Is Six Sigma an Enemy of Design?
A while ago I worked with a colleague that was a huge fan of Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a set of statistical and analytical tools use to measure and track the efficiency of a business or operations. My colleague was fanatical in improving the quality control of the organization and introduced all kinds of Six Sigma control points, or “gates” into the development process. He succeeded in creating a firmer structure in the process, but unfortunately, this new system created a lot of drag in the small organization.
Inevitability, he approached me and proposed for it to be applied to the design process.
Believe me, I fought tooth and nail. After studying the Six Sigma process, I point blank said: “There was no way any of my designers are going to be judged on the quality and success of a design based on how many sketches or iterations we did before we deliver it.” In this case efficiency would mean limiting or striving to use as little sketch or design iterations as possible to get to a design solution. I firmly believe that design and designers could never be managed in such a calculated manner.
Sara Beckman, in a discussion with Chuck Jones, vice president for global consumer design at Whirlpool, explains why that may be so.
Design thinkers, he says, are like quantum physicists, able to consider a world in which anything — like traveling at the speed of light — is theoretically possible. But a majority of people, including the Six Sigma advocates in most corporations, think more like Newtonian physicists — focused on measurement along three well-defined dimensions.
These days, I am starting to see the value of Six Sigma in delivering a completed product. Companies and brands competing in ultra-competitive environments need such systems to make sure the product is delivered well, and I agree with Sara that Design Process/Thinking has to find a way to work with a Six Sigma process.
While one cannot be used to drive the other, they can compliment each other. Design Thinking coming up front to identify and create the propositions, Six Sigmar used to deliver it.
Opposites do attract, no?
Via: Tim Brown