Six Sigma Culture and Personality
by Stephen Mathews
Six Sigma Black Belts recognize that organizational culture is of major importance in Six Sigma, Business Excellence and Continuous Improvement initiatives. In my team development consultancy work, alongside Six Sigma quality management professionals, I have found some common themes amongst all of the serious exponents of Six Sigma. They all:
Six Sigma organisational culture
What then is culture? More importantly, from the point of view of continuous improvement initiatives, can we agree a definition that allows us to measure the culture of the company and to arrive at a common language to help achieve cultural change across departments and divisions?
Organizational culture is: "That set of attitudes, values and beliefs that you see being enacted on a day to day basis in the organisation" or, more simply still, "The way things are done around here". It can be viewed, broadly speaking, in two ways:
The roots/external view says that culture comes from a variety of roots and external factors and is largely "unchangeable". It is influenced by beliefs brought into the workplace by all of us, combined with company lore passed down through the years and embedded in the values, behaviours and rituals that we meet as soon as we join the company and continue to learn throughout our time in the company. This view would say that culture can be changed only over long periods of time and in the short term we would do better to seek to modify people's behaviour to fit the culture.
The internal/behavioural view says that the culture is the behaviour of the company's people. This view would say that the culture can be led and changed; indeed that it is often highly desirable to do so, even in the short term, when faced with the need for major change.
Understanding people's behaviour is a necessary pre-requisite whichever view we take of culture. The emphasis needs to be on action - what we do, our behaviour - that will deliver the results. For example, when we use the simple 3 Ps version of the EFQM Excellence model it is People acting on and in Processes to deliver Performance.
In the second part of this article, we'll take a closer look at a couple of models that can be used for analyzing behaviours and how they can influence the focus of Six Sigma projects.
(c) 2004 Stephen Mathews. The Human Element is the trademark and copyright of Will Schutz Associates.