporters of the ideas (instead of roadblocks).
  • Internally to improve the inputs into the idea development process. How can you contribute to the improvement of an idea if you don’t understand what it is or the magnitude of its impact?
  • Externally to either explain the new value for an incremental innovation, or to educate the customer about the value of a disruptive innovation.


Control is of course about making innovation repeatable, sustainable, and successful in the organization. How do you make innovation a deeply embedded capability of the organization? The organization must move from pursuing a firefighting approach to innovation and create a continuous process with organizational commitment at every level. This means that you build a foundation on:

  • An organizational psychology with improved tolerance for risk and an understanding that failure is a real possibility, and that instead of avoiding failure, we will seek success and mitigate failure through a portfolio approach and by embedding an ability to learn fast from failure OR success.
  • Building an organizational structure and policies that enable resource flexibility and movement of resources to projects where they are needed most.
  • Creating a culture and systems that support the free flow of information to employees about customer insights and the value of innovation and amongst employees to enable stronger collaboration on ideas and partial ideas.
  • Providing the leadership commitment, the processes and tools, the rewards and recognition, the skills training, and other elements of creating a sustainable innovation process culture.


Six Sigma and innovation can co-exist. They both bring value to the party and while the languages may be somewhat different, it is possible to create a shared vocabulary and a shared understanding of how the two approaches to creating positive business change can work together. It is always a question of finding balance. Find that balance between chaos and structure. Find that balance between exploration and exploitation. Innovation and Six Sigma are not enemies. In fact they have a lot in common. In much the same way that it requires organizational commitment and a professional approach to achieve high levels of quality, it requires organizational commitment and a professional approach to achieve continuous innovation. If you can embed quality into your products, you can embed innovation into your organization.

Happy innovating!

If you’d like to share your thoughts about the intersections or interplay between innovation and six sigma, please sound off in the comments below…

This has been a rough draft of an article I wrote for the current issue iSixSigma magazine – to see the finished version – subscribe.


  1. Kelley, Braden (2010). Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire. USA. Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470621672
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_sigma
  3. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_24/b4038406.htm (link broken)
  4. McKeown, Max (2008). The Truth About Innovation. London, UK: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0273719122.

Build a Common Language of Innovation

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.