Strategic vs operational excellence

I continue to run into folks who are pouring mucho money and effort into applying six sigma techniques to everything.  Six sigma provides a rich toolbox for continuous, incremental improvement of existing processes and systems; it’s great for helping organizations achieve operational excellence.  But the same things that make six sigma work in the operational world, doom it to futility in the area of strategy and particularly strategic innovation.  High volume, short cycle-time transaction-oriented processes can be counted, measured, charted and analyzed for trends/patterns.  That’s great for improving a city’s ability to fill potholes.  It won’t help them decide whether to spend 100 million taxpayer dollars on a not-really-needed baseball stadium in hopes of stimulating downtown revitalization.

Strategic excellence requires a very different set of skills and tools.  The future hasn’t been invented yet; it can’t be measured or analyzed.  Any numbers that can be generated concerning the future are estimates; it will take months or more likely years before the accuracy of these estimates (decision outcomes) can be known.

Strategic excellence requires outstanding decision management skills.  This includes the ability to leverage decision patterns so that you can quickly frame a strategic situation as a ready-to-attack Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS).  These patterns should include a proven set of criteria for each decision so that important factors are not overlooked in the evaluation of alternatives.  Decision management skills also include the ability to use the Decision Breakdown Structure as an innovation framework and to fast-forward these decisions into the future as a set of strategic roadmaps.  Decision management Black Belts also understand the relationships between decisions and requirements, risks, opportunities, and project plans; they can use the DBS as a knowledge framework.  They know how to maintain continuous traceability and alignment between the value-creating decisions and all of the lesser objects/artifacts that represent or realize a strategy or design.

Operational excellence can only take an organization so far; even the leanest, meanest process can be made obsolete overnight by a competitor’s strategic leap.  Strategic excellence, powered by a world-class decision management capability, is a better investment.  So if you’re spending $1M this year on six sigma rollout, I’d encourage you to carve off at least $100K of that to start growing your decision management capabilities.

If you need to be convinced, I encourage you to dive in and start a trial of the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Please contact the Decision Driven® Solutions team at trial@decisiondriven.com or solutions@decisiondriven.com.

About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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