Friday, 25 March 2011

Six Sigma at Professional Service Firms! .

For those that know me, you’ll know I’ve been banging on about the Six-Sigma for over 2 decades. In the last decade, any reputable Manufacturing company will have adopted (or at least attmped to adopt) the miracle 'princples' that - if applied correctley - radically reduces 'defect' along a whole list of business critcial endevours.

This can be achieved by:

Reduction of variations in processes.

Measuring, analysis, improvement and control of processes.

But something new is happening.

Professional firms – law, finance, retail, liesure, public transport, consulting, even Buckingham Palace, are begining to build client relationships using the Six Sigma principles.


In the main, because Six Sigma is the language that clients are talking and they are attracted to professional firms that employ the program.

I was astonished to learn that several leading service businesses are already using Six Sigma principles, which Motorola invented and GE made famous. The law firms are keeping it secret that they’ve adopted Six Sigma, because it’s such a huge competitive advantage.

Here’s my expose as to the private service firms that have done so:

Virgin Atlantic.

Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy. American Express.

LLP King & SpaldingLeBoeuf.




LewisArmstrong Teasdale.

London Transport.

Goodwin Procter.

To expand here, a professional firm will actually employ Six Sigma, which is designed to engage customers in a collaborative dialogue, drive joint business improvement projects, and drive sustainable, strategic relationships with key clients.


And this, as many will have experienced, is a major culture change for law, and many other professional servcie, firms.

But for those of you looking for a short cut, here’s some Six Sigma terms you can throw into a conversation:

The Big Y: this refers to business results that matter, a company’s prime goals.

The company’s X’s: these are the activities that will enable a company to achieve its goals.

Green belt or black belt: levels of expertise at Six Sigma.

3.4 defects per million opportunities: this is the definition of Six Sigma.

DMAIC: For processes that are in place, the 'Define Opportunities, Measure Performance, Analyze Opportunity, Improve Performance, Control Performance,' methodology is used.


DMADV: For inventing new business processes, the 'Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify' methodology is used.

Innovation workshop: gather senior partners/exectutives of your firm in the same room with top executives at the client company, and getting the executives to 'open-up' about the metrics that drive their business, what drives their customers, understanding the client’s current processes and prioritising potential improvements. The meeting takes about 3 hours.

Obviously, I’m cramming an entire process into one short post, but for more on Six Sigma.

Click and read the introduction to 'Six-Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor,' by Ron Snee; or for a good intoduction take a look at Tom McCarty’s book The New Six-Sigma.

Alternatively, for overview, click these wiki-site on Six-Sigma, or Design for Six-Sigma.


For Six-Sigma training for Service Companies, see Silicon Beach.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

One of innovation’s ‘Magic Gifts!’

I was asked the other day as to whether ‘listening to customers is a good thing?’ That is, should organisations listen and building their clients wishes and demands into their product/service/experience/ performance, etc?
I paused for a moment… Then replied ‘Not exactly!’
Because that’s just the tip of the issue!
‘Listening’ is reactive, and therefore too often lagging and off centre. It’s also retrospective, relying on people’s actual experiences.
Further, ‘asking’ people what the want – even with quite sophisticated methods – is hit and miss; as different people have different moods at different times; have short-term-detail memories; have a stupendously broad range of personalities, and even have quite weird subjective experiences with the gizmo or venture they’ve parted hard earned money for.
So, don’t listen to customers, but DESIGN THEM A GIFT!
‘What the fuck are you on about?’ my pal affronted.
Well, have you ever given a ‘GIFT’ to a friend you know extremely well? And immediately their eyes open wide, go bright with joy, and the atmosphere of the room goes warm and exhilarating?
‘How did you know’, they screech, ‘how did you know?”
And that’s the job of the innovator. To know their customer so intuitively well, that when they launch a new brain child, the customer-base reacts in a similar – metaphorical - way. They love it, and the market goes high.
So, to do that, the innovator has to build acute customer empathy; learn their habits and patterns; discover their values and likes in their world, even their dislikes! And by thinking and behaving in this way, you’ll find that building empathy happens very quickly. And when that happens, your chances of getting a winner sky rockets.