Understandably, managers continue to look for tools that will give them a sense of control over the complexities and unpredictability of their key business processes. I recently received review copies of two new volumes in a series of books by Forrest W. Breyfogle III describing his "Integrated Enterprise Excellence" (IEE) system. He has combined several process management tools into an enterprise-wide approach to organizational improvement. He draws from Motorola’s “Six Sigma” method and its emphasis on improving quality, Toyota’s method for achieving greater efficiency which is now commonly referred to as “Lean”, and the Robert Kaplan and David Norton concept of a Balanced Scorecard which is a tool for tracking a limited number of key metrics representing organizational goals. Combining Six Sigma and Lean is already occurring in a wide variety of organizations, for example health care (See my blog post from March 11, 2008.). Breyfogle has raised the vantage point in his recommendation for integrating these tools with a strategic view of the whole organization (The latest work of Kaplan and Norton is integrative and strategic, also.).
While I think Breyfogle is doing the thinking that needs to be done to develop fully aligned organizations, I have my doubts about the capacity of organizations, especially non-manufacturing organizations, to apply these tools beyond certain, narrow, repeatable processes and in units in which there is a very strong champion who is a consistent voice for using analytics to work toward change. Every proponent of these tools seems to believe that the logic is so compelling that any reasonable manager will embrace these tools. They fail to consider the culture that exists in many organizations today in which data and learning from data is not valued and highly resisted. There is a lack of alignment between the rhetoric about quality, efficiency, and achieving performance targets other than those indicators that are easiest to measure (e.g., revenue, sales, number of employees). Until these cultural issues are addressed, the plea for application of analytical tools across the enterprise will continually fall on deaf ears. (For a painfully honest examination of the cultural resistance to learning and change in organizations see the book by Bert Frydman, Iva M. Wilson, and JoAnne Wyer, The Power of Collaborative Leadership: Lessons for the Learning Organization.)