Six Sigma, a practice initially formulated by Motorola to improve manufacturing processes and eliminate defects, didn’t emerge until more than 100 years after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But it worked remarkably well. In addition to substantially decreasing product flaws, it produced an unexpected benefit: It actually reduced the company’s costs rather than increasing them, as many had expected it would.
During the 1980s, other business operations began adapting the Six Sigma approach. Corporate leaders realized that if Six Sigma worked so well for manufacturing, there were probably better ways of conducting and managing other of their company’s key business activities as well.
There’s an equally historic opportunity today to accelerate the shift to a much more productive and powerful revenue generating process on the demand chain side of business. We can apply one critical lesson learned from Six Sigma: Even though it fundamentally transformed many business processes, it never required the drastic step of shutting down a company’s existing factories in order to build new ones. Instead, think of Six Sigma as a journey that involves continuously improving, measuring change, and always looking for new opportunities to recalibrate and further improve efficiencies and results. It requires that companies adopt a change in the company’s business and operating culture, one focused on achieving continuously expanded value over time.