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Lean Six Sigma, Operations, Service

What for? How does it Matter?

I was chatting with a friend of mine who is in a senior leadership position. He wanted to implement a relocation strategy and he mentioned that based on his intuition all the processes should move to a particular country.

I asked him whether he knew why the processes were where they were today. His answer: “What for? How does it matter?”

I was taken aback and puzzled by the question and I remained speechless. Not because I did not know but the questions were bizarre.

I kept quiet and looked around. And suddenly I started having a headache. My first reaction was to go back to what I did in the past. Did I eat? Did I have too many drinks last night? Did I sleep well last night? Then, I thought that I only caught 2 hours of sleep. The best solution was to head home for a nap and my headache would subside.

This thought process is present in every aspect of our life. And I would even go on to say that it is fundamental to our knowledge and our learning and to progress in technology and mankind. Imagine a world where we are cut off from the past experience, do not apply simple root cause analysis or we do not understand our past and do not learn from our mistakes.

In fact, we are what we are today because of our past. And, failure to understand the past will not help us understand who we are today. Fair enough, knowing the past is not crystal ball gazing for our future for sure, but equips us well with knowledge to ensure that we do not repeat old mistakes. And, why do we say learning from mistakes or, practice makes perfect?

Knowing the past is fundamental in Six Sigma discipline. As a Six Sigma professional, I would look at control charts, identifying special and common causes, which then would lead me to determine the type of actions/solutions to be adopted to address the issues. And how about the 5-whys? I can name a whole list of tools which look at the past and synthesize the trends to identify potential impact to solutions.

I kept quiet and wished my friend good luck. The last I heard, the project is not taking a good shape. People are demoralised, there are no clear directions, costs have escalated and what happened to be a one-country solution is looking at many country solutions with the deadline fast approaching. Indeed studying the history helps us drawing better conclusions for the future.

2 Comments
  • Pascal
    9:16 PM, January 2011

    Indeed, and not only for outsourcing, for other decisions as well – I would add critical elements and/or drivers are largely ignored.

  • Agnes
    10:17 AM, January 2011

    Do you know how many so called outsourcing initiatives fail, because people fail to understand the history before they start shaking up everything?
    This is why.

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