Successful Strategy Execution is More Than Lean or Six Sigma

As per Sourcing Innovation‘s last strategy execution post, which outlined the secrets to successful strategy execution, successful strategy execution requires clear-cut decision rights and information flows, as per Neilson et al., and good business process mapping. Lean is not enough. Six Sigma is not enough. TPS / Operational Excellence is not enough.

While these are very useful methodologies — as they can be used to streamline processes and operations once the organization has mapped out its current processes, identified the gaps, and developed revised processes that it believes will get it to where it needs to be; they are not vehicles for strategy execution in themselves. The very definition of lean is to eliminate waste from a process. That means an existing process is required as a starting point — lean can’t be used to develop a process from scratch. Six Sigma is a management strategy designed to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability. That means that, by definition, it also requires an existing (or proposed) process as a starting point. The Toyota Production System, the precursor to lean — which a few companies have rebranded “Operational Excellence” in light of the recent Toyota scandal, was a system developed to design out overburden (muri) and inconsistency (mura) and eliminate waste (muda). Again, the assumption is that there is a starting process.

Business Process Mapping is very straight forward, and there are a lot of free resources to be found if one searches for “business process mapping” or “business process modelling“. In addition there are a number of tools — such as flow charts, flow block diagrams, control flow diagrams, Gantt Charts, PERT diagrams; modelling techniques — such as functional modelling, data modelling and information modelling, and simulation modelling; and platforms — including workflow and BPM that can be used to assist the team. And it doesn’t matter which one the team selects — as long as everyone on the team understands it. The whole point of the exercise is to develop a representation of what the business is, and where the organization wants to go, that can be easily understood by everyone on the team and form the foundation of an action plan to get there. If the organization consists of mostly mathematical geeks, it can use directed acyclic tesseracts. It really doesn’t matter.

Strategy execution comes down to four essential elements:

  1. Have a clearly defined strategy.

    If it isn’t immediately obvious to an average high school student, it’s not clear enough

  2. Have an action plan to get from the current state to the desired state.

    Goals are not enough.

  3. Have the tools and resources in place to implement the plan.

    Make sure there is a process (such as lean, six sigma), process support (in the form of new systems and tools), and people ready to go (who must be given access to the support resources they need and trained in advance).

  4. Have the decision rights, information flows, and organizational chart clearly defined.

    Everyone must know what decisions are theirs, who they get data from and who they provide information to, and who they go to for guidance if a request requires a decision they do not own.

That’s it in a nutshell. It is within the grasp of every organization.

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